Jul 15, 2008


As I may have already made it clear through my blog- I have a passion for Italy and all things Italian, with their food making it in my top 3 things to love about Italy (I will let you guess what the other two are… ;-) ).

One of the things I love most are Amaretti, the Italian macaroons which once again in comparison with French macarons represent that simplicity sometimes works best. Maybe comparing Amaretti vs French macarons even encapsulates the whole stereotype idea of Italian vs. French cuisine, where in the latter it is generally about refined sophistication and fancy techniques, whereas in Italy you can cook up the most delicious generous warm-hearted meals from basic, simple ingredients. Well just to let you know- whether its Amaretti or French macarons, I have never really successfully been able to make either one…something evil and tricky about egg white and almond based recipes I would think!
Above: Pale faced Amaretti that don't exacty look like proper Amaretti... but the ganache (below) comes to save the day!
So anyway, recently I was on the pursuit of “the” perfect Amaretti recipe hoping that finally this time I would reach almond ecstasy. Well, with no surprise something went wrong in the process. Now I don’t know what exactly, but the appearance of the cookies did not turn out to be the way picture perfect Amaretti look like. The texture and the taste however were fabulous- but as I am a bit of a perfectionist who full heartedly believes in the importance of “eating with the eyes”, I decided it may be a good idea to dress up those plain looking Italian delights to make them look more appealing. To tell you the truth- in the perfect world, what I should had been blogging about were chocolate coated Amaretti with a maraschino cherry hidden in the center (that was Plan A)… but when making it, I had some ehem...“complications” which then led me to plan B- which is what I present today. Nothing more then chocolate dipped Amaretti decorated with crushed almonds. Simple, but a success with all those who tasted them- and best enjoyed with a cup of coffee, the Italian way if possible.

Recipe for Amaretti (amaretti morbidi to be precise- these are the lovely soft ones)

200gr powdered almonds
50 gr bitter almonds
300 gr icing sugar
3 egg whites
30 ml Amaretto liquor
Some sugar on the side to roll the amaretti in

For the ganache:
Dark chocolate melted in heated liquid cream, stirred until smooth and silky...mmm!

Making it:
Preheat oven to 160 C. Grind the bitter almonds. Then grind the bitter almonds, powdered almonds and icing sugar all together. Whisk the egg whites until they become stiff. Then gently fold in the powdered almonds, bitter almonds, icing sugar and Amaretto liquor. Mix everything together working from the outside towards the center. On a baking tray (covered with parchment paper), form little balls of amaretti which are then rolled in sugar. Bake for 15 minutes, and then check to see if they need more time. Mine took 15 minutes exactly- in the past I used to over bake and they would turn out hard once they cooled out of the oven. Remove from oven, let cool but immediately then store in an airtight container if you want to maintain softness and chewiness! Optionally, you can dip one side of the amaretti in the chocolate ganache, and sprinkle over crushed almonds.
P.S: Next time I promise to blog on something more "creative" and unique... This time I was only in the mood for something Italian and sweet...!

Jul 9, 2008


Hello everyone! Yes I know, it has been a while that I haven't posted anything on my blog... The truth is that I went through a total blogging procrastination phase. I was still going crazy with the cooking, but took a break from the blogging... Also, I was just counting the days to get out of Paris and fly away to... Mykonos & Santorini! I just spent a fabulous week on these two stunning Greek islands, and the only thing on my mind now is when will I be back there! Last year, I had spent just a day in Mykonos, and the rest of the time in Paros and Athens. This year, I told myself Mykonos deserved a lot more then just one day... which indeed turned out to be very true.
So where do I start? With the breathtaking views? The perfect weather? The picture-perfect sunsets? The lazy beach moments followed by an incredible nightlife? Or the mouthwatering food??? And even the most shaky plane ride ever from Athens to Mykonos? Well, I guess I'll share a bit of everything through the selection of photos I decided to post here. If you want to see more, you can check out the full set on my Flickr stream.

