For foodies, shopping fanatics, wine drinkers, history buffs, art lovers (and most of the few people who don’t fit into one of those categories), there is really no better or worse time to visit Tuscany. Each Tuscan season in brings its benefits. Every month is different and each of them a great time to visit Tuscany.
After months of delicious hearty meals shared by stone fireplaces in country houses, of snuggling into extra-forgiving clothing that allows for one more piece of just-baked apple cake, of enjoying the newly-released wine vintages, of passing a relaxing Sunday afternoon lingering in the warmth of the world’s best art museums… spring arrives.
Tuscany in the springtime is an awakening of nature, as the sunshine reinvigorates the region. The slow pace of winter steps up a level to the more energetic feel of spring.
The fields bloom with coloured wild flowers, bird return to nest, spring cleaning and gardening fill sunny Saturday mornings, and as with each season in Tuscany, the recipes change in accordance with the new-season produce.
Gardens are planted with basilico (basil) and rucola (rocket/arugula) for the upcoming months, flowers bloom on balconies, the rosemary spears are tipped with purple flowers that send the bees into a frenzy.
Florence’s flower market under the portico of Piazza della Republica (just around the block from the Artviva office!) fills with colourful flowering plants bought up by people wishing to decorate their balconies.
Food festivals start to be held outdoors, restaurants start placing seating outside (in small towns and even in the larger cities, whole streets can be blocked off to traffic in the evenings to permit restaurants to do just this, such is the priority of meal time in Italy!), people linger in piazzas after dinner for an early evening stroll (which in the upcoming months will entail an almost-obligatory gelato intake!).
In April, many Tuscan recipes are made with artichokes, vegetables that seem directly out of medieval times with their speared heads and tough armoured exterior. Spring lamb is to come along, followed by desserts made with strawberries or tarts with new-season fruits.
It is at this time that ‘sott’olio’ dishes (under oil) are prepared ? tomatoes, artichokes, button mushrooms, aubergine (eggplant) and the like, preserved under extra-virgin olive oil to be served as starters alongside salami and ham, and springtime cheeses. Yes, even the cheese is diverse around the year due to the spring milk and the time taken to age the cheese.
As the weather warms up, the recipes become even quicker to prepare, and entail less time spent over a hot stove.
We have some quick-to-make recipes to share from ‘Artviva Artists, Authors and Aristocrats’ events special guest, Tessa Kiros. Taken from her title, ‘Twelve: a Tuscan cookbook’, which works its way gastronomically cooking in Tuscany throughout each month of the year, these are favourite springtime recipes in Tuscany as they require little cooking time and give delicious results.
As with most Tuscan recipes, the flavour comes from good-quality ingredients simply prepared to exalt their natural flavours.
Today we have Scaloppine con carciofi e proscuitto. Our next post will include a simple and delicious dessert recipe, made with delicious and easy-to-find ingredients.
Scaloppine con carciofi e proscuitto
(Veal escalopes with artichokes and proscuitto)
recipe by Tess Kiros
from ‘Twelve: a Tuscan cookbook’
6 slices of veal tenderloin, trimmed of fat
3 medium-sized globe artichokes
6 tablespoons olive oil
2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
about 60 g (½) cup plain (all-purpose) flour for dusting the veal
125 ml (½ cup) white wine
6 thin slices prosciutto crudo
1 sprig fresh tarragon, leaves roughly chopped
‘In Italy, veal can be bought ready for scaloppini. Generally, they are sliced from the tenderloin of milk-fed veal. Ask your butcher to cut it into thin 60 g (2 ¼ oz) slices, or they can be cut thicker and pounded gently to flatten. Have your ingredients ready before you start, as this takes only a couple of minutes to cook.
The recipe quantities here serve three. To serve more, you can cook the meat in batches and transfer to a plate to keep warm while cooking the rest. Wipe the pan clean and add fresh olive oil for the next batch.’
Squeeze the juice of half a lemon into a bowl of cold water. Trim the artichokes of their tough outer leaves. Those you will leave will be the ones you will eat, so be sure that the remaining leaves are soft.
Chop off about a third of the top spear. Cut the stem, leaving about 3 cm (1 ¼ in), and trim down towards the end in a pyramid-shaped point, removing the dark outer green stem. Cut them in half vertically, ad scrape out the choke. Slice each half, still vertically, into about six pieces and drop into the lemon water to prevent them from discolouring while you prepare the rest. Drain and pat dry with paper towels.
Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a saucepan. Add the artichokes and the garlic, and season with salt and pepper. Sauté for about 5 minutes or until lightly golden before adding 125 ml (½ cup) of water. Simmer, covered for about 10 minutes, until they are soft and there is only a little liquid left in the pan.
If necessary gently pound the veal slices, between two sheets of baking paper, to a thickness of 3 mm (1/8 in). Season with salt and pepper and dust lightly in flour.
Heat the remaining 4 tablespoons of olive oil in a large, wide frying pan. Add the veal slices and, on a medium heat, fry for a minute or so on each side to brown lightly. Add the wine and when it evaporates a little, add a piece of proscuitto and the tarragon to each piece of veal. Simmer for a couple of minutes to just wilt the prosciutto, then add the artichokes with a few drops of water if it seems like it needs a little more liquid. Let it bubble up for 30 seconds and serve immediately.
If you’d like to take a stroll through the Tuscan countryside, join us for a Perfect Morning in Tuscany small-group walking tour. Leaving from Florence’s city centre and heading to the surrounding countryside, this small-group walking tour includes, well, walking in Tuscany, as well as lunch with wine at a stunning Renaissance Villa Estate, accompanied by an expert tour guide.
You can also see the stunning Tuscan countryside by bike on our Original Tuscany Bike Tour ? a small-group guided bike tour through Tuscany including lunch and wine tasting.
If you’d rather skip the exertion and focus more on the excursion, we have the Best of Tuscany small-group tour, visiting three Tuscan hilltop towns (Siena, San Gimignano and Monteriggioni) as well as having wine tasting and lunch at a Tuscan Villa Estate.
In the afternoons, we have the Taste of Tuscany at the Villa Wine Tour ? taste award-winning wines at an historic Tuscany Villa on this small-group Tuscany wine tour.
For evenings, the Original Evening Walk includes a one-hour city walk in Florence to the charming Oltrarno area, followed by a wine-tasting in Florence.
Tessa Kiros, a good friend of Artviva, is an occasional special guest at the Artviva Festival giving visitors to Tuscany a chance to meet local authors, artists and aristocrats, including wine tasting and insights into Italian culture.
You can also learn about the traditional Italian ingredients and learn to make delicious, typical dishes before indulging in a delicious meal made by you by signing up for our hands-on cooking class in Florence .