Paste di Mandorla
(They made me a cake!)
I am a lucky chef. I have traveled the globe training cooks in the US Navy. Next to my kids, my work in the Navy has been my greatest achievement. I have met so many amazing people, seen amazing places (Join the Navy-See the World!), and finally understood the beauty of service.
On one trip, I got to visit southern Sicily, and stayed at the Naval Air Station Sigonella. I worked with the native Sicilian kitchen staff at the base Galley, helped them improve Navy food, taught some American techniques, and tried to help American service men and women appreciate the local Sicilian cuisine.
The cooks and bakers were all older Sicilian men … not a girl in sight. They were super sweet, and so knowledgeable – but they needed help communicating with their American Navy bosses. This is ironic, because I do not speak Italian, and very few of them spoke English. I do, however, speak kitchen, cook, and baker, which are international languages.
The cooks totally embraced me – it was the most welcoming post of my career, and I reaped the benefits. Despite our training sessions, which included me showing them (embarrassingly) how to make macaroni and cheese and meatloaf the way Americans like it – I was, in the off hours, given a sacks of local cheese, family label olive oil, specialty pastry, family recipes, and a special cooking lesson on the best cookie ever, which I will share with you lucky peeps now.
Of course his name is Sal. Doesn’t he look like a Sal?!?!
The Sigonella Lunch Crew Sicily=Gelato
This recipe was made almonds (mandorla in Italian), but I was told it is frequently made with pistachio, too. I know you can purchase almond flour, but it is not as good as fresh ground.
On Memorial Day, in addition to our defenders, I like to remember the support staff. They are the one’s I know the best. I can never forget that Food Service is vital. Food boosts morale, and is, therefore, vital to successful defense. I believe this with my whole heart. We need to improve it. Call your representative.
Happy Memorial Day to everyone, especially all my CS’s !!! Miss you!
1 pound almonds, ground to a fine flour
1 pound powdered sugar
Grated zest of large, really good lemon
1 tablespoon Amaretto (or vanilla)
2 tablespoons honey
4 egg whites, whipped stiff
- Combine ground almonds, sugar, zest, amaretto, and honey in a mixer with a paddle and combine well. Slowly add egg whites, which will bind the dough together. You may need more or less egg whites depending on the grind of your almonds. Beat on medium speed for 3-5 minutes. The dough will come together, sand should be tacky, but easy to handle and roll. You can add more powdered sugar if necessary.
- Turn dough out onto a work surface dusted with powdered sugar. Roll into inch-thick ropes, and cut off into 2-3 inch pieces. Roll in powdered sugar, Then pinch the short rope into a poochy “S” shape. Dough may also be rolled into balls and decorated with a cherry in the middle.
- Bake at 350˚F until just barely brown. Cool completely before you try to eat it. The outer crust will be crisp, but the inside will be soft and chewy.
**OK … Not the best picture I ever took, but fer sher the best cookie ever!