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
16 basil leaves
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.