1/3 cup raw shelled pistachios
2 cups heavy cream
1/2 cup sugar, divided, plus extra for bruleeing
1/2 vanilla bean, seeded
5 egg yolks

In an oven heated to 350 F, toast the pistachios until fragrant, for 6 to 8 minutes. Remove hot pistachios and cover with a towel, rolling to remove skins. Grind hot pistachios in a food processor until they are reduced to a paste. This should make about 21/2 tablespoons paste. Set aside.

Reduce oven temperature to 325 F. Bring a large pan of water to a boil.

In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine the cream, 1/4 cup of the sugar and the vanilla seeds. Bring cream just to a simmer, being careful it does boil.

Meanwhile, whisk remaining sugar with the egg yolks. Slowly add hot cream mixture to yolks, whisking continuously, to temper. Whisk in pistachio compound to taste; depending on intensity of nuts, you might not use all paste.

Strain custard base to remove any lumps, then divide it among 6 (4-ounce) ramekins. Place ramekins in a baking pan and slide pan onto center rack of oven. Add enough water to pan to come halfway up ramekins.

Loosely cover pan with foil and bake custards for 18 minutes. Check custard by gently shaking pan; if it jiggles gently (as with barely set gelatin), it is set. Otherwise, continue to bake, checking every 2 to 3 minutes until custards are set, for 5 to 10 minutes or more.

When custards are set, gently remove baking pan from oven, uncover custards and cool them (still in pan) to room temperature. Remove cooled custards from baking pan and refrigerate until well-chilled, for at least 2 hours.

Before serving, remove chilled custards and sprinkle a scant teaspoon of sugar over surface of each, spreading sugar with back of a spoon to evenly cover top.

Use a small torch to caramelize tops of each custard. Alternatively, place ramekins on a baking sheet and place under broiler just until sugar melts and caramelizes, for 1 to 2 minutes.

Makes 6 servings.

— Recipe adapted by the Los Angeles Times from Bacara Resort in Santa Barbara, Calif.