How can it be a week since I last posted here? The answer's simple. After any long trip, there's the whirling messiness of landing: jetlag, of course, and then a sore throat-cold-cough combo that lingers, and bills and mail and banking to sort through, and trip notes and photos to start sorting through... And at Christmas time there are more than the usual number of post-trip drop-ins and phone calls and lunch and supper bookings with friends and extended family. Everyone seems to have a party or get-together in this season. It's kind of dizzying.
Last night I was out at a friendly relaxed pleasurable tenth anniversary party at Lula Lounge, a world-music venue and comfortable bar on Dundas West here in Toronto. I walked home from there, about three miles, in the clear cold night, wearing running shoes for comfort, and walking on sidewalks occasionally dusted with a little snow but mostly bare and easy. It was a good decision, to walk. It grounded me and brought me securely into the "now" for the first time since I landed here nearly a week ago.
This morning I woke with a pretty clear head and contemplated my to-do list. it's fairly elastic, but includes decision-making about which of the things I brought back from Burma and Thailand will go to which people as presents, calling several friends and my aunts who live far away to touch base, and getting some work done. We all know what won't get reached. Right. The work! And that's as it should be.
It is so important, after all, to take time out and focus on the "soft" things which are in the end the essentials. For me that means unhurried time for conversation and connection with people near and dear, and with new people too; and meditative time, when I can let my mind drift.
Some of that mind-drifting was happening yesterday as I was baking. Yes, of course, that can work fine, especially when I'm kneading a bread dough for example, but is a little risky when there are cookies in the oven! No catastrophes to report this time, I'm happy to tell you.
I wanted to set out here in short form the easiest recipe, and always a success, for "Mandel Melbas", thin twice-baked cookies in the biscotto tradition, a recipe I was given by my dear friend Dina, whose mother's it was.
You will need 1 cup of toasted whole almonds, so if yours are raw, just toast them in a hot skillet until they are aromatic, and don't let them burn, then set aside. Preheat the oven to 350 and grease and dust with flour a large (9 by 5 or so) bread pan. You'll also need two baking sheets later on.
Beat four large or extra-large eggs together with three-quarters cup of sugar and then stir in one and a half cups all-purpose flopur to make a smooth batter. You can add a half teaspoon almond extract if you want; I never do. Stir in the almonds, then pour or spoon the batter into the bread pan. Bake in the centre of the oven until lightly browned, about 40 minutes (and do the skewer test to make sure the "cake" is cooked through). Let stand ten minutes, then take from the pan and let cool. Wrap in foil or plastic and freeze for an hour or so.
Set your oven to 300, slice the "loaf" very thinly (6 to 8 slices per inch) and lay the slices on the two baking sheets. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes, until firm and lightly touched with brown.
This is where you must not let your mind drift too much, or they will burn!
A lot of my batch this week got eaten the first day, but really they are even better after they've had a day to crisp up, delicate and beautiful.
Happy holiday times to you all...
I'm off to meet a friend for lunch. Such a treat.
PS: And speaking of distractions this week, how about that lovely big solstice full moon. Amazing, and even more that she was eclipsed and then re-emerged to light the western sky as dawn was breaking here...