This month we review a cookbook for those who are interested in preparing gluten-free meals.
gluten-free recipes for the conscious cook:
A Seasonal, Vegetarian Cookbook
By Leslie Cerier
New Harbinger Publications, 2010
Does an author who writes a gluten-free cookbook have to be someone suffering from celiac disease or who has a gluten intolerance? In the case of Leslie Cerier, the answer is a loud "No!"
Cerier, author of gluten-free recipes for the conscious cook, admits she does not follow a gluten-free diet herself, but says, "Over twenty years ago, when I heard that teff, quinoa, and brown rice, to name just a few gluten-free grains, were highly nutritious, I was eager to try them, and I've never looked back."
As Cerier explains, having a variety of grains in the diet can be beneficial to health. There are health advocates who believe that some wheat intolerances arise from eating too much of that grain.
The opening chapter provides an introduction to the gluten-free grains with sections on amaranth, buckwheat, corn, millet, oats, quinoa, rice, sorghum, teff, and wild rice. Also included here are coconut flour and oil as well as nut and seed meals and butters.
After reading about, and choosing the safe grains, the home cook can find detailed instructions on how to prepare them, especially with the chart that indicates the amount of water and cooking time. Instructions are provided for toasting, sautéing, soaking, and baking. Those with rice cookers, pressure cookers, and even solar cookers receive special tips here.
Beginning with Chapter 3, "bountiful breakfast," Cerier presents over 100 recipes that can be enjoyed by anyone wanting to eat gluten-free. To start the day, there's Teff Porridge with Cinnamon and Dates, Banana-Cranberry Smoothie, or Oat and Raisin Muffins, Unfortunately, for vegans 40% of the recipes in this chapter have eggs. These include muffins, pancakes, and waffles.
"main course sensations" offers a variety of mouthwatering vegan creations that include Soba with Tempeh and Broccoli in Coconut Sauce, Teff Loaf with Red Peppers and African Spices, Sweet Potato and Black Bean Chili with Tomatillos, and South American Quinoa Stew.
Those desiring to entertain friends can delve into the chapter labeled "sushi party." Beginning with the preparation of three possible types of rice (short grain brown, black forbidden, or Bhutanese red), the author provides numerous suggestions for inclusion in sushi rolls. Some enticements are Nori Rolls with Gingered Tofu, Gingered Tempeh and Shiitakes, and Naturally Fermented Pickled Vegetables. All are vegan.
One of the largest sections of the book is "super sides" that features more than two-dozen all-vegan recipes. Beginning with the Aztec Two-Step, this chapter includes exotic dishes like Madagascar Pink Rice with Cashews and Scallions, Sorghum with Summer Squash and Red Bell Peppers, Kasha Varnishkes, and Basmati Soup with Indian Spices.
"savory sauces and tempting toppings" provides suggestions for salad dressings, sauces, and pestos. This chapter suggests some common varieties of gluten-free pastas as well as devoting a full page to Great Garnishes. Topping off the chapter is a recipe for Fried Dulse, a sea vegetable.
And then there's dessert, or as labeled by Cerier, "sweet indulgences." The author says there's no need to give up desserts, especially baked items, when following a gluten-free diet. Featured are cookies, pies, cakes, crisps, and pudding. Some of the baked items include eggs or honey.
Sidebars, charts, and shaded gray boxes for recipe "Variations " are distinguishing design features of the book. Recipes are presented in a unique style with ingredients and instructions shown side by side. The volume concludes with a "glossary of ingredients" and "resources."
For people who strive for ultimate gluten-free safety, the best option is to prepare food themselves. Those who want to eliminate gluten from their lives and are vegetarian will find gluten-free recipes for the conscious cook an excellent basic introduction to this style of cooking. Leslie Cerier presents a variety of creative recipes to introduce readers to a whole variety of grains other than wheat, rye, and barley. Although the recipes use some grains unfamiliar to many, these gluten-free substitutes appear in tasty and exotic creations that are quite easy to prepare. One disappointment was that more vegan variations are not offered in the breakfast and dessert recipe sections.