Tony is all about food. His ongoing food events and special projects have been featured in the press. To learn more, you can view his gallery, read his blog, or simply contact him directly.

Archive for the ‘ice cream’ Tag

I scream(ed)

I find that when you don’t know how to go about saying something, it’s best to come out and say it. I learned this when I was younger. It’s like pulling off a bandaid…

My Canon Rebel died last week.

It hurt me to even type that, but it’s the truth. If you’re wondering whether it’s safe to leave your camera with a hotel for a couple hours after checkout, don’t do it. I hate to sound jaded, but that’s how my Canon met its horrible fate. The hotel is still investigating the matter, which, I hope, is not code for, let’s see how we could get out of this. So far they’ve been relatively kind and helpful, but I’m still waiting for them to make things right.

The last thing I photographed before my trip was a chocolate hazelnut ice cream. I stumbled upon this recipe for gianduia gelato on epicurious and couldn’t pass it up — it’s like Nutella ice cream. Despite the relatively positive reviews, I added my own twist by spiking the gelato base with hazelnut liqueur. Although it did not bring my camera back, I was happy to find the leftover gelato waiting for me in my freezer after I came home from my dismal trip.

mise en place

The recipe calls for peeled, toasted hazelnuts, ground and steeped in hot milk. I’ve always peeled my hazelnuts by toasting them and rubbing them between a kitchen towel. While this method doesn’t get rid of all the skin, it does a great job of getting rid of most of it with very little effort. There’s also what has been dubbed the Julia Child technique, which requires you to boil the hazelnuts in water with baking soda until the water turns dark. Then you have to allow them to cool before you can peel the skins off. Either method works, although for this recipe, I don’t think you need to worry about getting all the peel off because you’ll be straining everything two steps later.

peeled hazelnuts

Pulse the peeled and toasted hazelnuts with sugar. Remember, the finer you grind your hazelnuts (i.e. the more surface area there is), the more hazelnut flavor will be infused into the milk. I went with a coarse cornmeal grind, but I feel like I could’ve gone further than that.

hazelnuts & sugar

Once the hazelnuts steep in the hot milk for 20-30 minutes, you’ve essentially drawn out most of their flavor. I do not recommend reusing these. If you’re craving gelato with some texture, I recommend setting aside some of the toasted hazelnuts and folding them into the semi-frozen base once it comes out of the ice cream maker.

the last drop has the most flavor, so push

Rule number one: never add cornstarch to a hot liquid without diluting. My solution was to dilute the cornstarch in hazelnut liqueur before adding it to the strained milk mixture.

spiked cornstarch slurry

Once the mixture comes to a boil and reaches its maximum thickening potential, mix in your chocolate. I used a Callebaut 60% chocolate.


The next step is to let your mixture cool completely before adding it to your ice cream maker. The best thing, in my opinion, is to let it go overnight. The colder the ice cream base is before it goes into the ice cream maker, the less ice crystals will form, and the smoother your ice cream will be.

cooled ice cream base

Since this gelato recipe uses cornstarch as a thickener, the base looks almost like a pudding after it is cooled; this is normal. Make sure to taste the base before putting it into the ice cream maker — not only is this a good habit in terms of making sure everything is seasoned correctly, but the base alone makes for an awesome chocolate hazelnut pudding.

gianduia gelato

If you use the ice cream attachment on your kitchen aid, as I did, make sure to whip as little air into the gelato base (i.e. keep your mixer on the lowest setting). This will help create the silky, slow-churned texture that gelato is known for.

chocolate hazelnut gelato

Gianduia Gelato

yields approx 1 quart


  • 2 cups hazelnuts (8 ounces), toasted , skins rubbed off, and cooled
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 4 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 3 tbsp hazelnut liqueur
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 4 ounces bittersweet chocolate (no more than 60% cacao), finely chopped

Putting them all together

  1. Pulse toasted and peeled hazelnuts with sugar in a food processor. The result should resemble a coarse cornmeal texture.
  2. Combine the hazelnut mixture and the milk in a heavy-bottom medium sauce pan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Once it reaches a boil, cover and set aside for 20-30 minutes.
  3. A couple minutes before the hazelnuts are done steeping in the milk, combine the hazelnut liqueur with the cornstarch to make a slurry. If the mixture is still a too thick (i.e. or clumpy), add cold milk to thin it out some more.
  4. Strain the ground hazelnuts from the milk mixture and discard.
  5. Return the strained milk to the medium sauce pot, stir in the the cornstarch slurry and boil over medium heat for 2 minutes, making sure to stir constantly. The mixture will be thick.
  6. Remove from heat and mix in the finely chopped chocolate.
  7. Chill the base in the refrigerator overnight, or at least for 4-6 hours, then put it into your ice cream maker to make the gelato.
  8. When complete, transfer the gelato to an air-tight container and freeze until ready to eat.

note: recipe adapted from


all done

Sexy Ice Cream

It’s summer.  It’s hot.  And I’m all out of Ben & Jerry’s Chunky Monkey ice cream (always a sad event). At the grocery store, I was tempted to simply pick up another one of their cartoonish pints and call it a day… but I didn’t. What type of foodie would I be if I never make my own ice cream from scratch?  For the longest time I didn’t own an ice cream maker, so I didn’t feel guilty in turning to my friends Ben and Jerry or their buddy Breyer for my ice cream cravings.  Now that my machine finally arrived in the mail, I decided to get in the kitchen and give it a whirl.