Above: a view of Super Paradise Beach which is part of the popular South Beaches in Mykonos. We wanted to go check out the North Beaches too (i.e: Agios Sostis, had heard so much good about it!) but it was too windy so we stayed south.

Above: the famous Mykonos Windmills. Below: the famous bar-club Astra which was a great place with fantastic music & staff!

Above: view of Mykonos from the plane.

And then of course, there was a lot of ice-cream involved! Without a doubt, ice-cream has got to be my favourite holiday food. There was a lovely place near the windmills in Mykonos which had delicious flavours, and some that were interesting such as Rice Pudding & Cinnamon and Mille Feuilles (above). Some other ice-cream places also had flavours that were absolutely fantastic such as Mastic (below) or Liquorice (below, with the infamous frappé on the left). There was also a great place in Mykonos town called "Kayak"- if you ever go visit Mykonos and are an ice-cream amateur, please check it out. You will be amazed by the flavours they have on offer...

Then of course, when in Greece, feta cheese is a must. Many restaurants had grilled feta cheese (above) on the menu which was (for me personally) nothing THAT special. But an another day we had the most superb feta ever- with honey, phyllo and sesame seeds (below)! Something I will definately have to make at home... and soon!! Throughout my stay I kept wondering just how many kgs of feta Greece must be producing each year...and how much of it is consumed by the tourists! The portions of feta are so generous (at least compared to going to a Greek restaurant here in France) which made me wonder how much of it is made in the country!

Generally the food we had was just perfect, especially perfect with the hot weather and island-life. It was all about freshness and simplicity. Nothing was too heavy and flavours werent coated with heavy sauces and what not. I really love the diet of the Greeks (and generally the Meditarranean region) which I fortunately grew up on. I love using olive oil instead of butter, I love the abundant use of vegetables, and I love the way fishes & meats were prepared. Sigh, this is all making my tastebuds sad and missing Greece...

Then of course I had to make a stop at many bakeries, where there was trays and trays of baklava and phyllo type pastries. In Santorini, I had the most delicious Karydopita (above, left). I am definately making Karydopita at home (and for a recipe, check out Peter's blog). I also tried this other amazing pastry which actually turned out to be a complete surprise for me. I had just randomly pointed out to one of the many tempting trays when I chose a classic looking phyllo dessert. I was quite sure that I would be biting into a nutty-based stuffing...but instead, there was a loukoum! Rose-water loukoum wrapped in phyllo and drenched in syrup... how sinful does that sound? Just the thought of how much sugar must be in there can frighten me... but I'm telling you, it was worth it and if someone gave me a piece this very instance I would eat it without second thoughts!

Santorini turned out to be beautiful indeed, living up to it's reputation. We stayed in Fira (which is the center) and had an amazing view on the Caldera. But of course we wanted to also check out Oia- especially when the sunsets. Driving up to Oia however was a bit crazy- the roads on these islands are such a circus, but I guess that's part of it's charm too... I noticed that there were tons of American tourists in Santorini- lots of couples of course, but lots of families too with little kids (the latter I did not expect). Mykonos on the other hand was a blend of many profiles, however of course with a dominant younger spirit. There were an insane amount of Italian and Australian tourists in Mykonos- which I am not complaining about as I love Italians and the Australians were just great fun and unbelievably friendly! My friends & I decided that Australia is definately our next spot for holidays...
Above: the famous donkey rides in Fira, Santorini
Above: the Red Beach and the black sanded beach (below)- both in Santorini
So, that is pretty much it...although at the same time there is so much to say about beautiful Mykonos & Santorini. However I think this post is long enough already, and if you are still reading then... wow! Thank you!! :-)
Being back in Paris was very tough, especially as the plane was about to land and all I could see was grey clouds above us... Well, I just think to myself that having been to those islands is still better then having not gone at all! I had an amazing time- thanks to my friends, and thanks to the wonderful magic of Mykonos & Santorini!
P.S: If you do plan on travelling there soon and are curious, then please do not hesitate to contact me, I'd be more then happy to give some tips and advice!