Home Made Almond Extract – Without Almonds

IMG_0044 My friend Debby was making vodka infused Apricot kernels aka Noyau the last time I was at her apartment.  I thought it was going to be some kind of beverage, she was putting the kernel from apricot pits into vodka: about 20 pits to 2 cups of vodka. The smell was heavenly.

It wasn’t until I smelled it that I realized what she was really making was Almond Extract. Apricots, Almonds, Peaches, Plums and Cherries all belong to the Prunus family and kernel of each one of these (well except Almonds) has the most intense Almond scent.

For years I have made Vanilla extract by using Vanilla beans that got partly used in baking, putting them in a jar and adding vodka.  It’s kind of like a sour dough starter, I regularly add more vodka and vanilla beans as need be.  Now, thanks to Deb, I have a huge amount of home-made Almond extract.  Guess I’ll have to make some more ice cream!IMG_0049

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Noyau Ice Cream

IMG_7946 About a month ago I visited my friend Debby at her place in the east village. In one of her may lifetimes she was a pastry chef.  When I got to her place she had just finished making some vodka infused with Apricot Noyau.  What, you may ask (I certainly did) is that?

Noyau is the french word for stone or pit.  Apricots are part of the Prunus family as are peaches, cherries, nectarines and Almonds.  When you crack open the pit of an apricot you find an inner core or seed that looks very much like an almond.  Not only does it look like an almond it has an other worldly ethereal scent that smells exactly like really amazing almond extract.

This is a very simple ice cream, rich and redolent of the flavor of Almond.  Leslie Shere’s recipe says you can use either 40 or 50 cherry pits or 20 apricot pits.  Unless you are on Meth and really OCD I can’t imagine how much time it would take pit and then crack open 50 cherry pits!

Next time I make this I look forward to swapping out the Amaretto for Deb’s Noyau infused vodka.

Noyau Ice Cream

Break open 20 apricot pits and extract the almond like kernel within. A nut cracker makes this a relatively easy task, other wise a tea towel and a hammer would do in a pinch.

Place the kernel’s in a mortar and pestle and crush them well.IMG_7947

In a medium saucepan add the kernels to: 3/4cup sugar, 3/4 cup whole milk (I used half and half with no adverse affect) and 2 1/4 cups of heavy cream.

Over medium heat bring the mixture just before it’s about to simmer (180F) then remove from the heat, cover and let sit for at least 30 minutes longer if you want a stronger flavor. Taste frequently.

In a small bowl whisk 4 large egg yolks.

When the cream/noyau mixture has reached the desirable flavor, strain out the kernels and return to the pan.  Heat until hot, but not boiling then little by little whisk into the egg yolks, return to the pan and cook, stirring constantly until the custard has thickened and coats the back of the spoon.

In a bowl, placed in an ice bath, strain the custard through fine mesh sieve.

Stir in 1 Tablespoon of Amaretto or a Teaspoon of Almond extract.

Chill thoroughly and freeze according to your ice cream makers instructions.

Goes great with Sour Cherry Pie, Apricot tart, or Chocolate Brownies.





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Montreal, Markets and Joe Beef

IMG_8056Sure Toronto and Vancouver both have vital and diverse food scenes, but nothing beats Montreal for sheer exclusiveness and joie de vivre! Continue reading

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This is a Real Thing

IMG_7895This past week I was in Vancouver visiting friends and enjoying all the beautiful scenery this gem of a city has to offer.

One sunny afternoon I was on Davie street and noticed a nice looking terrace and thought to myself:  I could go for a sit down and a refreshing beverage.  So I saddle up to a stool at a table overlooking the street and ordered a white wine spritzer.

While waiting for my drink to come I pursued the food menu.  I realized that this is not the  typical place I would normally go for a drink.  Or, really, any other reason, but they had  lovely outdoor seating and I was on holiday so why not go to a sports bar with a vaguely Mexican logo?

Checkmate is what the above food/beverage combo in the picture above is named.  It cost $60 and must be shared between 2 or more people.

I ask the waitress what exactly was in this unique creation, are you ready?: Place on top of a large bloody Caesar (for those non Canadians a bloody caesar is basically a bloody Mary made with Clamato juice), then a roast chicken (which I have to imagine is de-boned), a big hamburger, a slider, onions rings, a cheese dog, chicken wings, pulled pork, mac ‘n cheese, a brownie and a pickle on top (seems to me from the picture there are other things, maybe they improvise sometimes? Looks like a kebab and deep-fried nuggets of some sort.)

If you are in Vancouver and are feeling like a, um, feast this particular item is only available at Scores on Davie.

Don’t forget to ask for 2 straws.

And for you less adventurous souls, they do make a fine white wine spritzer, splurge and get the big one, because as you can see they do big really well ;-)

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Spicy Carrot Salad


I have ever so slightly adapted this recipe from Ottolenghi’s cookbook Jerusalem by adding some goat cheese.

