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Gourmet gifts with Pasquale Vari

For Institut de tourisme et d’hôtellerie du Québec (ITHQ) professor Pasquale Vari, the holidays are a time for bringing traditions and memories to life.

Photos: Julien Faugère
Accessories: Trois Femmes et 1 Coussin

One of his fondest memories is of his father preparing holiday treats to share with family and friends. And it’s an Italian tradition Chef Vari continues to this day; every year in November, he bakes and wraps loads of treats for family, friends, and neighbours who drop by for a coffee or an aperitif and to wish him a merry holiday season.

This year, spoil your loved ones with these three gourmet gift ideas!

Caramel-coated spiced almonds

Ingredients

500 g (3 cups) almonds
60 ml (1/4 cup) water
200 g (1/4 cup) sugar
1 pinch ground cloves
1 pinch ground nutmeg
1 pinch ground cinnamon
5 ml (1 tsp.) canola oil

Directions

  1. Lightly oil a sheet of parchment paper and set aside.
  2. Preheat the oven to 150°C (300°F).
  3. Place the almonds on a baking sheet and roast in the oven for 35 minutes.
  4. Five minutes before the end of cooking time, pour the water and sugar into a saucepan and heat until caramel forms.
  5. Add the roasted almonds and spices to the caramel mixture and stir using a wooden spoon.
  6. Transfer everything on your oiled parchment paper.
  7. Flatten the almond mixture with a rolling pin.
  8. Let cool for 5 minutes, then cut into small pieces while still warm. Store in an airtight container.

Almond nougat

Ingredients

320 g (2 cups) almonds
500 ml (2 cups) liquid honey
1 egg white
2.5 ml (1/2 tsp.) lemon zest
2 10 cm x 25 cm  (4 in. x 10 in.) rice papers

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 150°C (300°F).
  2. Bring 1 litre (4 cups) of water to a boil.
  3. Plunge the almonds in the water and blanche for 2 minutes, then strain.
  4. Remove the skins from the almonds.
  5. Place the blanched almonds on a baking sheet and roast in the oven for 35 minutes.
  6. Pour the honey into a saucepan set over low heat and whisk using an electric mixer.
  7. After 5 minutes, add the egg white.
  8. After 45 minutes of cooking and whisking, add the almonds and lemon zest. Using a wooden spoon, thoroughly combine the honey and almonds.
  9. Pour the mixture over a sheet of rice paper.
  10. Spread using a metal spatula.
  11. Cover with the second sheet of rice paper.
  12. Let cool for 10 minutes, then cut into pieces. Store in an airtight container.
View Chef Pasquale Vari’s recipeView Chef Pasquale Vari’s recipe

View Chef
Pasquale Vari’s recipe
(in French only)

Taralli

Ingredients

10 ml (2 tsp.) fennel seeds
10 ml (2 tsp.) fleur de sel
5 ml (1 tsp.) crushed hot peppers (optional)
300 g (2 cups) all-purpose flour
75 ml (5 tbsp.) extra-virgin olive oil
125 ml (1/2 cup) dry white wine
10 ml (2 tsp.) fine salt

Directions

  1. Using a mortar and pestle, roughly crush the fennel seeds, fleur de sel, and hot peppers.
  2. In a bowl, combine the seasoning, flour, olive oil, and white wine.
  3. Knead for 2 minutes until mixture is smooth and homogenous. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest 15 minutes.
  4. Using a chef’s knife, cut the dough into strips.
  5. On a wooden cutting board, roll each strip until it’s the size of a pencil.
  6. Cut strips of approximately 7 cm and roll them around your finger to form small ribbons (taralli).
  7. Bring 1 litre (4 cups) of water and 2 tsp. of fine salt to a boil.
  8. Plunge the taralli in the water, a handful at a time. Scoop out after 1 minute, or once they float to the surface.
  9. Let drain on a cloth for 5 minutes, then arrange on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
  10. Let dry for 8 hours.
  11. Preheat the oven to 150°C (300°F). Bake the taralli for 30 minutes.
  12. Let cool. Store in an airtight container.