Updated: Aug 26, 2021
Magic happens when lemon meets pistachio. Zippy, fresh lemon curd filling is tempered by the rich, earthy pistachio crust for a dessert that may be my new favorite thing to eat and make (recipe link).
Featured prominently in Italian cooking, the pistachio is especially ubiquitous in Sicilian food, as Sicily grows some of the best pistachios in the world around the town of Bronte on the slopes of Mt. Etna. Maybe it's the volcanic ash, the same thing that makes the tomatoes of this area so flavorful? Either way, pistachios are delicious and versatile, able to star in any course on menus all over the world. The ones used in this recipe are from California, since we grow wonderful pistachios here in the US.
Italy is of course also known for citrus production; lemons, oranges, blood oranges, clementines, mandarins, and grapefruits. In fact, Italy is the second largest producer of lemons and oranges in Europe, after Spain. You can't go to the Amalfi Coast or the Cinque Terre without someone throwing a lemon at you. Tourist stands overflow with lemon soaps and lemon-inspired trinkets and baubles. Admittedly, I'm a sucker for these soaps. (I rather reluctantly gave my last one to an acquaintance as part of a house-warming gift and it was never acknowledged. I remain slightly bitter about this. Let's move on.)
I recommend making the shell a day or two in advance, and potentially even the curd. It makes baking so much more enjoyable when I can prepare part of the recipe ahead of time! Then, day of serving, the final two steps are all that is left.
THE SHELL (for a 9-inch tart pan)
1 cup pistachios (150g)
3/4 cup + 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour (100g)
1/4 teaspoon fine kosher salt
1/2 cup sugar (100g)
5 tablespoons softened unsalted butter (83g)
~3/4 cup + 1 tablespoon lemon juice, about 4 lemons, strained (200ml)
1 tablespoon lemon zest (~2 lemons)
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons granulated sugar (125g)
1 1/4 sticks unsalted butter (140g)
2 egg yolks
1---As noted above, the shell can be made a day or two in advance and frozen. In a food processor, combine the pistachios with a quarter of the flour and pulse until it is the consistency of coarse sand. Add the remaining flour and salt and pulse briefly to combine. In a mixing bowl, mix butter and sugar by hand for a minute until smooth and creamy. Add nut mixture and mix until combined, using your hands after a few passes with the spoon or spatula. It will be crumbly.
2---Empty shell mixture into an ungreased 9-inch tart pan. Using your hands, press to the floor and sides to form an even layer all around. Poke with a fork 2-3 dozen times and place in freezer for 30 minutes or up to a few days.
3---Make curd. Combine lemon juice, zest, sugar, and butter in a medium saucepan and warm over medium-low heat, mixing here and there. In the meantime, combine eggs and yolks in a medium mixing bowl (I use one with a spout) and beat. Remove the lemon-butter mixture from the range once the butter is nearly melted and continue to mix until it melts. This will help ensure that the mixture isn't too hot when added to the eggs. If you're worried that it is (as I usually am) give it a minute off-heat to cool slightly. Add a little bit of the lemon-butter mixture to the egg mixture, whisking as you do. Gradually add more, whisk, add more, whisk, until the lemon-butter mixture is fully incorporated.
4---Pour the curd mixture back into the saucepan and return to medium-low heat. Whisk continuously until the mixture begins to thicken. Once it is the consistency of tomato soup (thicker than heavy cream, but still drops off the whisk), remove from heat and pour into a bowl. Cover with plastic wrap touching the surface of the curd. Allow to cool to room temperature before continuing to next step, or once at room temperature, place in fridge up to two days in advance.
5---Remove the shell from the freezer and preheat oven to 350F. Bake the tart for 15 minutes. Once baked, remove to a wire rack and allow to come to room temperature. The pastry will have puffed up a little bit in the oven, but it can easily be pushed back down again a few minutes after coming out of the oven. I have not tried this with pie weights but have done it this way 3 times and it has worked well.
6---Pour the chilled lemon curd into the cooled shell and bake at 350F for 20 minutes. Remove to a wire rack to cool before serving. Can be stored on the counter for a few days, up to a week in the fridge. Enjoy!