Archive for the ‘flowers’ Category

Love Thursday: Christmas Poinsettia Love

For our first Christmas together, P brought home a gorgeous stella di Natale (poinsettia, or literally Christmas star). He really had no way of knowing how much I love the poinsettia — always a fixture at my house growing up during the holiday season — so it was a special gift indeed. It became even more wonderful over the next four Christmases as it bloomed each year (not always right at Christmastime, but it came close).

But then this past summer, it began looking sickly, shriveling and sagging. I furiously searched the Internet for what to do to fix it, but nothing worked. I think it got some sort of root rot, but whatever it was, it was fatal, and it made for a very sad day here.

Until this little one showed up a couple weeks ago:

Poinsettia 2010

Poinsettia 2010

I don’t know if this poinsettia will make it past the Christmas season (it doesn’t seem nearly as strong as the previous poinsettia but fingers crossed!) but it did bring a little something special with it tucked in among its gorgeous red leaves:

Love in the poinsettia

How many hearts can you see?

Happy Love Thursday everyone; I hope you’re enjoying a fabulous holiday season.


The Colors of Fall in Calabria

We do get some leaves changing color here, but fall in Calabria actually is quite colorful besides those warm autumnal hues I grew up with in the mountains of Pennsylvania:

Fall in Calabria on Flickr

Fall in Calabria on Flickr

1. Saffron flowers, 2. Chestnuts, 3. Persimmons, 4. Drying peperoncini, 5. Prickly zucchine, 6. Melagrane dal giardino, 7. Eggplant, 8. Hanging out, 9. Zucchine flower, 10. Lemon blossom after the rain, 11. Zucche, 12. Some of our olives in September, 13. Pomegranate seeds

Many of us expats in Italy have written about being more in touch with the seasons here than we were in our home countries, mostly because our routines are so much more ruled by what the weather is like outside. Over the past month or so, for instance, many of us have been busy gathering wood, picking olives, preserving the summer’s bounty for enjoyment all winter, and thinking about all the soups, stews, and dishes “al forno” we’ll be making for the next few months. The first “signs o’ fall” if you will.

And yes, for me, there have been other changes in the routine, like feeding the goats and locking the hens in the henhouse just a little bit earlier in the evenings and also picking back up some habits that had fallen by the wayside over a busy summer — wonderful daily commitments like yoga and working on a dusty old manuscript, and also weekend projects like finding little ways to make the house that much cozier.

We’ll be spending quite a bit of time in here in the coming months, after all.

Yes, fall here always inspires me to dig back into the good, warm, comfortable, and cozy . . . which comes first, the cooler weather or the nesting mentality? I don’t know, but I’m not complaining.

What says “fall” to you?


Zucchini Flower Fritters – Frittelle di Fiori di Zucca

Zucchini flowers

Zucchini flowers

Longtime readers might remember my zucchini flowers stuffed with ricotta, spinach, and prosciutto crudo as well as fried zucchini flowers.

Well this time when I picked up some zucchini flowers at the market, P asked if I would make some fritters, which is the usual way they’re made in this area of Calabria.

P’s aunt has made them for us many times, but I had never asked for the recipe or technique. As luck would have it, the day I bought the flowers, she happened to be walking by the house when I took the dogs out for their lunchtime walk.

The recipe she gave me on the spot is below; of course there are no measurements, but I have faith in you!

Seriously if you’re afraid of working with zucchini flowers, it’s time to conquer the fear. I was right there with you, but these fritters are amazingly simple and delicious. Enjoy!

Zucchini Flower Fritters – Frittelle di Fiori di Zucca

Frittelle di fiori di zucca

Frittelle di fiori di zucca

  • Bunch of zucchini flowers
  • Flour
  • Water
  • Pinch of baking soda
  • A few pinches of salt
  • Oil for frying

1. Clean the zucchini flowers by snapping out the stamens (assuming you have male flowers, the ones attached to stems).

2. Chop roughly into pieces and place in boiling water for about a minute.

3. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.

Fiori di zucca

Fiori di zucca

4. Mix together flour, water, some salt, and a pinch of baking soda so that you get the consistency of pancake batter. Fold in the flowers. This part, by the way, is completely up to your tastes. When P’s aunt makes them, to be honest, I don’t taste much of the flowers because there’s so much, well, flour. I like mine bursting with zucchini flower flavor — they also look prettier, I think, as the flower colors show through. So use your own taste to determine how much batter to flowers you should make.

