The Wall and Stuffed Zucchini Flowers


I’m writing this from “the wall” — my favorite spot on earth and where I spend most of every day while in Italy. It overlooks olive groves and vineyards and is covered in our sofa cushions from the early 70’s that are falling apart at the seams but I can’t bear to replace. It’s where I fall asleep reading every afternoon, drink my gin and tonic while watching the sky turns its reds and purples and where, after a little too much wine, two lucky people get to “sit soft” after dinner.


The first couple of days of every vacation are spent getting into what Ben and I call “the zone”. It’s not hard to reach the zone when you’re sitting on this wall listening to the cicadas, watching the sun set and figuring out what you’re going to eat for the next 10 days. I had a brief set back taking me to Zone 5 (the outer boroughs of relaxation) when I drove the car into a ditch on day two and had to have it towed out by a kind Albanian but other than that, the days have been blissfully empty except for our morning trips to the local town to buy supplies and check emails. The menu never seems to change as we exhaust all our favorites and then run out of time to experiment. Top of the list which includes Saltimbocca, Sausage sauce and Bistecca alla Fiorentina is fried Fior di Zucca (zucchini flowers) stuffed with ricotta and basil.



Stuffed Zucchini Flowers

Serves 4 people


16 zucchini flowers

1 1/3 cup of all purpose flour

¼ teaspoon salt

1 ½ cups of beer

½ cup of olive oil

250g ricotta

16 basil leaves

2 lemons



1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees, Very carefully open each flower and remove the stamen. 2. Season the ricotta with salt and pepper and then also very carefully, insert a heaped teaspoon into each flower along with a basil leaf and twist the leaves to close.

3. In another bowl make the batter by mixing the flour and salt and then whisking in the beer until it’s the consistency of loose pancake batter.

4. Heat oil over a medium heat until a drop of batter sizzles when you drop it in.

5. Holding the stem, dip each flower into the batter and swirl to coat, then drag over the bowl’s edge to remove excess.

6. Add to pan and don’t overcrowd. Be extra careful of hot oil that will splatter. I use a splatter guard after some nasty burns!

7. After 2 minutes or when one side is browned, turn and cook for another 2 minutes.

8. Drain on kitchen towel and keep warm in the oven whilst you do the next batch.

9. When they’re all done, sprinkle with salt and serve with lemon wedges.


Salmon Carpaccio and a Visit Home


I’m worried I’ve developed culinary OCD. I’m spending a few days in London visiting my family before my annual pilgrimage to Italy and I realized that I had mapped out every meal before even arriving. It turns out I have a gastronomic check list for every city I’ve been to more than once.


First there’s the obligatory Chinese meal; Chinese food in England is to Chinese food what Tex Mex is to Mexican; delicious but not exactly authentic. Then there’s a curry from Brick Lane in East London, Bangers and Mash and a drink at The Holly Bush (a beautiful old pub in the backstreets of Hampstead) as well as various other unhealthy ‘musts’ giving me no chance to try anything new.



Between meals, I’ve been helping my father clear out his cupboards and taken a nostalgic trip down memory lane including some spectacularly bad but ambitious childhood art projects. There’s something very comforting about spending time in the house where you grew up, where every creak is familiar – I still know which floorboards to avoid when coming home too late and passing my father’s bedroom door. The breakfast room with its crazy William Morris wallpaper is my favorite room where my place at the head of the table is still left empty even though I haven’t lived here for 15 years.



Next on to my mother’s house where there’s always something cooking on the stove and a fridge full of delicious leftovers. My first meal there is always her famous Salmon Carpaccio. I love this dish so much that I find myself scarfing down my third helpings as I look up to watch everyone else demurely finishing their first. It’s a wonderful starter for a dinner party as it can be prepared the day before and just brought to room temperature before serving.



So here’s the much coveted recipe for Salmon Carpaccio.


Salmon Carpaccio

Serves 6-8 people as an appetizer



2lbs of thinly sliced raw sushi grade salmon (ask your fishmonger to cut it for you)

1 cup of washed dill

½ cup of freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 ¼ cup of olive oil

1 ½ teaspoon of salt

2 ½ teaspoon of pink peppercorns (if you can find these soaked in brine, they are the best)



1. Mix the salt and lemon juice together in a bowl and beat in the olive oil.

2. Bash the peppercorns in some foil with a rolling pin.

3. In a large bowl put a spoonful of the dressing, layer over some salmon and then sprinkle some dill and a few crushed peppercorns.

4. Continue layering as above until you’ve used up all the salmon.

5. Serve with toasted French bread.


Brooklyn Wok Shop’s Spicy Wontons


Spicy Wontons


1 pkg wonton wrappers

1 lb Ground pork

1/2 lb shrimp, peeled and deveined

4 scallions, thinly sliced

1 Egg

3 Tbs Soy Sauce

1 1/2 tsp kosher salt

3/4 tsp white pepper

Chili oil for dipping (nothing beats Brooklyn Wok Shop Chili Oil)



1. Take the shrimp and pulse in a food processor so the shrimp are coarsely chopped.

2. In a medium bowl, add shrimp, ground pork, scallions, soy sauce, salt, white pepper, and eggs and mix well.

3. Dampen the edges of the wonton wrappers and put about a 2 teaspoons of filling in each wrapper.

4. Bring the corners together forming a small satchel and press at the top to seal. (If you like you can find different ways to fold wontons on youtube).

5. Cook in boiling water for 6-8 minutes till cooked.

6. Dress with Brooklyn Wok Shop Chili Oil

*Note: You can make extra and freeze them separately on a tray. When they’re frozen you can put them in a zip top bag. To cook put frozen wontons in boiling water and add 2-3 minutes to the cooking time.