Spicy Carrot Salad

Trim and peel 1 1/2 pounds of carrots, I used two heirloom varieties I found at the market, but this is a great recipe to perk up those mid winter bagged carrots sitting forgotten in your crisper.

Place the carrots (whole) in a sauce pan, cover with water, and bring to a boil. Decrease the heat to a simmer, cover and cook for about 20 minutes.  Testing around the 15 minute mark, a knife should easily pierce the carrots, but you don’t want them to be tender not soft.

Drain the carrots and let cool.

While the carrots are cooking, heat 1 1/2 tablespoons of unflavored oil like sunflower or organic canola in a cast iron frying pan or medium heat.  Add 1 large onion finely chopped and cook for about 10 minutes or until the onions are golden brown.

Once the carrots have cooled cut into 1/4″ slices and place in a large bowl.

Add the cooked onions to the carrots and stir in 1 tablespoon of Pilpelchuma*, 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin, 1/2 teaspoon ground caraway, 1 scant teaspoon of salt, 1/2 teaspoon of sugar, 3 tablespoons cider vinegar and 1 1/2 tablespoon of unflavored oil. Toss well and let sit for at least 30 minutes or longer.(* this is spicy so you can always start by adding less, tasting and then adding more until you reach the right heat for you).IMG_7811Just before you serve stir in a generous 1 1/2 cups of Arugula and 1/2 cup of fresh creamy goat cheese. Toss very gently.IMG_7819Taste and adjust seasoning.  I sprinkled some Maldon salt over this before serving.

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Pilpelchuma: The Condiment You Have Never Heard of and Can’t Live Without

IMG_7779Last week I made a middle eastern mess themed dinner with lots of small dishes.  My friend Ansell was coming over, back when we met he introduced me to the Cafe Mogador  in the East Village (been there since 1983 and still going strong).  They used to have a large silver appetizer platter filled with small bowls of tabbouleh, spiced carrots, hummus, warm pita and many other delicious that they would bring to the table for you to choose from.   It’s been years now since but I always remember thinking how reasonably priced they were, how delicious everything on the tray was and how you could easily make a dinner just from the small plates on this tray.

One of my favorite things on this mezzo tray were the spiced carrots.  We got them every time we went.  So when I was putting together this mezze meal I knew I had to make spiced carrots.

In Ottolenghi‘s instant classic cook book Jerusalem his recipe for spicy carrot salad calls for Pilpelchuma as a key ingredient.   Pilpel… what, you ask?  Pilpelchuma is:

An intense chile-and-garlic paste that is used by Jews from Tripoli as a basic seasoning for many dishes.  

My guests will attest to the fact that it tastes great on basically everything from Olives, to  the small pastries filled with feta, herbs and spinach I made and of course spicy carrots: basically it is kind of like Harissa with a lot of garlic in it.

Here’s the recipe, I promise to post the my version of the spicy carrot salad recipe post-haste!


Place 1 large ancho or pasilla chile in a small bowel, cover with very hot water, and soak for 30 minutes. Drain and seed the chile, roughly chop and reserve.

In a cast iron frying pan add: 4 1/2 tablespoons of cayenne pepper, 3 1/2 tablespoons of sweet paprika, 2 1/2 teaspoons of ground cumin, 1 1/2 teaspoons of ground caraway seeds. Roast over medium-low heat for about 2 minutes, until the spice mixture become fragrant.

In a blender or food processor add: the chopped chile, 20 cloves of garlic, a scant teaspoon of salt. Process adding 1 tablespoon of unflavored oil like sunflower or organic canola.  Once the garlic and chili has formed a rustic paste add the ground spices.  With the blender running adding 4 more tablespoon of oil.  You may need more if using a blender.

Sterilize a jar by pouring boiling hot water into it and letting it sit for 1 minute, place the lid to the jar in the pan with the water as you bring it up to boil.

Spoon the paste into the jar and top it with more oil so the paste doesn’t dry out.

Use it freely and often and make Spicy Carrot Salad.

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Diving for Scallops

Screen Shot 2015-08-19 at 2.47.38 PMThe name of this video sounds so straight forward.  The reality is that this is a very moody, dark look at the risks and effort that go into diving for scallops.  The video focuses on one particular man who makes a living diving off the coast of Maine.

It’s fascinating, to me, to see just what it takes to get scallops to the market and how dangerous, lonely and precarious this life is.

I’ll never think of those 4 scallops sitting on my plate at that fancy restaurant the same.Screen Shot 2015-08-19 at 2.48.44 PMScreen Shot 2015-08-19 at 2.49.10 PMScreen Shot 2015-08-19 at 2.49.06 PMScreen Shot 2015-08-19 at 2.48.33 PM


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