Today is the Patron Saints’ Day for Constantine & Helen in the Greek-Orthodox calendar. For those of you who are Greek or those who are friends of Greeks, you’ll know that we have alot of Constantines and Helens out there.
My brother plus three first cousins share being named after my maternal grandfather, Konstantinos. My mom’s sister is named Eleni. My uncle’s wife is named Elly (from Helen). One of my first cousins just gave birth to a baby girl who will be baptized Konstantina. We have friends of the family who also have Constantines & Helens in the family.
The phones will be ringing off the hook in our household and in Greece. It is a modern custom to give family or friends a phone call to wish the person who’s celebrating their “Name Day” a “Hronia Polla”!
This modern custom is an extension of a fading tradition where friends and relatives would drop by the home and pay their respects with their presence. However, the custom is that on this day, guests DO NOT bring gifts. The celebrant (or family) is responsible for treating guests to an offering of food, snacks, a drink or a coffee with sweets.
Amygdalota are a fabulous little cookie. Think Amaretti but the almonds are not roasted. Think Macaroon, but with ground almond. The first time I had these cookies was in the small, postcard perfect Greek island of Hydra.
It’s located in the Saronic Gulf, not too far from Athens and it’s town bylaws prohibit the use of automobiles (save for municipal services) on the island.
Today, these almond cookies can be found all over Greece and can be bought in practically every bakery. There are nuances to the recipes, like the use of different essences, orange blossom being the most common.
My mom’s recipe stick’s to the key ingredient, almonds and she adds a few drops of almond extract to underline this delicate cookie’s main ingredient.
(makes about 36)
4 cups of blanched almonds
1 1/2 cups of white sugar
4 tsp. of almond extract
4 egg whites, room temp.
A large handful of of almonds, cut in half
Pre-heated 350F oven
- In a blender or food processor, pulse the almonds in batches into a fine grind.
- Line a baking sheet with foil or parchment paper.
- In a medium bowl, combine all the ingredients with a wooden spoon until well-mixed and stiff.
- Drop heaping Tbsp. mounds of almond mixture (1 inch apart) onto the sheet. Gently place an almond half into the center of each cookie.
- Bake for 20 minutes or until firm at the edges but still soft in the center and golden.
- Remove from the oven and foil or parchment to a wire rack to cool. When cool, peel off and store in a tightly covered container.
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