Italian Week – Zucchini Fritters

It’s time to say “Ciao” to Italian Week. Here’s one last (vegetarian) recipe to close out the celebration. Zucchini fritters!

Ingredients

4 medium zucchini, finely diced
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
1/2 cup grated parmigiano-reggiano
1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
3/4 cup-1 cup all-purpose flour
Olive oil
Preparation

Combine the zucchini, eggs, parsley, parmigiano, and extra-virgin olive oil and stir until the zucchini is coated. Season generously with salt and pepper. Add 3/4 cup of the flour just a sprinkle at a time and stir. Continue adding until the mix is the consistency of pancake batter, add more if the zucchini is very wet.

Fill a large, heavy-bottomed pan with 1/4 inch olive oil. Heat over medium heat until hot but not smoking. Working in batches, spoon the zucchini mixture into the pan in 2-tablespoon mounds. The fritters should be three-quarters submerged in the oil. If bits of zucchini stray, scoop them up and return them to the fritters.

Reduce the heat slightly and fry until golden brown, turning once, about 5 minutes per side.

Remove from the pan with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Allow the oil to return to medium heat before proceeding with the next batch.

Serve the fritters on a parchment-lined tray. The leftover fritters will keep, covered and refrigerated, up to 2 days. Reheat, wrapped in foil, in a low oven.

Italian Week – Linguine alla Cecca

This is one of my favorite recipes. I’ve made it for years and years.

It’s from Nora Ephron‘s wonderful novel  Heartburn, which is a fictional account of her marriage to Carl Bernstein of All The President”s Men fame.

She is a wonderful cook, and the book contains a number of fantastic recipes. I consider it one of my cookbooks!

Linguine alla Cecca is a simple recipe, but oh, so satisfying!  It’s perfect for summer suppers with a loaf of crusty bread. This is my comfort food.

Drop 5 large tomatoes into boiling water for one full minute.  Peel and seed and chop.

Put chopped tomatoes into a large bowl with ½ cup of olive oil, a garlic clove sliced in two  (more garlic is okay. Actually, preferable!) , 1 cup chopped fresh basil leaves, salt and hot red pepper flakes.

Let sit for a couple of hours. Remove the garlic if you wish.

Boil one pound of linguine, drain and toss with the sauce.  Serve immediately with Parmesan cheese.

 

Italian Week – Napoleon And The Bee Room

In 1804,the Italian-born Napoleon Bonaparte was crowned Emperor of France in a coronation robe decorated with 300 gold Bees.

Napoleon at his Coronation, wearing a robe adorned with Bees

The Bee was a hugely important icon of Napoleon’s reign, and his obsession with its symbolism led to his inevitable nickname;The Bee. Napoleon would have grown up with the symbolism of the Bee ingrained in his psyche, for his homeland of Corsica was required to pay the Romans an annual tax equivalent of £200,000 in Beeswax.

The young emperor ensured that the Bee was widely adopted in his court as well as on clothing, draperies, carpets and furniture all across France. By choosing the Bee as the emblem of his reign, Napoleon was paying homage to Childeric (436 – 481), one of the ‘long haired’ Merovingian Kings of the region known as Gaul (which included part of Italy.)

When Childeric’s tomb was uncovered in 1653, it was found to contain 300 golden jewels, styled in the image of a Bee. And of course, these are the same Bees that Napoleon had affixed to his coronation robe.

Sadly, of the 300 Bees only two have survived.

Bees from the Tomb of Childeric I

Except for the ones in my friend Marianne’s powder room.

Of course, they aren’t the real Merovingian bees. But they’re a really good representation. Here are some pictures.

Italian Week – Rosa Variegata Di Bologna

The traditional symbolic flower of Italy is the rose, and one of the most beautiful Italian roses is the Rosa Variegata di Bologna. It is a Bourbon rose, originally bred in Italy by Bonfiglioli & Son in 1909.

The variegated blooms are lovely with their peppermint-like shades of white and pale pink-purple stripes.

rosa variegata di bologna

The repeat blooming flowers are double and appear in clusters. They are exceptionally fragrant, even for a Bourbon rose.

The foilage is plentiful and very attractive. Since the plant is tall and has arching canes, it’s best grown and trained as a climber, a great small climber actually. It can easily be trained on an open wrought iron fence like in the picture below.

This rose probably won’t give you a good flower show the first season, so don’t be alarmed if you have little or no flowering the first year.

It will make up for it later. Most of the old roses that climb don’t produce a lot of flowers the first season. They need time to grow flowering canes and flower mostly from old wood from previous year, so do not prune for a while, or you won’t have any flowers at all.

