How it All Began
Several years ago, Cynthia and Jo met at a neighborhood gathering. Jo and her husband had just sold their home and retired to the lakes region of Maine where Cynthia and her family vacationed. Cynthia and Jo quickly discovered that they had many things in common. Both of the women came from southern Italian roots, their families originated in Brooklyn, both were studying the Italian language, both had spent their professional lives in Massachusetts (Cynthia in Finance, Jo in Technology), and both made their homes on the same rural fire lane in Maine - Two Lots Over. More importantly, both shared a genuine passion for cooking.
The daughters of traditional, stay-at-home mothers, who took great pride in preparing family meals from scratch, the authors were the beneficiaries of their mothers’ hard work, ingenuity and love. They marveled at their mothers’ ability to use ingredients on hand and to waste nothing. Leftovers become new variations of old favorites or a redux of last night’s dinner.
As they married, had families of their own and embarked on careers in technology and finance, it became obvious that replicating their mothers’ efforts would require some improvisation. Busy schedules, time limitations and different tastes led them to update classics - all without sacrificing quality or taste.
Retirement, however, opened new doors. Having spent their entire careers in “left- brain” fields, both women longed to satisfy the creative side of their natures, especially as it related to all things culinary.
Looking back on that fateful day in which their paths first crossed, the authors fondly point to the closing scene of Casablanca in which Rick Blain (Humphrey Bogart) turns to Captain Louis Renault (Claude Raines) and retorts, “Louis, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.” And so it goes...
The Gluten Connection
As time passed and their friendship developed, Jo and Cynthia discovered other
areas of commonality. Both women had been independently diagnosed with gluten intolerance. Eating gluten free required that they give up many of the wonderful pasta dishes and baked goods that they’d come to know and love in their youth. While gluten free breads and pasta were starting to show up on grocery shelves, they were, and for the most part continue to be, either tasteless or gummy versions of their wheat-based counterparts. Determined to solve this problem, the authors embarked on a mission to recreate the wonderful meals they’d come to love using gluten free ingredients. Their goal was to create gluten free versions that were indistinguishable from their wheat- based counterparts. It was a big undertaking. Over the course of this journey, they’ve researched and found scores of wonderful products, many imported from Italy. The results of this research can be found in the Gluten Free Italian Pantry chapter of this book.
In writing this book, Cynthia and Jo have spent considerable time creating authentic gluten free Italian pizza crust, artisan breads and homemade pastas that taste as good as their wheat-based alternatives. If this challenge were not daunting enough, they added another criterion: the recipes needed to pass the “Jackie/Mary test.” As it happens, the authors both have sisters who live in the same town in Virginia and love good Italian food. However, neither of these women would spend hours preparing a meal, unless it were a special occasion. Simply said, the recipes needed to be easy to make with ingredients that were readily available in most grocery stores. The vast majority of recipes in this book pass this test, and those that do not are highlighted as such. You will find, for example, that many of the pasta dishes can be made in the time it takes to boil water and cook the pasta.
Of paramount importance with these recipes is the use of fresh, authentic ingredients. Using dry, canned Romano or parmesan cheese, for example, will not yield the same result as freshly grated pecorino sourced from a reputable Italian specialty store.
If this is not possible, seek out the best imported pecorino you can find at Whole Foods or a similar market. The same is true of produce. Wherever possible use local, organically grown produce that is crisp and fresh.
The true measure of success is to serve up a meal to guests and to pleasantly surprise them when they learn the meal they just devoured was gluten free. For those of you suffering from gluten intolerance, we hope this book will liberate you from the bondage of gluten intolerance and allow you to once again enjoy great tasting meals.
Meet the Gluten Free Epicureans
Cynthia Delia Coddington
Being the oldest grandchild of two Italian nonnas and the firstborn of an Italian mamma, it was inevitable that I would inherit the family treasure: la cucina.
This book is my attempt at documenting what was seldom written but often served. My roots span two southern Italian regions, Campania on the Meditteranean and Puglia on the Adriatic, each one having a similar but distinct cuisine despite their proximity. From Pizza Margherita to Linguine with Cauliflower and Onions and many recipes in between, the one ingredient common to all is love.
I dedicate this book to the much loved Italian mammas who came before me and at whose sides I learned to cook: my grandmothers, Jessie and Angie, and of course…
To my mother, Marylin, whose innovative culinary style carried on their tradition while improvising to create many more memorable dishes of her own. Her unfailing work ethic and passion instilled in her children an appreciation for good food, lovingly prepared with a lifetime of taste memories to cherish.
To my father, Conrad, for always encouraging me to follow my passion and who taught me that dreams do come true.
To my husband, Mitch, an accomplished grillmaster and taste-tester extraordinaire, and to my children, Christopher and Julia, my sous-chefs and the best “eaters” anyone could ask for.
Jo Provenzano Hoppe
Among the most cherished blessings of my childhood was having my maternal grandparents move in with my family.
My grandparents immigrated to the US just after the turn of the century from Sicily. Like so many others from Italy and elsewhere in Europe, they left their beautiful homeland in the hope of providing a better life for their family. I cannot enumerate the many valuable things they taught me, but among the most important were love of family and a passion for cooking wonderful, healthy meals using the freshest of ingredients, many of which were harvested directly from our family vegetable garden.
My grandmother never used a recipe in her lifetime, nor did she ever cook out of a can or box. Rather, every meal she cooked was a labor of love. When I'd ask, "how did you make this, grandma?" she'd respond, "a little of this and a little of that." Then she'd proceed to show me. Those recipes, and techniques have remained with me over the years and are captured in these pages for posterity. To do so, however, required defining " a little of this and a little of that", precisely recording the measurements, ingredients and techniques used to create her unforgettable meals.
This book is dedicated to her memory and to the other important women in my life who nurtured my love of cooking including my mother Angie and my dear Aunt Mary whose stuffed artichoke recipe is legendary.
To my husband, Henry, who is an amazing chef in his own right, and my children Jocelyn and Garrett, I leave this collection of culinary memories in your capable hands to enjoy for many years to come.