“No weaknesses at all.”
“No, would you rather have one weakness nobody could detect or no weaknesses at all?”
“Well I just don’t see why anybody would want a weakness if they could choose to have no weaknesses.”
“If you have a weakness and you wish to get rid of it, then you’re not yourself any more! Your weakness is part of who you are!”
These are the wise words of our Isaac, eight years old. At the beginning of the year when getting-to-know-you exercises abound, Isaac brought home a self-portrait with bright blue eyes, and on the bottom he wrote that his blue eyes and his heart murmur make him special. He’s got a heart murmur he won’t grow out of, and when they first diagnosed it, he thought it might be a defect, but now he’s embraced it as something that makes him different, something to be proud of. After all, there’s nobody on earth with a heart like Isaac’s! I love to think about Isaac thinking about these things. I love to think about him thinking about what makes a person a person, and thinking with such grounded generosity about the weakness that everybody on earth must inevitably have. Of course a weakness is a vulnerability, which is why we keep our weaknesses as secret as we can, and we hope that no one will detect it. Unless we love somebody, and then we open our hearts to them, and trust them with the knowledge of all or our weaknesses and foibles; we share our good and our bad. This takes great courage, but it turns weakness into strength, and Isaac does this better than anyone. He shares his remarkable thoughts, his uncommon contemplations, and his unguarded love with a warmth and wisdom that make him as strong as anyone I know.I have a terrible weakness for ice cream! We’ve been snowed in so many days that I’ve been baking through bag after bag of flour. On one day I made croissants and biscotti, both from Craig Claiborne’s New York Times Cookbook. We changed the biscotti recipe slightly, because Malcolm wanted to add almonds and chocolate. So we added some almond extract, too, and a pinch of cinnamon. They turned out nice! In order to coat one side of them with chocolate I devised the ingenious method of placing chocolate chips along one side when they’re returned to the oven for the final ten minute drying-out period, and then spreading the chocolate once it softened. I think I might have baked them slightly too long, because they were extra crumbly when I tried to slice them, but we put those crumbs to good use! We took any of the half-pieces and mangled pieces and tiny pieces, and we ground them up even further in a food processor with some bittersweet chocolate chips, and we added them to raspberry ice cream. (Wintertime raspberry ice cream, with framboise and raspberry jam rather than fresh raspberries). This turned out deeeeeeelicious!
Here’s The Weakest Part by Yo La Tengo.
1 1/2 cups milk
1/2 cup sugar
2 t vanilla
2 T framboise, chambourd, or other raspberry liqueur
3 T raspberry jam
1 T flour
1/2 t salt
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup (or more) broken biscotti
1 cup bittersweet chocolate chips
In a medium saucepan over medium-low heat, warm the milk, framboise, and vanilla. Stir in the jam.
In a medium-sized bowl whisk the eggs, sugar, flour and salt until frothy.
Whisking all the while, pour the milk into the eggs in a thin stream. Return the mixture to the medium-sized saucepan over low heat. Warm, stirring constantly, until it thickens enough to lightly coat the back of a spoon. Five or so minutes, I think.
Pour into a bowl, stirring constantly. Put the bowl in a pan of cold water, whisking all the while, to cool the mixture down. Cover and chill in the fridge 5 hours to overnight.
Stir in one cup of heavy cream, and freeze according to your ice cream maker’s instructions. As it’s freezing process the biscotti briefly with the chocolate chips to break everything down, but not to pulverize it completely. You want some big chunks and some smaller chunks. Add this to the ice cream as it’s freezing.
ALMOND HAZELNUT CHOCOLATE BISCOTTI (Adapted from Craig Claiborne’s New York Times Cookbook)
2 cups flour
1 1/3 cups sugar
2 large eggs
1/4 cup rum
1/4 ouzo or other liqueur of your choice
1 t vanilla
1 t almond essence
1 cup toasted hazzelnuts
1 cup sliced almonds
2 t baking powder
1 cup (++) bittersweet chocolate chips
Preheat the oven to 350 and lightly butter a large baking sheet.
In a large bowl or your food processor, combine the flour, sugar, eggs, liqueurs and essences and process until thoroughly blended. Add the baking powder and process again to combine. Add the hazelnuts and almonds and process again until they’re just broken down. You want some whole or nearly whole hazelnuts.
Using your hands, break the dough into two equal parts, and shape each into a long sausage shape. Place them next to each other on the baking tray, but leave some room between them because they’ll spread as they cook.
Bake for an hour. Remove from the oven and let them cool twenty minutes, slide a spatula or knife under them to loosen them. When they’re nearly at room temperature, using a very sharp serrated knife, cut each piece across into pieces about 1 inch wide. Any crumbs that fall off save for the ice cream!
Arrange these on their sides on the cookie sheet. Place a layer of chocolate chips on each one. Put them back in the oven for about ten minutes, until the chips are softened. Using a flat knife, spread the chocolate on each to a smooth layer that reaches to the edges. Let cool.