5. Heat oil for frying (I use last year’s olive oil) in a shallow pot or pan. You’ll want enough in there so the batter can sink to the bottom and then have a little way to rise and dance at the top, and you also don’t want your fritters crowded. The pan I used fit three fritters at a time. Zia also told me to throw in a pinch of salt when ready to fry.

6. When the oil is hot, take a large spoonful of batter and drop it in. As mentioned above, it will sink at first but then rise as it fries. Turn them a bit until you see all sides are browned, remove with a slotted spoon, and place on paper towels to drain.

Zucchini flower fritters

Zucchini flower fritters

Buon appetito!


Benefits of Chamomile: Prenditi una camomilla!

“Prenditi una camomilla!” is a common Italian expression that literally means “Have yourself a chamomile tea!” but it’s the colloquial equivalent of “Chill out!” or “Take a chill pill!” if you prefer.

There’s even a Facebook group dedicated to this phrase, which happens to be one of my absolute favorites in the Italian language.

More literally, though, many Italians also suggest chamomile tea as a general home remedy for just about any ailment, including insomnia.

Although I love other herbal teas, I’m actually not a huge fan of drinking chamomile; I do, however, *love* the little flowers it comes from.

Maybe you’ve seen them growing wild somewhere?

As you can see, they look like little daisies (in fact, they’re from the daisy family), and they are literally everywhere in the spring in Calabria. You may know the plant as Roman chamomile, English chamomile, garden chamomile, and various other names.

Did you know even Shakespeare knew chamomile, writing that “The more it is trodden on, the faster it grows” in Henry IV?

In our garden, chamomile grows wild, lining the walkway, shown here with the dogs nearby so you can see just how tiny the flowers are:

Dogs and chamomile

To be honest I didn’t even notice these little flowers in Calabria until one day I saw an older gentleman picking them on the side of the road; only then did I realize they must have some use — Calabrians often focus on the utility of plants and flowers, not always their beauty.

Once you’re close to the chamomile, though, the unique scent will tell you what the flowers are. Che profumo!

More Health Benefits of Chamomile

Chamomile does a lot more than just calm your nerves, too; it can also act as an anti-inflammatory, which means it can ease indigestion, other digestive issues, canker sores, conjunctivitis, menstrual cramps, eczema, hemorrhoids, migraines, and more.

For a full list as well as precautions for using chamomile, check out the Chamomile Fact Sheet at About.com.

Are you a chamomile fan?


Calabrian Peas Fresh from the Garden

Remember when I shared Judy Witts Francini’s recipe for Piselli alla Fiorentina from her wonderful cookbook Secrets from My Tuscan Kitchen? I had to use frozen peas for that dish because ours weren’t ready yet . . . but then they got ready. And man do I love fresh peas from the garden.

Peas are even gorgeous as plants, aren’t they? Such pretty flowers!

I know the goats agree, and although I’m sure they’d love to munch on the peas at any stage of growth, they usually just get the pods once we’ve removed the peas.

And they love ‘em!

If you’ve been following along at Goat Berries, you know that these photos are from a few weeks ago as we no longer have the goats pictured above. *sigh*

But we still have Pasqualina and Pinta, and they both love the pea pods too (and fava pods if you got ‘em) . . . as I also wrote on Goat Berries, we now even get gift bags of pea and fava pods left in front of our door just for the girls!

I don’t have to tell them twice to eat their veggies!

Come back Wednesday for another great fresh pea recipe — this time with pasta!

What’s growing in your garden right now?


Michelle FabioMichelle Fabio is an American attorney-turned-freelance writer living in her family's ancestral village in Calabria, Italy and savoring simplicity one sip at a time.

 
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Recipes

 

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Homemade apple butter
Green beans, potatoes, and pancetta
Glazed Apple Oatmeal Cinnamon Muffins
Pasta with snails alla calabrese
Onion, Oregano, and Thyme Focaccia
Oatmeal Banana Craisin Muffins
Prosciutto wrapped watermelon with bel paese cheese
Fried eggs with red onion and cheese
Calabrian sausage and fava beans
Ricotta Pound Cake