Amaretti…Or My Adventures In Italy
One night that I was reading a post by my favorite Cream Puff about a beautiful dessert called Lucia’s Walnut Cake. Her post was a beautiful tribute to her grandmother as well as an introduction to a soon to be published cookbook, Adventures of an Italian Food Lover, by Faith Heller Willinger. Cath from A Blithe Palate had been given the opportunity to get a first look at the book before its release and had contacted Ivonne about it. Together they decided to create a blogging event of some sort around its release, sending copies to other bloggers with the sole instruction to make something from it and share their experience in a post, no book reviews necessary. I so wanted to be in the loop that I visited Cath’s site, left her a comment ( Did I beg? maybe…!) and a couple of weeks later I was sitting down on the back porch with an espresso and my own copy of the book.
This book represents everything cooking and baking is for me and my family. There is not a dish I make that does not have a story, a person or a name behind it. Some of the dishes I cook revolve around family holidays or special events, some remind me of the people who crossed my path and made me the person and baker I am today. Faith Willinger has the same approach in this book. All the recipes invite you to in somebody’s home, life and cooking. Little of the foods I make are Italian per se but they bear similarities having lived a good part of my life so close to the area, and I was very excited with the ability and ease this book provided me to broaden my horizons.
Out of all the recipes in the book, my thoughts came coming back to the Amaretti one. I have always admired this delicate cookie and yet, I probably only had it a couple of times in my life.Amaretti are cousins to the macarons in a way: same ingredients, different baking method and no filling. Their white and delicate appearance makes me think of weddings and summer days, long strolls on the beach and fragrant coffee. What can I say…I am a romantic.
The first time I had an Amaretti was during a memorable trip with my parents to Turino. Twenty eight years ago, my parents and grandparents bought a chalet in the southern Alps, a stone throw away from Italy. We would go across the border and get pancetta, coppa, pannetone, grappa and sometimes we would stay for lunch. On one occasion, over 20 years ago, we decided to have lunch at a tiny restaurant with one large dining area painted with a beautiful fresca of Italian coutrysides. It was late already, middle of the summer, hot outside. The chef was on his own, his aides and waiters gone on their daily siesta. We were starving, but well behaved, the chef was making everything from scratch, and plates were coming out one at a time. Our meal was a feast of ravioli, cold cuts, pizza, fish and other delicacies. We decided to make good fortune and the four of us shared each plate that was coming out of the kitchen when it was coming out. We slowed down after the first bites of ravioli filled our tummies with warm rich and cheesey tomato sauce. I don’t think my memories are failing me when I say that I truly believe we had the greatest time as a family that afternoon. The chef was kind and loved the way our little group chatted and feasted. Towards the end, we motionned for him to take a seat with us but he said he could not, he wanted to do the dishes and clean up before the Mrs. would come in and give him a hard time for serving "after hours"! He brought my parents espressos, spearmint syrup and water for us and a plate of amaretti. My first ones! I hesitated as they looked so delicate. My brother ignored his for a while…long enough for me to eat mine and half of his plate! I asked the chef how he made them and he said "I don’t make them, my mother does and she only told me the ingredients"….well, come on man! Dish it out!!! He hesitated for a second, then he replied "ok, well, it’s almonds, sugar, egg whites and a pinch of salt" That was it?!
It took me all this time and this book to finally make them. I don’t know the name of the restaurant that day many moons ago, and I surely do not know the name of the man who cooked us that fabulous meal, but the cookies were just as I remembered. Crisp and delicate, perfect with coffee or mint tea.
Thank you Ivonne and Cath for the opportunity. There are many pages of the book already bookmarked and other recipes already tried like the olive oil brownies that are out of this world. If you would like the recipe for the amaretti, contact me via email(marinette1ATcomcastDOTnet) and I’ll be happy to send it to you.
Anh July 23, 2007 um 4:38 am
Helen, your writing is beautiful, I felt as if I were there. The photos match the description perfectly, too – they are so pretty, delicate and elegant. Just like beautiful memories!
Peabody July 23, 2007 um 4:59 am
Had I known I would have begged too 🙂
Excellent choice from the book.
Aimée July 23, 2007 um 5:45 am
Great story, thanks Helen. Regretfully, I never tried amaretti when I was in Italy. Guess I’ll have to go back!
Ilva July 23, 2007 um 5:51 am
They are quite delicate and delicious, I think you may have inspired me to make some of my own! And do make some gnocco fritto, it is sooo good!