Italian Week – The Secret Of Lighting A Bee Hive Smoker

The secret of lighting a bee hive smoker is burlap. Who knew?

When I first started beekeeping, I learned that you lit a smoker using a layer of newspaper, some twigs and some fuel such as baling twine or dry leaves.

First you light the newspaper, then add the twigs. After the twigs are on fire, you add the fuel, which catches on fire and makes the smoke.

Sounds easy, right? It wasn’t for me. I could never keep my smoker going for more than 10 or 15 minutes.

Then I found a post written by Karen Edmundson Bean of the Brookfield Farm Bees & Honey Blog.  She had the same problem. I wasn’t alone!

Karen learned from a fellow beekeeper that the secret to keeping a smoker lit is using burlap. That’s pretty much it!  No newspaper, no twigs. Just burlap.  For the details, see Karen’s post, which I reblogged here yesterday.

Commenters agreed with this advice:

MikeRoberts says:

I do a similar thing, but I just light the burlap directly (I get it from the local coffee roasters), get it going well, then stuff it down in there, give it a few more puffs, then add a handful of freshly pulled green grass on top. I’m told this makes the smoke cooler. Hasn’t failed on me yet ..

willowbatel says:

I use burlap in my smoker, because it’s cheap and easy, and stays lit for a long time. The key to getting it started is lighting it outside of the smoker and letting it burn for a little bit until there’s a large flame. I usually fold the burlap up loosely, and leave a little thin corner out to start the flame on. Once that corner is lit, turn the burlap so the flame is at the bottom, then put the whole mass into the smoker. Don’t force it all the way to the bottom of the smoker, because the flame almost definitely will go out, even if it acts like it won’t. I pump the bellows a few times, slowly, to get the flame really going. Once thick smoke starts coming out of the top, you can push the burlap a little farther down (do this on one side, not in the center, so the burlap gets a little more spread out) and then close the lid. I’d recommend a long stick or a pencil to shove the burlap down.
It takes a few tries before you figure it out, and even then, sometimes it just goes out. If you forget about it while your working and don’t pump it every so often, it’s very likely to go out. I’ve found this out the hard way dozens of times. For multiple hives you’ll definitely want to have multiple bunches of burlap ready for use. When I did my split I used one clump for the first hive, and then added the second clump before moving on. I had more smoke than I needed the whole time, and it kept the bees calmer as a result. The smoker was going so well that I rarely had to worry about it, because it was angled so that wind was constantly blowing in from the back and pushing the smoke over the hives/ through the clouds of bees. Working with the wind is an important thing!
So now I know the secret of successfully lighting a bee hive smoker!  I hope this helps some other beekeepers out there as well!

Italian Week – Checking Out My Italian Girls

Beekeeping is so much fun!!

I opened the hive today primarily to retrieve the Queen cage and to see if the girls needed feeding.

I am the worst bee-smoker-lighter ever!!  I swear I followed instructions to the letter, but my smoke petered out after about five minutes.  So, except for a puff or two, I opened an unsmoked hive. The girls were as calm as, well,… really calm bees.  🙂

There are some guys doing construction work at my next-door neighbor’s house. When they saw me in my bee regalia, they expressed concern that I was going to “rile them up.”

When I offered the guys some honey (bad choice of words!!) and assured them the bees were going to be happier when fed, they calmed down too.

I couldn’t find Queen Maria Amalia, but I’m sure she’s there because the bees seem so happy.

They’ve drawn out a few frames of comb, but I don’t think I’m going to open the hive again for a week or so. I’ll just check to see if they need sugar syrup. They did need some today.

More later!!

P.S. I’m going to post on the proper way to light a smoker. Maybe I’ll learn something…

Italian Week – Honey Lavender Gelato

This recipe is for my friends Emma and Emily, British beekeepers extraordinaire!!

Lavender is the name of their Queen bee!

Ingredients:

2 cups heavy cream
2 cups whole milk
1/2 cup sugar
2/3 cup clover (or other light) liquid honey
2 teaspoons food-quality dried lavender
2 egg yolks
4-6 trays of ice

Directions:

Heat the cream and milk in a heavy saucepan. Stir often and turn off before it boils. Add lavender. Stir. Cover and set aside for 30 minutes. Set out eggs to bring to room temperature.

Strain the milk mixture through a fine mesh strainer. Prepare an ice bath by filling a large bowl with ice and water. Set a smaller bowl inside.

