Friday, June 18, 2010

My Lavender Hill & Honey Lavender Ice Cream - June 2010

I planted lavender all over the hill that leads from our breakfast area down to our guest rooms. The lavender is now in that magical moment of the year when it is a mass of spectacular color and the smell of lavender is so intense it's almost cloying.
This is why I love seasonality and NOT having everything around and available to you all year. Because the lead up to the full blooming of the lavender (which is still happening by the way) is really downright exciting! And it has to be enjoyed fully because it comes and goes so fast! I love being able to put vases of fresh lavender in our guest rooms, I love drying the lavender & making sachets and, of course, I love cooking with it!

Guests on my lavender hill:

So, today it's lavender ice cream!...

Honey Lavender Ice Cream

(adapted from a Gourmet magazine recipe)

3 cups (237 ml) heavy cream

2/3 cup (158 ml) honey

2 tablespoons dried lavender flowers

2 large eggs

1/8 teaspoon salt

Bring cream, honey, and lavender just to a boil in a heavy saucepan over moderate heat. Stir frequently with a whisk, then remove pan from heat and allow to steep, covered, until lukewarm, or about a half hour.

Pour cream mixture through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl and discard lavender. Return mixture to a clean, double boiler saucepan and heat over moderate heat until hot.

Whisk eggs and salt together, then slowly add about half the hot cream mixture, whisking constantly.

Pour the cream and egg mixture into the remaining hot cream mixture and cook in the double boiler over moderate heat, stirring constantly, until thick enough to coat back of a wooden spoon. Do not let boil.

Pour the mixture through a fine-mesh sieve into a metal bowl and cool completely, stirring occasionally. Cover and chill until cold (several hours).

Place the bowl in a freezer. Every 15 minutes remove the bowl and mix thoroughly with a wire whisk or wooden spoon. Repeat this process until the ice cream is frozen solid. Mixing the ice cream every 15 minutes will prevent the formation of ice crystals.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Zucchini Flowers

Now is the time of year when I have so many zucchini flowers I hardly know what to do with them. Every few years I rotate my garden location and this year my zucchini flowers are so beautiful and so enormous I had to photograph them. Here's a close-up picture of one of the flowers that is just as long as the zucchini itself; about 9 or 10 inches long!

Zucchinis produce prolifically all spring, summer and fall to the point that they're almost as invasive and hearty as a weed. At least in this climate. The zucchini I grow are the Romanesco variety; the skin of the fruit is a paler green and is ridged.

All summer long the garden is a hotbed of plant sexuality and it's most easy to see at work with the zucchini. The plant produces two types of flowers: male and female. Both have nectar, but only the male flower has pollen. At the base of the female flower is a small fruit (vegetable) or ovary. Only one male flower is necessary to pollinate numerous female flowers. Once pollination takes place the female flower closes up, to avoid cross-pollination. Sometimes zucchini fruit will start growing and then stop; this occurs when pollination (fertilization) is inadequate. All this takes place thanks to the symbiotic relationship between the honey bee and the flower.

Below is a picture of a zucchini flower's pistil (female); the male (stamen) is covered in pollen. When cooking remove these as they add an unpleasant flavor to your dish. For a funny rendition of just what this bad taste experience can entail check out the Stoveria blog!
Anyhow, the pistil is nestled deep inside the flower below:

Zucchini flowers (and any squash flowers actually) can be used in a multitude of ways. I love stuffing them and frying them. The flowers should be fried just long enough to become crisp, but not yet golden. This way you can still see the beautiful green and orange of the flower when they are served. The ones below are almost done:

The great thing about the zucchini flower is that it's the perfect case for just about any kind of stuffing. Last night I used different kinds of cheeses with prosciutto. The classic Italian stuffing is mozzarella cheese and anchovies. If you use a pastry bag it's also easy to stuff the flowers with creamier cheese fillings or something more adventurous like guacamole or baked, spicy eggplant.
I like a light, airy tempura-style batter so I prepare a batter with yeast, flour and water. I make the batter just thick enough so it will lightly coat the stuffed flower. Once you've prepared the batter let it sit an hour or so until it becomes very light and airy. When you dip the flower in the batter make sure the flower is totally coated so that no oil penetrates the flower. It helps to twist the flower tip a little so your filling doesn't fall out.

