Sometimes, a little fuss is in order.
Though our general philosophy here at Blue Jean Gourmet is that food does not need to be fussy to be delicious, there are occasions (and recipes and people) for which a little fuss is not such a bad thing. If you are making the fuss for a reason, it ceases to be fuss and starts to be care or love or desire or enthusiasm. And those are all good things.
Last week, Jill met my extended family for the first time. They’re not technically my family, as we’re not related by blood, but the aunties and uncles I grew up with in Memphis are mine, and I am theirs. They’re all brave immigrants, like my parents, who came to this country from India and somehow figured out how to raise children (sassy, first-generation children) in a completely foreign land.
As you can imagine, the whole l-e-s-b-i-a-n thing has been sort of a hard road for all of us; hard enough, and then really just not on the radar in the Indian community at all. But since my father died three years ago, things have shifted. I’m older; Jill and I have been together longer. My mother, in her generosity and determination to build a great adult relationship with me, has met me more than halfway. And my community has followed.
We had what my friends and I jokingly called a “sip and see,” usually thrown in the South when a baby is born and everyone comes to inspect him/her and drink punch. Instead of a baby, we had (a very nervous) Jill. And instead of punch, we had sparkling shiraz, fruit sodas, cheese & crackers, spinach dip, fruit, homemade chocolate-covered strawberries, and these cookies.
These amaretti, unlike the also delicious but crunchy kind you may be used to, are light, airy, and almost evaporate in your mouth when served plain. An equally good but richer option is to “glue” them together with some jam or melted chocolate.
In case you were wondering, Jill was charming and gracious, as she always is. I think my aunties and uncles saw at least a sliver of what I see in her, and they were gracious and lovingly inquisitive back. When I closed the door after our last guest, I found myself moved to tears because two parts of my life had finally come together, parts I long thought would always be separate. Certainly an occasion worth making a little fuss over.
CHEWY AMARETTI COOKIES
adapted from Gourmet magazine, January 2009
7 oz. almond paste (not marzipan)
1 cup sugar
2 large egg whites, at room temperature for 30 minutes
¼ cup almonds, toasted
pan: baking sheet
special equipment: food processor, parchment paper & a pastry bag (or just use a large Ziploc bag instead, like me)
Line the baking sheets with parchment paper; please don’t try to substitute anything else as it won’t work and you’ll regret it, I promise.
Pulse the almond paste with the sugar in your food processor until it has broken up & looks crumbly; add almonds & egg whites and process until the mixture is smooth.
Pile the mixture into your pastry bag or Ziploc bag; if the latter, cut off one corner of the bag and squeeze rounds onto the parchment. Cookies work best if they are less than an inch round; place them just as far apart on the sheets.
Bake until the cookies are golden & puffed, about 15 minutes. Cool on a rack, then peel off of the parchment.
optional: Sandwich the cookies together, two at a time, using any number of fillings; melted chocolate, raspberry or strawberry jam, Nutella, etc.