Clean the pot and add the milk, honey and sugar. Heat gently, stirring the whole time until the sugar melts. Separate eggs and beat yolks with a fork or whisk until smooth. Temper the yolks by adding 1/2 cup of the hot milk to them while whisking. Slowly add the yolks to the milk mixture while stirring. Cook over low to medium heat, stirring with a wooden spoon the entire time, until it thickens and coats the back of the spoon. Make sure it does not boil or the eggs will scramble.

As soon as it reaches the point when it thickens enough to coat the back of the spoon strain immediately into the bowl in the ice bath. Stir fora couple minutes to let some of the heat escape then cool in ice bath, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes or until chilled. Add ice to outer bowl as necessary.

Churn in an ice cream maker until thick. Transfer to 2 separate air tight containers and freeze until firm. This usually takes 24 hours.
Gelato

Italian Week – Pizza Rustica

Pizza Rustica is one of the best things to come out of Italy since bees!  

Ingredients

2 tablespoons olive oil
8 ounces hot Italian sausage, casings removed
1 teaspoon minced garlic
2 (12-ounce) bunches fresh spinach, stemmed, coarsely chopped (about 12 cups), or 1 (10-ounce) package frozen cut-leaf spinach, thawed and drained
1 (15-ounce) container whole milk ricotta
12 ounces mozzarella cheese, shredded
1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan
4 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto, coarsely chopped
4 large egg yolks, beaten to blend
2 pie crusts
1 large egg, beaten to blend
Directions

Position the rack on the bottom of the oven, and preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a heavy large frying pan over medium heat. Add the sausages and saute until golden brown, breaking the sausage into pieces, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and saute until fragrant, about 1 minute. Transfer the mixture to a small bowl and set aside to cool.

Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon of oil in the same frying pan over medium heat. Add the spinach and cook until the spinach wilts and the juices evaporate, stirring often, about 10 minutes. Cool to room temperature. Squeeze the spinach to drain as much liquid as possible.

Into a large bowl, add egg yolks and beat lightly. Stir in the ricotta, mozzarella, and 1/3 cup of Parmesan cheese. Add the sausage, the spinach and prosciutto to the mixture and stir to combine.

Transfer one pie crust to a 9-inch springform pan. Trim the dough overhang to 1 inch. Spoon the ricotta mixture into the dough-lined pan. Place the other pie crust over the filling. Pinch the edges of the doughs together to seal, then crimp the dough edges decoratively. Brush the beaten 1 large egg over the entire pastry top. Sprinkle the remaining 2 tablespoons Parmesan over the top. Bake on the bottom shelf until the crust is golden brown, about 1 hour.

Let stand 15 minutes. Release the pan sides and transfer the pizza to a platter. Cut into wedges and serve

Italian Week – The Italian Bee

It’s been three days since I hived my Italian bees and I’m thinking about checking in on them today.

It’s perfect hive inspection weather – 71 degrees Farenheit with no wind. The bees have been very busy, and I want to make sure they have enough sugar syrup.

Back in January I posted about the Italian bee. For Italian Week, here is a reprise:

Italian honey bees were brought to the U.S. in 1859. They quickly became the favored bee stock in this country and remain so to this day. Known for their extended periods of brood rearing, Italian bees can build colony populations in the spring and maintain them for the entire summer.

They are excellent honey producers. They also are very lightly colored, ranging from a light leather hue to an almost lemon yellow, a trait that is highly coveted by many beekeepers for its aesthetic appeal.

The Italian Bee

Despite their popularity, Italian bees have some drawbacks. First, because of their prolonged brood rearing, they may consume surplus honey in the hive if supers (removable upper sections where honey is stored) are not removed immediately after the honey flow stops. Second, they are notorious kleptoparasites and frequently rob the honey stores of weaker or dead neighboring colonies.

One of my beekeeping friends calls them the “racy Italian sports car” of bees.

Italian Week – Italian Flowers For An English Garden

Italians love flowers, and that includes people as well as bees.

Geraniums in Florence

The geranium is the flower most commonly associated with Italy.  Both zonal and ivy geraniums are popular choices for the balconies and terraces of Italian homes.

Geraniums in Venice

Geraniums also fit nicely into an English cottage garden. Gertrude Jekyll pronounced that “[t]here are no better summer flowers than the single and double zonal pelargoniums that we commonly call geraniums…”  She used them to fill in bare spaces in the border and in containers. They are still perfect for those purposes.

White Geraniums in a Sunny Border

While pelargoniums do not have the reputation of being popular with bees, that has not been my experience. They seem to especially love the ivy geraniums in my window boxes.