Easy Peasy Homemade Green Almond Liqueur – Part 1

Green Almond Liqueur is a whole new kind of awesome with an aromatic but bittersweet flavor! In Part 1 I will show you how easy it is to prepare this liqueur with unripe almonds.

Wishing you all a very Happy Easter Day! For those of who you do celebrate, hopefully you are surrounded by family at a splendid dinner table. Easter also means Lent is over, if you observed it. In honor of being allowed to bring back a few nice vices into your routine, I offer you a naughty recipe to wake up the bootlegger in you with a homemade Green Almond Liqueur.

green almond liqueur

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Curious about a Breakfast with Cattail Pancakes?

Pretty cattail, fluffy cattail, flour cattail! What flour? Turns out flour can be extracted from cattails from which you can make mighty fine Cattail Pancakes.

I have been way overdue for an unusual ingredient post! If you are a regular reader you know how I like to find and cook with unheard of, rare or unusual ingredients…or come up with crazy recipes. I think I have a really good one for you. I was in the foodie shop of an abbey near my cottage with a friend and she spotted a bag of cattail flour. Say what? It was pricey at 10$ for an 8 ounce bag but I had to try it. On the package was included the recipe for these Cattail Pancakes!

cattail pancakes cut vertically

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Labrador Tea

Labrador tea, named after the swamps of Labrador where it loves to grow, was the herbal drink of choice by the indigenous peoples inhabiting the Arctic regions of North America.

Here is a sneak peak at one of the most popular requests from the survey I published a couple of weeks ago. You, my readers, love to learn about unusual ingredients! I used to do posts with unusual ingredients a lot more and I really loved those post. Not sure why I put them aside but let’s bring them back. And the first unusual ingredient to bring back this series is the Labrador Tea.

Just to put some minds at ease, no dog is involved in the process of making Labrador Tea 🙂 , rather the name comes from the Labrador region, one of the few places on earth where this plant grows. And I just so happened to have this tea in my pantry!

Labrador Tea with leaves

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Pick your own Squash in the Pumpkin Patch

This past weekend in Canada was Thanksgiving. Many families and friends gather around a wonderful meal, celebrating the bounty of the summer. In my family we throw in hard labor work: we close the cottage down for the winter. Thankfully we still find time to play.

The fall colors were at their peak and the scenery was absolutely breathtaking. On top of great food, the menu also included a gorgeous hike and a visit to a squash farm. Nothing says autumn like a stroll through the pumpkin patch at La Courgerie! No recipes today, just lots of great fall photos and a little squash crash course.

La Courgerie

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Exotic Dragon Fruit Flan

Funny how a recipe can travel around the world and take different shapes, take the crême caramel for example. Of European origin, crême caramel was found in most European restaurant’s menus during the 20th century. Sometimes a crême caramel is called a flan.

But the word flan comes actually from an Old German word “flado” meaning cake and around most of the world a flan refers to a tart with a crust and a egg custard filling…except in Latin countries and North America. Sometimes a flan is called a crême caramel. Confused? Wait I am not done yet!

Now let’s look at the Pitaya, also called Dragon Fruit. I had always assumed it was an Asian fruit. After all when it arrived in the markets I frequented it was always in Asian markets or in the pile of Asian fruits at the super market and the name Dragon Fruit kind of screams Asia. Well it turns out the Pitaya is actually native to Mexico and the South and Central Americas. It was only later that they started cultivating Pitayas in Asia which is were it was re-baptized Dragon Fruit.

When I was contacted by the wonderful people at Pitaya Plus for a review I was a little confused as to the big focus on Nicaragua and not Asia. Now I now why! The fruit is in fact native to them. This company offers a unique selection of products made from the Pitaya, or as they would say the Superfruit. The company offers juices, smoothies and dried Pitaya. I think these fruit ‘chips’ are really cool and I love the crispness to it. It is leathery like any dried fruit but there is a distinctive crackle when you take a bite. The juice is not a sweet one but it is refreshing as it is also mixed with coconut water and a touch of lemon. One bottle contains 16% of your daily dietary fiber recommendation!

