Italian Amaretti Cookie's


The original Italian Amaretti cookie calls for bitter almonds, which are unlawful for sale here in the United States. They have a bitter taste and are absolutely fine for digesting “when cooked”, but are known to be lethal and poisonous when uncooked. (so, beware if you smell a strong almond flavoring in your cup of tea :) ) 

The bitter almond, though, is what is used when making almond extracts and other almond flavored liqueurs. That is why you will see many recipes for these delectable cookies floating around the Internet, which call for almond extract or flavorings instead of ground bitter almonds, or the apricot kernel which I use here. I personally love the taste of the underlying bitter flavor you get with bitter almonds. Without it the amaretti cookie tastes just like a sweet almond cookie, nothing really to write home about. Here I decided to use the next best thing, apricot kernels. (click on the link for a resource)

I was first introduced to apricot kernels six years ago when we had an illness in the family and it was prescribed to eat at least 10 apricot kernels a day to heal the infection. I did my research.. it was quite amazing! There are actual clinics abroad and in Mexico that uses the healing properties in the apricot seeds to cure various cancers. The vitamin is B17, which is not easily found except in certain fruit seeds, like the apricot kernel. It wasn’t easy to extract this kernel, you first have to take the apricot pit, and then crack that open and get the kernel, which is nestled inside. We did notice a quick healing, but in all I’m sure it was attributed to a total clean out and an intense organic lifestyle.. plus the apricot kernels. :)

This cookie is SO good.. the slight chewy texture along with the ground almonds and an "oh so slight' bitter flavor makes this a perfect cookie choice!
Hope you enjoy!

Makes 20 cookies
1 3/4 cups blanched almonds
3 tablespoons bitter apricot kernels
1 cup superfine sugar
3 to 4 tablespoons egg whites (mix with a fork till frothy)
Turbinado Sugar for sprinkling on top

Grind the almonds, 2 Tablespoons super fine sugar and apricot kernels to a fine texture in a food processor fitted with a steel blade.
Mix the ground nuts and the remaining superfine sugar in a mixing bowl.
Add 3 tablespoons egg whites and mix until the dough is soft enough to be piped from a pastry bag but stiff enough to hold its shape.
Mix in the last tablespoon egg white, a bit at a time, if needed.

Spoon the batter into a pastry bag fitted with a 1/2-inch star tip.
Pipe 2 1/2-inch-wide rounds 1 1/2 inches apart  parchment-lined baking sheets and tap baking sheet on counter to flatten a bit.
Sprinkle a bit of turbinado sugar over the tops and let stand at room temperature 1 to 2 hours. 

Heat the oven to 300°.
Bake until very light tan, 25 to 30 minutes.
Cool on racks.
Store in airtight containers.

The Inspired Plate Challenge | July 2012 | Barbecue

Our 7th month issue of The Inspired Plate's food, photography and styling challenge came with excitement and anticipation for this being a joint team effort. I was so pleased to be able to meet up with three other members of our group who reside in Southern California.  Allison from Allison Jacobs Photography, Valeria from Zen Mind Photography and Kim Kelly from Liv Life food and travel blog.

The preparations for this "Barbecue" event had us towing boxes filled with props and boards, Duralogs.. that didn't want to light, a variety of main dishes and sides and our camera bags filled with memory cards and lenses. What I didn't expect was the high heat and humidity and the "oh-so-brite' light that streamed in, only softly diffused by the flittering leaves on the gorgeous trees at the park. I really wish I had brought a light diffuser because the brightness of the light gave me such harsh contrasts in my photo's.

Being that I had a VERY uncontrolled environment, I decided that I couldn't use the photo's I shot at our barbecue get together for my premier challenge photo's. I have put a few up at the latter end of the post just to show a little of our shoot.

I had such a wonderful time though, so I don't feel like I came away empty handed.. I made stronger friendships with the gals that I've already grown to love since we started our journey together in January, and I learned more about team work and what is desperately needed when setting up an on location food photography shoot. LOTS MORE HANDS!

My challenge photo's ended up being the most simple of item's, barbecued.. "ahem", I mean grilled :),  Marinated Mushroom Skewers. 

This meal came out of my craving a few day's ago for something quick and healthy.. something I couldn't find while out on the road with my daughter who was in desperate need of an In-N-Out Burger. I really don't know why simple and healthy items like this aren't added to fast food menus. Crazy right?? 

Simple marinade of olive oil, black pepper, sea salt, oregano and sun-dried tomato pesto. While it was grilling, I spritzed a little freshly squeezed lemon for a final depth of flavor.

Yes.. they were as good as they look!

My Barbecue meal was also yummy!
Grilled "Spinach and Feta Cheese Chicken Sausages" brushed with a fresh basil pesto. 

The garlic and shallots were pre-marinated with olive oil, thyme and black pepper. I placed therm in a tin foil pouch and barbecued them till soft and steamy. WOW.. the smell rocked!
Fresh mozzarella was drizzled with a small amount of pesto oil.

For the salad.. which I don't have a great photo of here, is my Marinated Garbanzo Bean Anti Pasta with cherry tomatoes, red onions and zucchini. I'll do a separate post for this salad.. because it really does deserve it! 

With all of our prepping and BBQing, I didn't get many photo's of my girls. Valeria had to leave early because her beautiful boy had a summer flu.. Kim also had to leave early.. I mean this girl is "always" jetting off to some gorgeous corner of the earth. As I speak she is on her way to Venice, Italy! :)

Now it's time to make your way over to my extremely talented and beautiful friend Stacey Siegal | Longboat Key FL Photographer to see her interpretation of "Barbecue".  

And I don't use the term "interpretation" lightly! Being that we all come from different parts of the country, each of us had different idea's of what BBQ meant to us.. and i'm especially excited to see Sabrina's, a bbq from "Down Under".. she is hopefully showing us the Aussie version of "Shrimp on the Barbe"..

So with that in mind, I leave you with this wonderfully amusing music video that may sum up the differences we all have of "Barbecue"!!