Zucchini flowers can be stored fresh for up to a week. As soon as you pick them gently rinse them off, inside and out. Shake off the excess water and line dry for an hour or so on a dish towel. Lay the flowers on several layers of paper towels inside a sealed plastic container and refrigerate.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Cannolichi: Razor Clams

I expected to not have a minute's sleep on the plane ride home to Rome and didn't even think I'd make my connection in Detroit. I ran like a bandit and just made it onto the plane as they shut the doors. And, miracle of miracles, the person next to me didn't make the flight which meant I got to stretch out (in a manner of speaking....) and get some sleep. I ate my dinner (yes, I really will eat anything), changed into comfortable clothes, put in my earplugs, put on my eye covers and slept.
It was so insufferably hot and humid in D.C. that I couldn't wait to get off the plane to a wonderful Roman day in June (also a bit hot & humid, by the way, but nothing by comparison).
As soon as my husband picked me up I asked him to take me to Fiumicino. (Fiumicino the port town, two minutes away from Fiumicino the airport.) I needed to smell the air, see people and have a tasty capuccino ((for me always scura and senza schiuma: dark, without foam) and cornetto.
That done we walked over to the fishing boats to have a look at fishermen off-loading their catch. The first thing that caught my eye was crate after crate of squiggling razor clams. Although they were inevitably destined for local restaurants one of the fishermen sold me just enough to make a great clam sauce for two.

There are numerous varieties of razor clams and they can look quite different. Some look like an elongated clam shell, but the variety we have in Rome look nothing like a clam. The peculiarity of our razor clam is that the shell is opened at both ends. You can (and should) touch the foot end of the clams to make sure they are alive before purchasing.
Razor clams are about 15 - 17 centimeters long. In our area razor clams are known as cannolicchi, but in the Marche and Veneto regions they're known as cappalonga. Mannicaio in Tuscany and arrasoias or gregus in Sardegna. These are all dialect names for the old-fashioned facial razor, as that's just what they look like:

Treat the razor clam just as you would any other fresh clam. Several hours before cooking put the clams in a cold salt water bath so they have plenty of time to rid themselves of any residual sand. After all, they spend most of their lives buried deep in the sand.
I served the clams with penne pasta. I made a simple but delectable sauce by sizzling garlic in olive oil and then adding some fresh plump tomatoes (peeled & chopped). After cooking these for several minutes I added the clams, which I'd previously cooked in a touch of olive oil just long enough for them to open up. Before adding the clams and their liquid to the tomato sauce I removed them from their shells. No salt is necessary; there's plenty in the clam liquid. Delicious!

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Our chef's event yesterday at the White House....

What an amazing, inspiring day yesterday at the White House! Here's the write-up for the event which appeared in the Huffington Post:

Michelle Obama Brings Top Chefs To White House For School Lunch Campaign (VIDEO)


WASHINGTON — School lunches that are good for kids – and that kids will actually eat? That's a job for America's top chefs.
First lady Michelle Obama recruited hundreds of chefs gathered on the South Lawn of the White House Friday to join her anti-obesity campaign and help schools serve healthier, tastier meals.
Mrs. Obama is asking the chefs to partner with individual schools and work with teachers and parents to help educate kids about food and nutrition. She said healthy meals at schools are more important than ever because many children get most of their calories there.
"You can make a salad bar fun – now that's something," she said.
Rachael Ray, Tom Colicchio, Cat Cora and other celebrity chefs joined Mrs. Obama and children from a local school. They picked arugula, baby spinach, rhubarb and other vegetables from her garden on the lawn and showed the children how to wash, dice and cook the veggies as they all made a grilled chicken salad and rhubarb strawberry crisp together.
In addition to helping in school kitchens, Mrs. Obama encouraged the chefs to do cooking demonstrations, form cooking clubs, integrate food into lesson plans and help children plant vegetables in school gardens.
She also said they'll have to be patient, learning about the communities and understanding the schools.
That advice could have been with celebrity chef Jamie Oliver in mind. British chef Oliver, who did not attend the event, recently turned his own effort to transform the unhealthy diet of school children in a West Virginia town into a hit reality television program. Many in the town were resistant to the effort, including some who worked in the school cafeterias.
"They're going to need your support, but it's got to be a collaboration," she said. "And we strongly encourage you all to go in with that spirit."
Chef Todd Gray of the Washington restaurant Equinox spoke about his recent experience partnering with a local school. As part of his project, students planted corn, squash and beans to learn about ancient civilizations, learned about decomposition by making real compost – worms and all – and sketched the school garden in art class.
"It will change your life professionally and personally," he told the other chefs.
Mrs. Obama also used the event to encourage Congress to pass a school nutrition bill. Legislation that passed a Senate committee earlier this year would ask the Agriculture Department to create new standards for all foods in schools, including vending machine items, to give students healthier meal options. It would also expand the number of low-income children eligible for free or reduced cost meals.
"Everyone out there needs to focus on this," Mrs. Obama said. "This is doable. It's right there. But we've got to make it happen."
Other well-known chefs participating in the event included Jose Andres and Marcus Samuelsson. Samuelsson helped prepare the Obamas' first state dinner in November in honor of Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Today at the White House......

