In This Issue
Spring & Tour spots
Stuffed Artichokes recipe
Tour updates & Sonoma
Gina's new spot
Gina's Cookbook
Steamed, ready to clean the choke & stuff
Stuffed, cooked & ready to eat

Quick Links



2014 Food & Wine Tours


May 31 - June 7 - Full

June 20 -27 - 4 open spots 

Sept 27 -Oct 4th- 2 open spots 

Nov 1 - 8th - 6 open spots  


Bologna & Tuscany

October 12 - 19 - 6 open spots

The Palio of Siena 

June 27 - July 4 -sold out


Campania / Napoli

Sept 17  - 24th- 4 open spots 


Taste of Tuscany

October 7-11


Join us this year for a full immersion to the regions of Tuscany, Emilia Romagna and Campania - great food, wine, history and culture! 


Vacation Villas
& Farmhouses

Casa Marta
Great accommodations for either a night or a week. When planning your stay in Italy, begin your 'country living' on a Saturday and depart the area the following Saturday for the best selection of villas and houses! 
There are several houses will good availability for this year. Call for more information.
Contact Mary: 972.342.8308 
Find us on Facebook
Join Our Mailing List
Living in Tuscany
Do you have a dream to live in Tuscany? An owner Mary works with for weekly rentals is selling 2 of his houses in the Chianti Classico. Located on an absolutely beautiful winery estate, owning a slice of Tuscany might be a dream come true! He's had several interested...if you would like more info, contact Mary. Perhaps you can go see them this year - they are available for weekly rental through the end of this year.
Ciao amici,  

"Primavera" - spring in Italian! Blooming flowers, fresh spring greens, the hills waking up - Tuscany or Sonoma? The countryside of northern California reminded us of Tuscany. We've just returned from Sonoma and our inaugural Tuscany meets Sonoma, CA tour. What a wonderful time we had!  

More below! 


Do you want to go to Tuscany with us this year and are a 'last minute' type person? We've just had 4 spots open up for our June 20th tour of Tuscany. Call or email Mary for special pricing for this week!   


You may have noticed the email change - yahoo doesn't work with our newsletter provider, so please note the new email and add it to your address book!  


Artichokes are plentiful now - read on!


Buon appetito! 

Gina and Mary  

Stuffed Artichokes

This is the season where we're transitioning out of winter and into late spring and it's the perfect time for artichokes. While in Italy we have a wide range of artichokes, from slender and purple to plump and green, in the US the most common is the globe artichoke and one of the best ways to enjoy them is stuffed.

Artichokes ready for picking


The artichoke is actually the flower bud from a variety of the thistle plant. If allowed to grow on the plant they bloom into a thorny flower with a prickly purple center. Most of the artichoke is inedible and the only way to eat it is to make your way through the tough leaves to the cap-like center heart.  In Tuscany we generally will clean the artichoke before cooking, cutting away, tearing off and scraping out the choke, then sautéing them with olive oil, garlic, lemon and

Ready to slice & saute 

parsley. When you first begin to deal with artichokes, it's difficult to throw most of the vegetable away, but once you embrace the reality that most of the leaves and the choke are completely inedible and tough and that you eventually have to throw

it away anyway, it becomes easier to clean and sauté them in the Italian style.


For a simpler and delicious preparation, stuffing and baking them is the way to go.  Stuffed artichokes make a lovely starter and are a delicious way to enjoy the bounty of the spring season. 


You can also find small artichokes right now, they come in packs of 12. These are simple to prepare as they require less cleaning and there isn't as much to throw away. Just cut off the top half of the artichoke, peel off the outer leaves until the leaves become pale green and yellow, trim the stem, cut them in half and sauté them in olive oil, garlic and lemon.  A little cayenne pepper and some tarragon and parsley are great additions as well.  


Artichokes can seem intimidating but a little practice and you'll soon be enjoying these delicious vegetables often!

Stuffed Artichokes    

4 large globe artichokes

8 oz mushrooms, sliced

1 onion, chopped

3 garlic cloves, minced

3 tbsp parsley, minced

1 tbsp basil, chopped

1 teas dried tarragon, or 1 tbsp fresh

½ cup grated Parmigiano

Sea salt

2 cups fresh bread crumbs

olive oil

hot pepper flakes

   Cut the stem off the artichokes even with the bottom so the artichoke can sit up on a plate.  Peel the stems, chop them and put them in a little water with lemon so they don't brown.  Cut the top off the artichokes about half way up and discard; with scissors, trim the tips of each leaf, discarding the smallest leaves that grown on the base of the flower.    

   In a pot big enough to accommodate all the artichokes, put enough water to come halfway up the artichokes, squeeze a lemon into the water, add salt, a garlic clove and 1 tbsp of dried tarragon.  Place the artichokes in the pot, stem down, drizzle them with olive oil and bring to a boil.  Boil 15 minutes and remove with tongs, putting the artichokes cut side down to allow them to drain.  When cool enough to handle, open the artichoke flower and remove the hairy choke in the middle, scraping with a spoon.  Place in a baking dish.  (Or you can leave the choke inside and stuff them as is, discarding the choke and inner leaves at the table when eating.)
   Saute o
nion and garlic in the olive oil until soft, add the mushrooms and the chopped stems from the artichokes, and the hot pepper flakes.Sauté until softened, put in a mixing bowl and add the herbs, bread crumbs, Parmigiano, extra olive oil and salt.Stuff the artichokes with this mixture, packing it in the cavity as well as within each layer of leaves, drizzle with oil and bake at 400 for 30 minutes until browned.
Trips to Italy Update & Sonoma
Gina and Mary are anxiously awaiting our tour season and we'll kick off the first tour in Tuscany on
June 20th! We now have 4 spots open on this immersion into the foods, wines and culture of Italy.
Special pricing, a beautiful villa set amid the countryside and all the early summer foods. If not for June, we've got a couple open spots for
September (Tuscany & Campania/Napoli) &
October (Tuscany/Bologna).

Our Palio tour is sold out and we'll share updates on Facebook (& newsletters) during the week - Palio is July 2!  

Tuscany meets Sonoma Tour - A small group of 10 enjoyed northern California in early April - and what a terrific time. The weather was perfect and the hills were covered with blooming mustard and deep green spring grass. The poppies were spectacular! Some highlights: we visited an oyster farm, a farmstead cheese farm and an organic farm where we tasted the products they grow and make, a couple wineries and even an olive press - fascinating & fun! Join us next April. Scenes from our excursions...
Eating fresh shucked oysters
Carolyn learning to shuck
Muscardini barrel tasting

Gina's New Digs
"Where God closes a door somewhere he opens a window."    Mother Superior, Sound of Music
Last year Gina moved back to the US from Tuscany. After 13 wonderful years working, playing, eating and drinking in the amazing country of Italy, it was time to make a move. She chose Louisville Kentucky, which has wonderful community and people, plus the Kentucky Derby (and everyone knows the passion she has for the Palio horse race!), and hopes to open a restaurant there in the future featuring Tuscan food, of course, as well as regional Italian specialties.

She'll be in Italy part of the year conducting classes at the old mill and culinary tours. We will still be holding our week-long culinary tours and still have some spots for this June and the fall.

In the meantime, Gina be doing cooking classes, guest chef appearances, dinners in the Louisville area. We'll keep you posted on those so anyone in the area can join in.  
Ecco La Cucina Cookbook

gina's cookbookGina's cookbook is now revised and updated with more than 20 new recipes. This collection of traditional Tuscan cooking, features dishes of the Siena area and some of her favorites.