I recently met Michael’s super sweet grandparents for the first time, and they sent us back to New York with a 3-lb. bag of pistachios – Sweet! I immediately tasked myself with finding the perfect recipe to showcase these sweet, nutritionally dense, little nuts. When we lived in Los Angeles 5 years ago, I occasionally treated myself to the amazing rye chocolate chip cookie from Sycamore Kitchen, and now that I am living on the other side of the country, I can’t satisfy my rye chocolate chip cravings so easily. These cookies are salty and sweet and the addition of crunch pistachios perfectly compliments the rich, earthiness of the rye flour. I’m warning you – this batch will go fast!
The vibrant green of the pistachios totally remind me of the the bright mosaics of Emperor Justinian at the Basilica of San Vitale in Ravenna, Italy. I remember learning about this early example of Christian Byzantine art back in my art history 101 class almost 10 years ago, and they have vibrantly stuck out in my mind ever since.
Emperor Justinian I AKA Justinian the Great was the leader of the Byzantine empire from year 527 to 565. Justinian’s reign resulted in plenty of battles, but I am most interested in the artistic and architectural patronage that flourished during these years. In addition to the Basilica of San Vitale, Justinian was also involved in rebuilding the Hagia Sophia and bringing silk production to Byzantine from China – he was a busy man!
The bright green hue of pistachios really comes into play when you take a closer look at the extensive tile work within the basilica. Justinian had giant mosaics of himself and his wife constructed flanking the main altar to show off how important they were to the church and society. In his mosaic, Justinian is shown in the center of a group of court officials and attendants, who are arranged around him in order of rank. Justinian’s placement is very significant – it makes reference to his holiness and solidifies his right to rule as leader of the Christian empire. All of the figures are formless, tall and elongated. Justinian is dressed the most elaborately, in a regal purple robe, crown and halo, and this ceremonial dress shows him as a both the divine ruler and church donor participating in the liturgy.
The mosaics were executed in 547, and are remarkably well-preserved considering that they are over 1400 years old! I am always struck with how bright and colorful they are – in addition to the rich gold and purple tiles, a large portion of the mosaics are bright shades of green. While the color shade could have just been the artist’s preference, it could also have been meant to symbolize the growth and fruitfulness of Justinian’s rule.
Chocolate Chip Pistachio Rye Cookies
1 ½ sticks of unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup brown sugar
½ cup white sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
¾ cups rye flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon baking powder
pinch of salt
1 ½ cups semisweet chocolate – either chips, or chunks
½ cup chopped salted, shelled pistachios
Preheat oven to 350ºF, and line a couple cookie sheets with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat together the butter and sugars for a few minutes, until fluffy and combined. Add in the egg and vanilla, beating after each addition. In a separate medium sized bowl, sift together the dry ingredients. Add the dry mix to the wet, and mix only until combined. Stir in the chocolate chips/chunks and pistachios. Using a large spoonful or a medium sized cookie scoop, portion the dough out onto your prepared cookie sheets. Be sure to leave enough space between each cookie for them to spread – I used a half sheet and only baked 12 at a time. Bake for about 12 minutes, until the cookies are golden brown and cooked through. Allow to cool for at least 15 minutes before digging in!
Recipe inspired by Sycamore Kitchen
Featured art: Justinian and Attendants, 547