mise en place
mise en place

I came back from the Middle East with lots of goodies that would make any foodie swoon. One of my greatest treasures is a small bottle of pure rose water that I had bought at an Aleppan souq. Although ice cream isn’t a traditional Middle Eastern dessert, Arabs make plenty use of their rose water. In fact, it isn’t uncommon for ladies to dab some behind their ears and use it as a fragrant perfume. I, on the other hand, knew exactly what to do with my rose water!

cold yolks + hot cream

I aimed for an unadulterated rose flavor that wasn’t too overwhelming, but that left a note of intrigue with every bite. To achieve this, I made a very simple ice cream custard out of milk, cream, egg yolks and sugar and added a 1/4 tsp of rose water at the very end (before pouring the mix into the machine). Depending on the brand and intensity of your rose water you might choose to add a bit more or less.  Also note that the flavor will only intensify as the temperature drops, so make sure to add just shy of what your taste buds consider appropriate.

roses are red
rose ice cream

I don’t particularly like adding red food coloring to my ice cream because I feel that it gives it an unnatural look.  Sort of like that alien green color most brands use to distinguish their mint chocolate chip ice cream flavor. Hopefully this trend will change soon!

the perfect portions
rose ice cream

This ice cream hit home for me. Although the vehicle for the rose flavor was not traditional, the undertone of the rose water brought back memories of the delicate Middle Eastern sweets I enjoyed on my trip. With a bold flavor like rose, a small scoop is perfect for that post-meal indulgence or a refreshing snack. This is certainly not the type of ice cream you want pile into a massive bowl and eat your way through while watching a Law & Order marathon.

rose ice cream
rose ice cream

Granted, it does take some work time to crank out a homemade batch, but you will continue to reap the rewards for however long you can resist the ice cream sitting in the ice box. If you do make this flavor at home, consider sprinkling toasted pistachios or almonds on top. I tried it after having photographed these, and fell in love with the flavor combination.

Rose Ice Cream

(yields approx. 1 pint)


  • 400 ml milk
  • 200 ml cream
  • 125 g sugar
  • 4 egg yolks
  • rose water, to taste

Putting them all together

  1. In a medium saucepan, bring cream, milk and sugar to a boil.
  2. Whisk egg yolks and continue whisking while slowly incorporating the hot cream mixture.  This step is called tempering the yolks.
  3. Strain the mixture and add back to the saucepan.  Cook on medium heat until the mixture coats the back of the spoon.
  4. Cool the mixture in an ice bath, add the rose water and pour into your ice cream maker.
  5. Follow the instructions on your ice cream maker and store in the freezer until ready to eat.


sexy ice cream
sexy ice cream

Habibi, I’m home!

definition for habibi

Ever since graduation a couple of weeks ago it seems as if all my time and energy has been consumed by the process of unpacking. Seriously though, where did all these boxes come from?! I see now that two jars of whole nutmeg are unnecessary and a third bottle of balsamic vinegar is overkill. Meanwhile, my room is still in shambles, hidden somewhere underneath piles of unopened boxes that have constructed a fort around my bed. The kitchen, however, was the first space to be thoroughly unpacked.  To commemorate this occasion I decided to blog about one of my all-time favorite Middle Eastern desserts, haytaliye

mise en place
mise en place

Haytaliye (hay•ta•lee•ya) is a traditional Aleppan dessert that is popular during the scorching summer months that characterize the Middle East. And trust me – even though we’re thousands of miles away, nothing brings out the heat more than lugging densely packed boxes up three flights of stairs. Plus, the entire dessert is made with things most of us would already have in our kitchens on any given day.

like milk jello, only tastier than it sounds
milk cubes

The dessert itself is nothing more than whole milk cooked with cornstarch.  This mixture is then chilled, cut into bite-sized cubes, and served as the foundation for the other toppings.

your favorite vanilla bean ice cream
vanilla bean ice cream

Traditionally, this dessert is served with clotted cream ice cream, but that’s pretty hard to come by in the States.  Instead, I use high quality vanilla ice cream, and it works quite well.

Haytaliye (حيطلية)
pouring the simple syrup

The third component of the dish, and arguably the most important, is the orange-blossom-infused simple syrup.  A simple syrup is equal parts water and sugar, barely boiled until the sugar has completely dissolved. Once it’s done, adding a touch of orange blossom water gives the syrup its unique flowery fragrance.


(yields approx. 10 servings)


  • 1.5 L whole milk
  • 100 g. cornstarch
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. orange blossom water
  • vanilla bean ice cream
  • small (or crushed) ice cubes
  • ice-cold water

Putting them all together

  1. Combine the water and sugar, bring to a boil over medium heat and remove once the sugar has diluted. Add the orange blossom water and refrigerate.
  2. Set aside enough cold milk to dilute the cornstarch and bring the remainder of the milk to a boil.
  3. Once the milk has come to a boil, add the cornstarch that has diluted in the cold milk and stir constantly for 3-5 minutes to avoid lumps.
  4. Lower the heat to low and cook for another 45 minutes, stirring every 5-10 minutes.
  5. Pour out the milk mixture into a glass baking dish and immediately cover with ice-cold water so that the milk seizes.*
  6. Once everything has chilled, slice a few bite-sized cubes of the milk (leaving the preservation water behind), top with ice and ice cream and serve the chilled infused syrup at the table so that your guests can control how sweet they would like to make their dessert.

Note: Once you add the cold water, the milk mixture should seize and the water should remain clear. The water will preserve the milk mixture and prevent it from drying out in the fridge. If done correctly, tiny wrinkles will form on the surface of the milk mixture due to the shock from the rapid change in temperature.