Being that I am not gluten-intolerant, I wasn’t sure I’d be a good candidate to review this beautiful cookbook by Nuccia Ardagna, a celiac patient who happens to have deep roots in Italy! But because I am following the Dash diet which emphasizes lots of vegetables, fruit and lean meats, I knew that I would love these recipes! Nuccia, like me, grew up in an Italian family where Mamma and Nonna were excellent cooks, and therefore we know what good food is all about! When Nuccia was diagnosed with celiac disease, she wasn’t about ready to give up all that she loved! She learned to adapt the recipes so that she could still enjoy them without compromising on the flavor. And now, she’s brought those wonderful recipes to us in her new gluten-free cookbook Going Against the Grain.
The book is beautifully laid out. She starts off with an introduction to celiac disease – how to diagnose it and how to live with it. This is useful information for those diagnosed or those that think they may have this disease. After these introductions, her chapters are laid out by course – appetizers, first courses, second courses, side dishes, sweets, and bonus stuff! The recipes are clear and she has included gorgeous photos with each recipe that makes your mouth water looking at them! As soon as I received my book, I couldn’t wait to begin trying some of them. The first one I tried was the Insalata Mista Piccante con Asparagi (Spicy Mixed Salad with Asparagus). If you like the bitter taste of radicchio and crispy asparagus, you will love this fresh and healthy salad! As my mom always said, bitter lettuces clean the blood! Whether that’s true or not, you do feel healthier after eating them!
The other recipes I tried were main courses: Pollo Ripieno con Mortadella and Coniglio al Forno. I made some substitutions in both of these recipes, but I don’t think they detracted from the savoriness and flavor. In the Pollo Ripieno recipe I decided to substitute prosciutto for mortadella. Good mortadella is difficult to find near me (unless I go into SF North Beach), so rather than buy not so good mortadella, I used Italian prosciutto (which is easily found at my local Trader Joe’s). This substitution may have led to the dish becoming more salty, but since I’m a salt-aholic, this was not a problem :) My absolute favorite recipe from this book, though, and maybe an all-time favorite recipe, was the Coniglio al Forno! Instead of rabbit, I used chicken drumsticks – again, mostly because they are more readily available. The ease of this recipe and the flavor make this an absolutely perfect recipe suitable for everyone – family and guests!
I can highly recommend this cookbook – whether your are trying to follow a gluten-free diet or not! In my opinion, the ingredients are so healthy and nutritious that everyone would benefit from cooking this way! Kudos to Nuccia for taking an obstacle and working with it to continue enjoying delicious Italian cuisine!
Meet Nuccia with this interview!
How did you do research for your book?
Writing a book about celiac disease does require research mainly because new studies come out on the disease all the time, and with that new information. With regards to the medical part of the book, that certainly did require extensive research. For this, I used various resources; primarily books and reputable online organizations involved in the study of celiac disease. However, much of the first part was drawn from personal experience as well. I also reached out to TME (Topic Matter Experts) for added credibility and was delighted to have worked with a renowned doctor and his staff where they provided valuable direction and useful critique of my work. That same doctor also honored me by providing an exceptional foreword for my book! The recipe part was the most extensive and the part that took the longest time. There was the cooking, writing up the recipes and of course, the pictures, which that in itself was a big project. We wanted to make sure that they came alive through the pages of the book. All in all, cover to cover, it was a lot of hard work and one that I would do all over again if I had to!
Where do you get inspiration for your recipes?
The inspiration really came from my very own home and my precious family. I grew up as a child not having much. My parents worked really hard trying to build a life for us here in Canada. That stemmed from them growing up in Sicily in the 1940’s at a time where earning a ‘lira’ was extremely difficult. Because of that, they were forced to make do with whatever they had on hand. That usually involved coming up with creative ways to feed the family yet another day with leftovers, and using whatever was in the pantry which most of the time, wasn’t very much at all. I share some of those special ones and they mean a lot to me simply because every time they made such a dish it would be accompanied by a touching story. Over the years, these dishes have been tweaked and passed on from generation to generation where many of these traditional ones are known all over the world and served in many restaurants as well. I am so proud to be a part of that!
Do you have another profession besides writing?
Why yes! I love writing but I also love to blog which is related to writing right? I blog about beauty, fashion and anything that I think we women would love to know about. My blog really started out as a hobby, blogging about anything related to women but just recently, due to my diagnosis with celiac disease I’ve transitioned over to ‘lifestyle’ blogging. Now, in addition to the ‘girly’ talk, I also like to share recipes, gluten-free product reviews and information on celiac disease. Whenever I get the opportunity, I try to do put together some YouTube videos as well.
What is your next project?
I am working on a new book and simply because I felt there was a need out there in the market to educate those who entertain family and friends on how to prepare gluten-free meals. This can be daunting to those who have no clue on what that entails. With these ones in mind, I am co-authoring a book that will focus solely on how to entertain gluten and dairy free and will feature incredible simple to elaborate menus fit for any occasion, whether simple or formal. Stay tuned!
Favorite travel spot?
I actually have two and both for very different reasons. I love traveling to Italy (from North to South) because of the rich history, family, incredible beaches, art, fashion, breathtaking landscapes and of course the food! Need I say more? While I haven’t gone back in a few years, we are planning a trip for 2016 so that we can bring our son to show him where his family is from and introduce him to his cousins and aunts. There’s truly something magical about reminiscing about old times over a glass of wine overlooking the vineyard.
However, when I want to relax, unwind, and not do a thing, I like to head south. I have visited many Caribbean islands, but for some reason, my family and I are drawn to the southern hospitality of Myrtle Beach, SC. This may surprise some but we just love getting the best of both worlds, meaning, we get to enjoy the beautiful beaches, warm weather and at the same time we get enjoy many of the commodities we are used to here at home.
There are tons of beautiful places to visit around the world and who knows, my favorite travel spots may change in the future.