Anonymous July 23, 2007 um 6:13 am
well you certainly raised my interest in this book 🙂 have added it to my wishlist 🙂
Rosa's Yummy Yums July 23, 2007 um 7:00 am
They look just perfect! I love Amaretti and I wouldn’t mind biting in one of those babies!!!
Meeta K. Wolff July 23, 2007 um 7:04 am
Oh I wish I was a part of this event! These sound delicious and the book (I have been reading other posts) sounds just perfect for my crazy Italian passion. I would have begged to have been a part of the event too.
Barbara July 23, 2007 um 10:12 am
That is a lovely story Helen. Your amaretti look so light and delicate. I have only ever made them once and they didn’t look as beautiful as yours, but they did taste okay.
Lis July 23, 2007 um 11:07 am
They look scrumptious! I loved the story of the restaurant and the chef.. you made me feel as if I were there. =)
I’m glad you chose these, they are one of my most favorite cookies EVER. 😀
Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) July 23, 2007 um 1:18 pm
The amaretti are beautiful — we decided to make the ginger-apricot biscotti instead, but I did think about those. I thoroughly enjoyed the book, and also your post about it.
Deborah July 23, 2007 um 3:26 pm
What a wonderful story and a wonderful memory! The foods that have memories attached to them are always the best foods!
Anonymous July 23, 2007 um 3:33 pm
Cooking and family go together. I’ve never eaten an Amaretti. They look good and the recipe sounds great. We’ll have to make a batch.
breadchick July 23, 2007 um 7:15 pm
What an excellent story about your family! I love Amaretti! Now how did I miss these in the book??!! Oh never mind, you’ve inspired me to make them as soon as I have an oven…
Anonymous July 23, 2007 um 7:32 pm
Great post! Italy is my favorite vacation spot. I think everything tastes better there!
Chris July 23, 2007 um 9:02 pm
Helen, what a lovely post! Amaretti is one of my favorite! I could eat them forever and ever.
Nora B. July 23, 2007 um 9:10 pm
Lovely story Helen, and equally lovely amaretti. They are such light and delicate treats – I would have no trouble having a few at one go.
MyKitchenInHalfCups July 23, 2007 um 9:34 pm
I am overwhelmed by the number of recipes I would like to try from this book. The Amaretti I missed when I went through, it’s now got a sticky note on it.
The meal with your family Helene is so beautiful! Do you think there’s any way you would recognize the place . . . that would be an adventure to try and find it.
Anonymous July 23, 2007 um 10:33 pm
I have made amaretti a year or two ago and I was so surprised by the ingredients 🙂 Very delicious stuff.
Anonymous July 24, 2007 um 12:07 am
Ah, my sweet Helene! I too have a very soft spot for amaretti so I completely understand your attraction to them.
And I know how you feel about the special feelings around dishes and families and cooking and baking!
I’m so glad that you took part in this event. You brought a perspective that I knew you would!
Niki July 24, 2007 um 12:32 am
They look amazing and what a lovely story! Thank you for sharing 🙂
Anonymous July 24, 2007 um 1:45 am
What a wonderful post, Helen 🙂 It sounds like a beautiful memory and I’m glad that you made these little cookies that helped you relive that special time!
Anita July 24, 2007 um 2:09 am
What a lovely story Helen – thank you for sharing! Your amaretti look scrumptious – I’m dreaming of them now!
Anonymous July 24, 2007 um 1:03 pm
What a wonderful remembrance. I feel like I got to peek in on your family gathering.
Anonymous July 24, 2007 um 6:22 pm
Tout comme toi je suis une amoureuse de ces biscuits et tout comme toi avant ce livre, je n’en ai jamais fait. Une recette pourtant si simple.
Joli billet, j’ai eu beaucoup de plaisir à le lire.
Bien à toi
Anonymous July 24, 2007 um 8:06 pm
yum, delicious in the sweet treat and story. You are right to say that food and memories attached to people and places go together.
Anonymous July 24, 2007 um 8:27 pm
what a wonderful description of the amaretti cookies and your first encounter with them so many years ago! We have the same belief about food…it is about life and each dish has its story to tell as a part of our life…
Anonymous July 26, 2007 um 3:17 pm
What more can I say that will add to everyone else’s comments? You never disappoint. Beautiful cookies, wonderful writing and photos.