When the dragon fruit made its first appearance in my local markets it was a ridiculous 8.99$ per fruit so I did not go exploring. I think my first taste was of a catered platter at a function I attended. I never bothered to look into this fruit, just admired the exotic look from afar. Now the store sells them for 2.99$ a fruit. And that is a good thing as it turns out Pitayas are very good for you.

Pitayas from Central America are characterized by a red flesh (unlike the white fleshed Asian Pitayas) and are just brimming with nutrients. Each fruit is packed with natural fiber, protein, vitamin C, antioxidants and Omega-3s. Pitaya has also been known to lower and stabilize blood glucose levels for people who suffer from Type-2 diabetes, while also decreasing levels of bad cholesterol. And now for some odd facts: did you know Pitayas are one of only a few fruits that grow from a cactus, and are the only fruits in the world pollinated by bats?

As of today Pitaya Plus offers the only certified organic pitaya on the planet! Pitaya Plus is also a great story of a social mission, social responsibility and empowerment. The company supports the community by hiring and working one on one with local farmers and single mothers which are all hired above minimum wage. The plant factory is solar powered, a renewable energy. The company is clear in specifying they are not a charity, they just want create something long lasting with benefits for everyone involved. Brava!

Dried Pitaya ‘chip’

I really wracked my brain when trying to come up with a recipe to test out the juice. I spent a lot of time surfing the net for inspiration. That is when I fell on flans. A Dragon Fruit Flan would definitely be out of the ordinary yet I saw it as a perfect marriage of a Latin fruit and a Latin dessert.

 

Ξ Dragon Fruit Flan Ξ

Ingredients

1/2 cup water
3/4 cup  sugar
4 eggs
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/3 cup Pitaya Plus Super Juice
1/2 cup  milk

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350F.
  2. Put water and sugar in a pan over medium heat and bring to a gentle boil. Leave it on the flame until the mixture turns into a nice dark caramel color. Do not stir the pan while boiling. Immediately pour into ramekins.
  3. While the caramel is cooking, whisk eggs and sugar together, than add the juice and milk and mix thoroughly. Pour into ramekins over the caramel.
  4. Place ramekins in a large baking dish and fill with hot water 3/4 of the way up the edge of the ramequins . Bake for 45 minutes in the water bath until the flan is set and a knife comes out clean. Allow it to cool in the fridge for at least 1 hour.
  5. Prior to flipping ramekin, run a knife along the sides of  flan to loosen it. Hold your deep plate tight to the ramekins and  flip.

Note the recipe make either 4 small ramekins or you can make one flan with a souffle dish, about 8 in across, like it did. In that case cooking time will be around 65-75 min approximately.

I always had a fear and a need to make a flan. As silly as it sounds single portion crême caramels turn me off but a cake sized Latin flan I adore. In a way by making this recipe I was facing my flan fears because it is very delicate in texture. And my flip was not exactly perfect as some sides broke off a little. The taste however was out of this world. My caramel was intense and a little overpowering but when I took a bite of the flan without the caramel I enjoyed a very light taste with a very subtle hint of Pitaya. It was a nice change from the usual cake or pie.

Thai Garlic Scape Soup and Garlic Scape Pesto

I am away for a little bit to frolic in the country…..enjoy this scheduled post and I look forward to posting upon my return.

Recently I was invited over for dinner at a friend’s place. She had gone to a farmer’s market that day and her purchased treasures brought on a discovery for me: garlic scapes. I had never come across (consciously at least) this green stalk before. On my next farmer’s market trip I found some and had to bring a small bunch of garlic scapes home. But what to do with them. Two recipes really caught my eye: a soup and a pesto. I had enough for both so you get both.

Garlic scapes are the immature flower stalks of the hardneck garlic bulb variety. So you they are tender and edible and have a delicate hint of garlic flavor. They are usually harvested and found in markets during the month of June and July.

Ξ Thai Peachy Garlic Scape Soup Ξ

1 tablespoon of oil
1 dozen garlic scapes, green shoots chopped
2 cups of chicken or vegetable broth
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1/2 coconut milk
1 peach, chopped
1/2 inch grated ginger
1/2 to 1 teaspoon chili sauce
1 tablespoon lemongrass
a pinch of sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon of lemon juice

Directions:

  1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat, then add the scapes and saute for 2 minutes.
  2. Add the broth and all the ingredients except lemon juice.
  3. Bring to a boil and simmer, covered,  for about 20 minutes.
  4. Remove from the heat and then puree using a hand blender.
  5.  Add the lemon juice, adjust salt and pepper to taste. Makes 2 servings.

