Ciao a tutti!! I have been featuring many gluten free recipes lately, so I am very excited to introduce you to Dominick Cura, his story is really inspiring and I hope it will help some of you. Dominick was diagnosed with celiac disease in 2009, which meant that he could no longer eat anything with gluten. At first, it was terrible for him, but he then started a blog about living gluten free. It’s called Eternally Gluten Free and I highly suggest you take a look!! In 2011, he decided to write a book to share with people how he made his experience positive in hopes of inspiring people. The cookbook includes gluten free sweets and some and details of his life with celiac. It is available at book stores in Seattle and hopes for it to make it in some other states as well. You can take a look at the book here, at amazon.com You can also read more about Dominick’s inspiring story here. Enjoy!!
This is not strictly a “healthy” Italian blog, although I do always try to make little changes to most of my recipes to make them a bit healthier, including using flour alternatives. What do you like to use in place of regular wheat flour?
I usually use white or brown rice flour or tapioca flour. I am using more brown rice flour now because it is healthier than white rice flour, but there are so many different flours to use. I think it is so much better to use gluten-free flours because you have such a variety of flours and flavors and textures whereas with wheat flour all you have is wheat!
Did you always enjoy cooking or did you discover it once you had to start creating your own recipes?
I only started cooking towards the end of the summer of 2011. I found a gluten-free cookbook and just kept baking from it. When I ran out of recipes I decided to make my own! It was very fun creating my own recipes, many were bad, and many were good. Sometimes I got a little too creative and ambitious and some stuff did not work, other times I got too creative and it was a great recipe!
With Italian food, there is a lot of bread and pasta. Since you are part Italian, I can imagine you use to eat a lot of that food. Having to live gluten free now, what do you in place of pasta?
Yes there is, although in Italy it is also very easy to eat gluten free because celiac is known well there so they have more options. I have only found like two baguettess that are good but they're not at all easy to get, so I don't usually have baguettes.
You wrote a cookbook, “Eternally Gluten Free: A Cookbook of Sweets and Inspiration, From a Teen.” Can you please share on of your favorite recipes with us?
My favorite recipe is the Italian Christmas dessert, Struffoli. For those who don't know, Struffoli are little balls of dough that are fried, dipped in honey, formed in a dome and topped with colorful sprinkles. When I lived in New York I used to have this every winter and I remember my mom telling me her memories of eating Struffoli with her family. Struffoli is also really good to make with more than one person, it really involves teamwork when your rolling out the balls of dough.
3/4 teaspoon Xanthan gum
1 cup brown rice flour
1 cup white rice flour
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons butter, sliced into little pieces
zest of half a lemon
zest of half an orange
1 1/2 tablespoon white wine
Vegetable oil for frying
1 1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup colorful sprinkles to decorate with
Put the dry ingredients in a bowl. Add the butter and cut and mix it together with the fork to get out chunks of flour or big crumbs. Add the rest of the ingredients and continue to mix until it is doughy. If it is too dry you can add a little more white wine.
Roll the dough into small balls, the size of marbles.
Pour enough oil in a large saucepan to fill it halfway. Heat over medium-high heat. The oil will be ready when you get the bottom of a wooden spoon and press it against the bottom of the pan, and bubbles come out (a trick I learned from my grandmother) Fry the struffoli until golden brown.
Combine the honey and sugar in a saucepan over medium-high heat, until the sugar is dissolved. Pour the struffoli in and coat the struffoli in the honey. Place on a plate, form into a dome and sprinkle with sprinkles.
What’s the most memorable Italian meal you've ever had? Whether cooked by you or someone else.
The most memorable home cooked is fritatta. My brother and our cousins would always go to our grandparent’s house and there would always be a fritatta waiting for us to eat, sometimes my nonna would get creative and put in artichoke hearts or peppers and stuff. Luckily fritatta is naturally gluten-free! Speaking of artichokes, another great memory is breaded artichoke (more gluten!) Artichoke is so fun to eat, peeling of the leaves and sucking the insides, with breadcrumbs it was even better! Pretty much everything my nonna made was memorable.
Food can transport me to another time and make me remember something wonderful. I am always talking about my Nonna’s fried cauliflower and what beautiful memories I have of her making it for me. What are some of your favorite food memories?
I love this question! I have a lot. In New York at my grandparent’s house my nonna would always make pasta. (This was when I could have gluten) my nonna would always make pasta with squid ink. I was (and still am) kind of picky. But what I'd eat instead was pasta with breadcrumbs, pretty ironic that I used to love pasta with breadcrumbs... At my grandparents house I remember my whole family and my whole cousin’s family at my grandparent’s house for our occasional dinner together and we'd all eat pasta. It was fun and something i really miss because we all moved away from New York.
You are still very young; do you think you will want to continue to pursue cooking as a career? A lot of people have allergies to gluten, making it more difficult to eat out. Do you think you would maybe want to open a gluten free restaurant?
No. Many people say I should open a restaurant when I'm older but no. I want to be a movie director instead. If I didn't want to be a movie director is definitely be a baker, but I do want to be a movie director. But it might not happen if I just wait to be older. That's way I am also trying to make a documentary about Celiac disease, so then I'll have more experience and I'll also raise awareness of Celiac!
Thank you so much to Dominick, I’m always so happy to see someone turning what could be a very upsetting situation into something so positive.