By Isa Covo
This month my intention was to write about iconic American songstresses. The idea came to me as I was listening to Billy Holiday, and then the fire at Notre Dame de Paris happened.
From the time I heard the news, I was glued to the television and saw the spire fall, the crowd in Paris watching and singing a prayer on a melody from Smetana, a 19 century Czech composer. Incidentally the same melody was the inspiration for the Hatikva, the Israeli anthem, whose title translates as Hope.
The damage to this building whose origins go back 800 years gives us so many reasons to be saddened, whether for reasons aesthetic, spiritual, or architectural. And it seems to me that is why it affected people around the globe; those who visited it, or just saw pictures of it. That night the Empire State Building was dark, but for the antenna illuminated in blood-red light, as a tribute to the fallen spire, I assume.
For the French it also has significance because the front of the Cathedral is Km 0, the departure point of the roads and highways in the whole of France. However, as a Catholic priest commented, what were destroyed were stones and we can be consoled by the fact that, miraculously, no one was hurt and no lives were lost.
I’ll end here with two tweets from a very intelligent feline, Evie the Cat. She is the only female British government cat.
As pleased as I am to see Notre Dame will be rebuilt, I find it infuriating that a few billionaires can suddenly spare a few hundred million euros for this, when there are far, far bigger HUMAN issues that could be dealt with.
Imagine if they could also afford to spare just one million for homeless people in Paris, for example.
In honor of Notre Dame: a recipe for a sweet whose origins can be traced to medieval times. I hope you will enjoy it.
Masapan, Macarons, Marucinos are almond cookies, and they were popular in Spain during the Ottoman Empire. They do not resemble the French macarons, but they are still a very delicate confection. Still popular in Spain they reached many parts of the world and became a tradition with the Jewish population displaced by the Inquisition.
MASAPAN, MARUCINOS, MACARONS
(Almond paste rounds)
- 1 cup whole + 1 tablespoon slivered blanched almonds
- 2/3 cup of superfine sugar
- 1 large egg white
- ¼ teaspoon almond extract
- 1 teaspoon rose or orange flower water
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- Blanched slivered almonds
- In a food processor add the whole almonds, making sure that they are very dry. Process until the almonds look like coarse meal, about two minutes.
- Add the sugar and process until the mixture looks like fine salt, about 10 minutes, stopping once in a while to scrape the sides of the processor.
- Meanwhile mix the egg white with the almond extract and the rose or orange water, or the vanilla. Stir lightly to blend, and once the almond sugar mixture has the desired texture, pour it in the processor.
- Pulse until the ingredients form a ball. Scrape the sides of the bowl if necessary.
- Line a large baking pan or cookie sheet with parchment paper.
- Take the dough by rounded tablespoons and roll each into a ball, then flatten it lightly into the shape of a pancake one inch in diameter, and place onto the prepared pan, one inch apart. Press one slivered almond at the center of each round. Let the cookies stand uncovered at room temperature for about half an hour to form a thin crust on their surface.
- Heat the oven to 350 degrees.
- Place the baking sheet in the middle of the oven for 10 to 15 minutes until they are dry and the almond sliver turns a light beige color. The rounds should not color and their center should remain soft.
- Cool completely on a rack before removing them from the baking sheet and storing them in an airtight container. If there is more than one layer, separate the layers with sheets of parchment or wax paper. They will keep about 10 days refrigerated.
Yield: About 15 to 18 pieces