What can I say about the soup, the taste is truly unique and so flavorful. Obviously the soup itself is not Thai but the seasoning is: coconut milk, chili, lemongrass, ginger and the fish sauce. I was inspired to add a piece to bring an underground sweetness to the soup and it was perfect. Imagine all those flavors with a light garlic taste. Wonderful and extremely exotic.

Ξ Garlic Scape Pesto Ξ
1 cup garlic scapes, chopped
1/3 cup walnuts
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/3 cup Extra virgin olive oil
Salt, pepper to taste
Directions:

Place garlic scapes, walnuts, and Parmesan in a food processor. While the processor is running drizzle the oil in slowly. Season and store in the fridge or freeze into cubes.

Shopping Spree at Rube’s Rice

If you ever go to Toronto the main Farmer’s Market in the city is held Thu, Fri and Sat at the St Lawrence Market. Plan to give yourself a lot of time to explore the market if you are a foodie, it is huge. I first visited this market about 7 years ago and I fell in love with one particular shop specialized in rice.

correction: South Market open Tue to Sat (food shops) and the Farmer’s Market is on Sat only

© City of Toronto

Lost on an island stand in the middle of a corridor of the basement floor is Rube’s Rice. Rube is the owner and one of the first tenants of the present day market. He specializes in rice, beans, lentils, couscous and anything dried. I was so amazed back then by the exotic selection of rice I bought about 5 different kinds. I always dreamed of coming back one day to this shop.

Alas it took 7 years until I made it back. Not because I has not returned to Toronto since then, I have many times, but because we always ran out of time on the agenda. A couple of weeks back I was again in the Ontario capital city visiting a dear friend. We finally made it back to the market and to Rube’s Rice shop….10 minutes before the closing of the market! It was a mad dash. Kind of funny when you think about it: I am not a huge fan of rice…not the plain white kind.

Well I may have been short on exploration time but I did not waste a minute in grabbing another selection of rices to take home. Next trip -which may very well be in a month or two – I demanded that a real trip to the market with plenty of leisurely time be on top of the outings list. But in the mean time I will share with you my rice finds!

Wehani rice

2 parts water for 1 part rice, bring to a boil and simmer 45 min

Wehani is an aromatic red whole-grain rice from northern California. It was developed from basmati rice seeds from India. Its grains are reddish-brown in color and slightly resemble wild rice. When cooked, the rice produces an aroma similar to that of hot buttered peanuts, and is slightly chewy.

Jade Rice

1 1/2 parts water for 1 part rice, bring to a boil and simmer 20 min

Now this one I was already familiar with and just adore this unique rice. Bamboo rice is short grain white rice infused with pure fresh bamboo juice. When cooked, it is pale green and tends to be quite moist and viscous, causing the grains to stick together. This rice is high in vitamin B, and gives it a flavor and aroma much like that of a green tea.

Madagascar rice

1 3/4 parts water for 1 part rice, bring to a boil and simmer 20 min

The Madagascar Pink Rice, a unique Malagasy rice variety grown from a single seed, has an elusively aromatic taste of cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg, and is also nutritionally dense.

Volcanic rice

1 3/4 parts water for 1 part rice, bring to a boil and simmer 30 min

Volcano Rice is a mineral and an antioxidant packed blend of traditional aromatic West Java rices grown on volcanic soils rich in magnesium, manganese and zinc. It is grown by family farmers in the Tasikmalaya region of Indonesia.

Israeli Couscous

1 1/4 parts water for 1 part rice, bring to a boil and simmer 9 min

Not a rice but it seems like this couscous is everywhere all of a sudden, especially in the foodie blogosphere. Ptitim is an Israeli toasted pasta shaped like rice or little balls. Outside of Israel it is known as Israeli couscous or Jerusalem couscous. Ptitim were invented during the rationing period in Israel, from 1949 to 1959, when rice was scarce.