In This Issue
May Flowers and Summer Frying
Recipe for Batter
Traveling to Italy this Fall?
Gina's Dates in Louisville
Gina's Cookbook
Flowers for Frying

Elder, Acacia, Sage and Artichokes - ready for frying

Quick Links



2014 Food & Wine Tours


Sept 27 -Oct 4th- 2 open spots 

October 4-11 - 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- 2 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 
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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,  
This spring has been unseasonably cooler and rainy in parts of Tuscany...just like so many parts across North America!  Seems everything is coming on a little later this year - the acacia flowers Gina talks about below are just blooming now in parts of the U.S.


If you're interested in going to Italy with us this Fall, we have a few open spots. I've read that the airfares are coming down this Fall to Europe. Check out our itineraries on the website!      


Also, mentioned in our last newsletter - we are using our domain to send our newsletter now. Please add this one to your address book.     


Buon appetito! 

Gina and Mary  

April Showers bring May Flowers 

After all the cold rain of April we are rewarded with the burgeoning flowers of May. Poppies, roses and peonies cover the Tuscan landscape.  Acaciais rampant along highways, turning miles of roads into soft white shoulders. Elder flowers dot dark elder bushes throughout the countryside and I'm preoccupied with how best to get at them while they're in their prime.  Both acacia and elder are edible and I love adding them to a simple fried antipasto along with baby artichokes and the big sage leaves that come out in the spring.  It's a brief, fleeting season and so we have to hurry.


Acacia smells beautiful, reminiscent of orange blossom, with white droplets bunched together like grapes, drooping from the branches. Acacia is everywhere and generally has branches that grow within reach, giving easy access to the flowers. 
The elder (sambuco in Italian) has an unusual smell with large pale yellow lace-like flowers against dark green leaves.  It is more difficult to pick as the bushes tend to grow on steep slopes on the sides of roads, maddeningly just out of reach.  


I first fell in love with fried elder flowers when I was little girl in Italy and my mother learned how to fry them, which is common in the area around Verona.  Not understanding the concept of seasons, I would bring flowers home all year long that I hoped were the right blossoms for frying.  I was so often disappointed. Elder isn't eaten or used much in Tuscany but in the northern regions they make tinctures and syrups of both the flowers and the berries.

The batter for frying is the simplest thing in the  world and you make just however much you think you'll need for the flowers and leaves you want to fry.  Put flour in a bowl with a little salt.  With a whisk start pouring white wine and stirring to incorporate.  Use just enough wine that you have a batter the consistency of crepe batter.  Heat peanut or grapeseed oil on a high heat, dip your flowers into the batter and put them in the oil.  Turn them when they're golden brown, not too dark, and drain them on paper towels.


In the summer we have zucchini blossoms and
sage leaves, but in the spring we celebrate the short season of acacia and elder blossoms.  If you can't find any flowers to fry, try small artichokes, zucchini slices and mushrooms.   


Buon appetito!

Gina signature  

Pastella per Friggere

(batter for frying vegetables) 
The simple tempura-like batter is wonderful for frying vegetables. This basic recipe will be enough to fry about 20 zucchini flowers or a pound of mushrooms. Make as much as you think you'll need.

1 cup flour 
1 cup white wine 
1/2 teaspoon sea salt 
peanut or grapeseed oil for frying

Put the flour and salt in a bowl, whisk together and begin adding the wine in a slow steady stream while whisking constantly, until you have incorporated all the flour and the mixture is smooth with consistency of thin pancake batter.

Put 1-2" peanut oil in a deep skillet and heat until drops of batter bubble immediately and turn brown quickly. Dip each piece of food into the batter and add to the oil until the pan is full but not crowded; turn each piece when it's golden brown. Lift them out of the oil allowing the oil to drip back into the pan; drain on paper before serving.
Trips to Italy Update
We have just a few spots open for our Fall tours in
September (Tuscany & Campania/Napoli) & October
(Tuscany/Bologna) - where we'll share the best of these regions! For our Tuscany tour we'll be staying on the beautiful estate of Montestigliano in Villa Pipistrelli. Our hope is that some rain brings the mushrooms early this September. Foraging in the woods is a popular activity during our week.
Mushroom Basket 2012
Mushrooms from the forest
Naples shop with peppers
Store front in Napoli

Gina's Culinary Events in Louisville
Gina will be back in the U.S. for a few weeks in late July and conducting several cooking classes and wine dinners in the Louisville area! She will be featured at
The Pendennis Club July 31st (hands on cooking class) and August 16th (wine dinner). Gina will focus on the foods and wines of Tuscany.
The Pendennis Club is open to the public for these events and is a beautiful, historical building located in downtown Louisville. Please contact them directly to sign up for Gina's class and dinner.
Link is here:  The Pendennis Club

Later in August Gina will be conducting several wine dinners in Louisville before she returns to Italy for our Fall culinary tours. We'll include the information in our next newsletter and post on our website. 
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.