ALMOND TREES grow all over the Greek islands. They are the most common fruit trees because they can endure the dry conditions and strong sea breezes that prevent other trees from thriving. These trees are beautiful when in bloom—usually in early March—but they look thin and frail when the green leaves first appear. The almonds they produce are delicious but small. They are becoming more difficult to find in the market, even on the islands, because the cost of gathering and shelling them, which must be done by hand, is prohibitive. For that reason, in late summer, on the island hills, you can see trees full of almonds that nobody cares to harvest. People gather only what they need for their own use. To get some of the almonds from Kea, I had to be very persistent, call at people’s houses more than once and be ready to pay double the market value. But it was worth it.
These tiny pear-shaped almond cookies, scented with orange flower or rose water, are traditional on most islands. On Chios, the cookies are enriched with the taste of the local fragrant tangerines. On Corfu, I found a similar recipe.
Peel the tangerines and place the peels in a small saucepan; reserve the tangerines. Add cold water to cover and bring to a boil. Drain the peels, add fresh cold water to cover and bring to a boil again. Drain, rinse under plenty of cold running water and drain again. Dry completely with paper towels.
Combine the almonds and tangerine peels in a food processor and process until finely ground. Strain the juices of the reserved tangerines through a sieve set over a bowl, pressing against the fruit to release all the juices.
In a large saucepan, combine the almond mixture, sugar and
Shape tablespoon-sized portions of the mixture into 1½-inch-high pear shapes, wetting your fingers with the remaining tangerine juice. Dredge each cookie in confectioners’ or granulated sugar to coat. Wrap individually in cellophane or place in a box with a lid. Let stand for at least 3 days before serving.
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