Thursday, June 12, 2008

Here's where I cry just a little

I had the best intentions of posting a lovely almond cookie recipe today which has been ready to go for a while and mentioning the bitterness surrounding the dearth of toasted coconut almond fudge gelato everywhere. There is a world-wide cost crisis with almonds, one foodie told me. No way. Is it just the almonds, Mrs. Clueless, or are lots of people struggling to put food on the table and gas in their SUV's at the same time? Surely not! Pish-aw, we'll muddle through! It's just an almond crisis.

I will tell you about the cookie as planned. You're not just here for me to wax nostalgic about some guy who might have cancer, right? Even if he is the best kind of guy?

Now, the cookie. A guy sitting to my right at Esca in New York one evening turned out to be a foodie devoted to Chef Batali. He whipped out an impossibly slim and glamourous writing utensil and, in perfect architectural block print, wrote down a recipe on his cocktail napkin. He handed it to me, placed his pen back in the breast pocket of his Hugo Boss and left (to return to the Bat Cave). That guy was nuts or else Mario Batali is. It was a recipe worthy of the Blue Willow Inn Cookbook: Not meant to make food. Meant to drive you into an asylum. It went something like this: Grind the almonds, add very little butter and sugar. Mix, bake, and proceed to the medication line. Won't work, I don't care what Bat Man says. At least he was accurate. I found the cookie recipe on the internet credited to the Chef. It's not looking good for the chef's sanity: Ever eat dry sand? Here's your chance.

The recipe below will work like a charm however, and you'll be out of the kitchen in a shake. You'll need some almonds to grind down to flour or some almond flour. Go to Trader Joes or an organic store or the nut isle of the supermarket and grind it down, takes a second. Or don't. I am preoccupied and cannot possibly find a way to creatively mention the health benefits of almonds at the moment. Or to discuss how very wise hostesses make sure the baked goods go into the oven as late in the day as possible before hosting a dinner party, to allow the scent of fresh pastry to waft through the air when the front doors are opened to guests. Look, I can't. Another time.

I am itching to shift gears here.

Paul Newman is a good man. Maybe the best. Yesterday it slipped out that he has an undisclosed cancer. Here is a real Bat Man. A guy who saved the world for you and I and we hardly knew it. He was an organic-food-for-children philanthropist before it became popular. This man built farms, huge, green, happy affairs for stricken kids. He gave more money than most will ever dream of to charity. He made more, he gave that away too. The arts, the kids, the athletes, I tell you, he touched millions of lives far apart from his movies. He and Joanne Woodward make more difference in one day than most do in three lifetimes.

It'll be great if we can make one for him. Hope for him in whatever language or faith you know that he'll live on to do what only he can. I know he can't be spared forever, none of us can. But if there can be a hold out, Paul Newman should be it.

I was seven years old when I met him for the first time. At our stables' first horse show under his ownership. He and his family are good horse people, but they are even better humans. I am certain the prayers of the horse community and the food community (he owns Dressing Room, in Westport, "Our Mission: We believe that the food we grow and cook -- in the place that we call home-- defines who we are.") are with him tonight. Send yours too, will you?

Not Mario Batali's Almond Cookie
Bastardized from this Mario Batali recipe, sadly
For Paul Newman
Makes 2 dozen cookies

1/4 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, very softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup almond flour, or the same amount made by processing almonds into flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 egg, beaten soundly
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Garnish: a few slivered almonds on top just before baking

If you are using whole almonds, put them in the food processor and pulse them down until it becomes like a powdery sand.

Then you get a bowl, medium is fine, or use your stand mixer, but really, if your butter is very soft, you needn't. Into the bowl place the stick of butter, sugar, almond flour, salt, and the beaten egg. Use a wooden spoon or the like (or your stand mixer, if you really must), to mix all of these ingredients to smooth, it will take about 2 minutes, be patient, it is a thick dough. Add the extracts and stir again just to combine. Put the bowl in the fridge overnight to allow the butter to firm up again.

The next day, preheat your oven to 350 degrees and lightly spray two cookie sheets, non-stick is best (spray them anyway). Bake for about twelve minutes, until the sides of the cookies are just golden and the tops set. Cool ten minutes on the baking sheet, remove with a spatula to a cooling rack or large platter, eat as soon as you can handle. Or, wait, if you must.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

well done BJM, greenwich