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Creamy Pistachio Soup

Very rich and very, very good. This unusual soup is an elegant way to begin a special meal--certainly will tease the palates of your guests and have them guessing. An interesting combination of delicate and hearty. Be sure to check with any local mideastern or Greek markets to see if they sell shelled pistachios--makes life much easier! Serve hot as a first course to 4-6 people.

Garnish: 1/4 cup parsley, minced

Saute bacon in a large saucepan over medium high heat until crisp. Remove the pieces and drain. Add the celery, onion, and garlic to the pan, reduce heat, and saute until the onion is translucent--about 5 minutes. Spoon the vegetables out onto paper towels and blot away the bacon grease.

Wipe out the saucepan, then return the vegetables to it, along with the bacon, bay leaf, and sherry. Bring to a simmer and allow to reduce until all the sherry has evaporated. Stir in the chicken stock and the rice. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for about 30 minutes, when the rice is very soft.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a small skillet, add the pistachios, and toss until they are lightly browned--perhaps 2 or so minutes. Drain on paper towels.

When the rice is soft, discard the bay leaf and puree the pistachios and soup in a blender, solids first. When smooth, return to saucepan. Stir in the cream and reheat. Season to taste.

When ready to serve, ladle into bowls and garnish with minced parsley.