Sometimes people ask me if I feel afraid when Eli goes rock climbing out west. The short answer is no, but it's a little more complicated than that. Simply put, climbing is something Eli loves to do, and I want him to do what he loves. I have the choice either to spend my time fearing, or not. I choose not. There's also the fact that Eli and his climbing partner, Rich, are well-trained, highly skilled climbers, not fool hardy thrill seekers. Their approach is anything but reckless. Eli enjoys the sport because of the intimacy with nature it affords him, the fitness it demands, and the truly awesome views he gets to take in from on top of the world. (He loves all the cool gear, too.)
I usually leave it at that. But there's something else. When I say that, no, I am not afraid, I am actually answering a question different from the one posed. The question, as I hear it, is whether I am any more frightened by the thought of losing Eli when he is hanging off the side of a cliff than, say, when he's driving to the grocery store or, for that matter, folding laundry on our sofa. The truth is - although I don't dwell on it - losing him is among my greatest fears. It's just that I fear it the same whether he is chopping an onion in the kitchen or making his way up the face of a 1500 foot wall. I think that when we sign up to live in big, fat love, this fear comes with the territory. And so we track flights, say "drive safely" and, yes, I do breathe a sigh of relief when Eli comes down off the mountain exhilarated, tired, and in one piece. We love and we love, we recognize that we cannot protect the people we love with our love, and then we love and love some more.
And speaking of love: More than I fear it, I love that Eli is at this moment climbing higher and higher, thousands of feet in the air, a continent away. When Eli and I were first dating, he once said to me, "It's as if I have an extra set of eyes now, like I can take in twice the amount of world." I know what he means. I may be sitting here munching biscotti and tea, but I'm also with him way up there. I could look down, but I prefer to look up and out.
[Happy birthday, dear Rich! And welcome home. Thanks for keeping Eli from plummeting to the ground on climb after climb. I, um, really appreciate it.]
Adapted from David Tanis's A Platter of Figs and Other Recipes
The best thing about these biscotti is the texture. You get a nice crackly crunch on the outside, and a soft, buttery center that you can sink your teeth into even before you dunk 'em. Despite the rich ingredients, the overall flavor of these biscotti is mild. At first I thought they were, perhaps, a little too mild. But after eating four in a row it was clear that I had no serious complaints. Next time, I'll try the following tweaks: increase the almond extract, add another generous pinch of salt, and toast the sliced almonds before mixing them into the batter.
Oh, and by the way, you could also dip these in chocolate if you're into that kind of thing (ahem, hello, Hoffman family). I prefer them as they are.
8 T. (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 c. sugar
2 large eggs
1 t. almond extract
2 c. flour
1 1/2 t. baking powder
2 generous pinches of salt
3/4 c. sliced almonds (not blanched), toasted
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time. Stir in the almond extract.
In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Slowly mix the dry ingredients into the butter and sugar mixture until full incorporated. Stir in the sliced almonds.
Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and divide it into thirds. Roll into logs about 2-inches in diameter. Place the logs on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake for 25-30 minutes, until lightly browned. Remove the logs and allow them to cool slightly.
While the logs are still warm, slice them on the diagonal about 1/2 inch thick. Use a sharp knife to avoid crumbling. Arrange the slices on two baking sheets and bake for approximately 7 minutes, until they appear barely toasted. Turn the biscotti over and allow them to toast for another 5-7 minutes, until lightly brown. Cool on a rack.
Biscotti will keep for several weeks in an airtight container.
Makes about 30 biscotti.