So every month, or so (I'm not good with deadlines and calendars, see my defunct newsletter) I promise to write about a favorite cookbook, and the inspiration it provided beyond the kitchen stove.
I'll be kicking off this series talking about a dear volume, one I treasure on a par with dearest family heirlooms.
Il Talismano della Felicità is still very much a gift frequently bestowed upon newlywed brides.
The monumental tome presents more than 1100 recipes, and under 100 color plates. Ada begins each recipe listing ingredients, followed by a brief and concise method. Dianne Jacob, writing coach, cookbook editor, talented blogger and personal guru of mine would probably object to Ada's hiccuping use of exact quantities in her recipes, but Italians, who are used to seeing q.b. (quanto basta, meaning 'just enough') for an ingredient in modern day recipes, don't blink at her approximations.
I love that the recipes are simple and results unfailing. Her ossobuco recipe covers half a page, and the one I make following her instructions has always been a success. I love leafing through the yellowed pages of the old edition (I have two, one published in 1968) and finding old, forgotten recipes my Nonna used to make on a daily basis. And that retro 60's vintage photography, isn't it lovely?
I love that sometimes Ada contradicts herself (don't we all?) in her beliefs and directions, and I appreciate how she informally addresses her readers, yet maintaining a stately prose.
Il Talismano is my go-to resource when I have no idea what to make for dinner, my problem solver if I only have 3 ingredients in the fridge, and a reliable place for a last minute recipe accuracy check.
I have many favorites in this book, so it was a difficult choice to single out just one. This particular recipe I'll be sharing today sits in a narrow column, among stains and food splotches, in the rich pastry "dictionary," that prologues the dessert chapter.
In Italian, the name of the recipe is Mandorle Diablées, whose suitable translation could be, "Deviled Almonds."
Here it is, in an amateur translation by yours truly, with the cheek of trying to mirror Ada Boni's writing style.
For 100 gr (1/2 cup) of shelled almonds - 100 gr (1/2 cup) egg whites - salt - Cayenne pepper
Soak the almonds in cold water, which you'll then bring to a gentle boil. As the water trembles just before boiling, remove the small pot from the stove, let cool and then peel the husk off the almonds.
After drying them, heat almonds lightly in a mild oven, stirring and turning to brown evenly on both sides.
Transfer to a plate to cool. Break the egg whites with the tines of a fork and wet the almonds, mixing with your fingertips. Dust with a decent amount of salt mixed with Cayenne pepper, and mix to coat the almonds completely.
Spread them again on the oven sheet and allow them to dry at barely perceivable heat.
I use these as aperitivo nibbles, thrown in a salad or in bold mushroom and seafood pastas, or to spice up a boring soccer game. Chilled craft beer and freedom to belch aloud, mandatory.
|Image © Live to Eat|
Want to learn more about Il Talismano della Felicità? There's a thorough article on Ada Boni and her 'Happiness Talisman' written by friend and fellow blogger Frank, at delightful 'Memorie di Angelina.'
"There can be no true happiness if such an essential part of our daily lives as eating is neglected. " ~ Ada Boni"