Today I'll be at the White House for the launch of Michelle Obama's program to reduce childhood obesity. I'm thrilled to be among the participating chefs; I believe I'm the only chef from Europe who is participating. Flavor of Italy's press release of several days ago:


CONTACT: Wendy Holloway, Flavor of Italy LLC, Via Stazzo Quadro, 15/B, Rome 00060 (Riano) Italy, Tel. (39) 329.615.5164 or U.S. 415.902.8549, Fax (39),, skype: flavorofitaly

Roman Resident Represents Europe in Michelle Obama’s ‘Chefs Move to Schools’ initiative

Entrepreneur Wendy Holloway, owner of Flavor of Italy, a culinary tourism company catering to foreigners and residents alike, has been selected as the only foreigner to participate in the Chefs Move to Schools initiative hosted by Michelle Obama at the White House on June 4th. The initiative is just one more tool in the Obama arsenal to combat the growing epidemic of childhood obesity in America.

Michelle Obama launched the ‘Let’s Move’ campaign to fight obesity in 2009. Since then, she’s planted a fruit and vegetable garden on the white house lawn visible to passersby, set up a task force to work with schools, and now, invited Chefs to the White House to draw even more attention on healthy eating at school, where students take 50% of their meals. Michelle Obama believes that children who learn to eat healthy meals and choose locally, can influence their families who in turn can influence entire communities throughout the country and, with Holloway’s presence, even farther afield.

Wendy Holloway, upon hearing of this initiative, was absolutely passionate about participating in the program. Flavor of Italy has long offered students and families cooking classes and enogastronomical tours; she is committed to use only the finest locally grown and seasonal foods found in and around Rome’s Lazio region. Wendy impressed the selection committee with the fact that there are many Americans living around Rome, whose children attend American schools and Universities there.

Not only are there are over 160 American universities present in Italy, but with NATO bases in Italy’s Avellino, Vicenza and Pordenone towns, thousands of children in the Bel Paese may also be at risk. After June 4th, each chef will adopt a school and commit to working with schools, parents, teachers, students and food service providers to help combat obesity and improve childhood nutrition in their area.

“Everyone knows that the Mediterranean diet is all about healthy eating,” states Holloway, “But with changing lifestyles even in Italy, fast food, junk food and even imported green house food is changing the health of Italians today. The press is now focused on childhood obesity issues even in a country like Italy, and I want to be at the forefront of finding a solution.” In fact, Holloway believes we should go back to our roots – literally and figuratively speaking. She is currently working on a cookbook for healthy Mediterranean cooking for children, and is researching the foods and traditions of Italy, long before processed baby foods and chicken nuggets came into the fore.

About Wendy Holloway & Flavor of Italy

For over 10 years, Flavor of Italy, a culinary tourism company based in Rome, Italy offers a wide variety of culinary tourism programs (accommodation, culinary team building, food & wine tours and cooking programs)

Wendy Holloway is also Vice Chairperson of the International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP) Culinary Tourism section whose focus this year is on “responsible, sustainable and locally sourced culinary programs for our clients worldwide.”

About Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” Initiative & Chefs Move to Schools

The Let’s Move! campaign aims to solve the childhood obesity epidemic within a generation.

With more than 31 million children participating in the National School Lunch Program and more than 11 million participating in the National School Breakfast Program, good nutrition at school is more important than ever.###

The “Chefs Move to Schools” program, run through the U.S. Department of Agriculture, will pair chefs with interested schools in their communities so together they can create healthy meals that meet the schools’ dietary guidelines and budgets, while teaching young people about nutrition and making balanced and healthy choices. By creating healthy dishes that taste good, chefs have a unique ability to deliver these messages in a fun and appealing way to the

larger audience, particularly children.

“School cafeterias are the frontline for fostering a healthy lifestyle for children,” said Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. “This initiative is a creative and vital opportunity for children to learn and practice healthy habits. When partnerships between schools and the broader community are created, everyone wins.”

As First Lady Michelle Obama remarked, “We are going to need everyone’s time and talent to solve the childhood obesity epidemic and our Nation’s chefs have tremendous power as leaders on this issue because of their deep knowledge of food and nutrition and their standing in the community. I want to thank them for joining the Let’s Move! campaign.”

Wendy Holloway is available for phone interview. Please contact by phone or email

to set up a time that is convenient.

Please visit Flavor of Italy’s website at for more information on the company’s full range of activities.

A press kit in pdf format is available upon request. ###