A few years into dating, Alex and I combined families for Passover seder, where I cooked a feast with his aunt Diana, spanning all the staple dishes from both the Ashkenazi and Mizrahi sides—minus gefilte fish, much to my mother’s chagrin. Our Manischewitz-stained apple charoset sat next to their charoset of date syrup and crushed walnuts. Platters of braised brisket alternated with beet kubbeh and tahdig. It was the ultimate blending of cultures, fusing our families and traditions. But the highlight of the evening for me was the arrival of Alex’s ninety-something-year-old great-aunt Doris, who I had yet to meet. She entered the dining room holding a folded piece of paper for me with her recipe for hadji bada, Iraqi almond cookies, scribbled on it, know-ing I was on the hunt to learn family recipes to make for Alex.
It’s the gift that keeps on giving, since this recipe has become a staple sweet for any occasion. Likened to French macarons without the meringue, they sport a combo of almond flour, egg whites, rose water, and sugar that bakes into chewy clouds of floral sweetness. To add a little pizzazz, I threw in some cinnamon to give warm snickerdoodle vibes when paired with almond. Adorned with a single almond on top, they’re as easy to make as they are to eat—plus, they just so happen to be gluten-free.