Books for Gluten-Free Cooks
I’ve been having fun reading and cooking from a few new cookbooks this fall. Although they aren’t specifically gluten-free, every one has plenty of recipes for the gluten-free cook, and every one would make a great gift for yourself, a gluten-free friend, or any friend who loves to cook. And that is the point. The recipes in these books, like on this blog, produce fresh, naturally gluten-free food. No one should say “Oh that’s good for a gluten-free dish,” instead the criterion is that this is delicious food! For anyone!
With the exception of one of these books, they are written by food pros I know, mostly from my years as food editor at Bon Appetit magazine, so I was already familiar with the high quality of the recipes they create. Oh yes, one is my new book, Gluten-Free Baking
, which will be available any day now.
I took a long sabbatical from this blog to write a baking book, and it will be available by December 23. It can preordered now on Amazon.com
and Barns & Noble.com
, and should be in book stores by then too (just barely in time for the holidays). Hopefully it will show up a little earlier in Williams-Sonoma stores.
I am not fond of most of the baked goods in stores or the recipes for goodies I find in books and magazines. They are all packed with nutritionally empty white starches that give an off flavor and dry texture. I preferred to go without, for a while. Eventually I started craving artisanal style gluten-free breads and homemade cookies. So I decided to create my own recipes using whole grain gluten-free flours and naturally gluten-free techniques. I am thrilled with the flavors and textures of the recipes I created, and hope you will be too.
The book is filled with recipes for everyday and special occasions: morning treats, cookies, cakes, pies and tarts, pudding and custards, other desserts, and breads too. Here are a few that you might want to bake over the holiday season. For a holiday brunch: a not-too-sweet breakfast Cinnamon Crumb Cake, Cornmeal-Pecan Muffins, Chocolate Chip-Ginger Scones, or Sweet Pepper-Manchego Quiche. For Santa, drop in guests and afternoon snacks: Fudgy Ginger-Nut Meringues, Chocolate-Chip Oatmeal Cookies, or Almond-Ginger Crisps. To end Christmas dinner: Chocolate-Cherry Torte. To bring in the New Year: Caramel-Nut Tartlets. To end any wintry dinner: Apple Crumble Pie, comforting Salted Caramel Pots de Crème, or Chai-Spiced Flans. And fabulous breads to have on hand over the vacation: Whole Grain-Walnut Bread or Seeded Irish Soda Bread.
Flavor Flours, by Alice Medrich
Alice is best known for her stellar dessert cookbooks, and her chocolate shops, Cocolat. I assigned Alice many stories for Bon Appetit because the readers and editors all loved her gorgeous and indulgent recipes. In Flavor Flours, she explores the unique flavors and textures gluten-free flours can bring to baking, if handled correctly, and she handles them superbly. The recipes are sophisticated, and a big step above most gluten-free baked goods I have sampled before. You’ll find lots of elegant goodies, including cakes, tarts, soufflés, biscuits, scones, cookies, and more.
When the book arrived, I hungrily read it from cover to cover, and learned something new on almost every page. With my preference for whole grains, I steered clear of the recipes featuring white rice flour. Today I baked 3 of her cookie recipes, each using a different grain, and no one would ever guess these treats are gluten free. Classic Ginger Cookies, which use oat flour and lots of crystallized ginger, are easy to put together, and showcase festive holiday flavors. Nutmeg Shortbreads, made with sorghum flour, have perfect sandy shortbread texture. Directions say to wait a day before serving, but they smelled divine when I pulled them from the oven, and I can’t believe they will be even better tomorrow. I am enthralled with buckwheat flour and was delighted to find a chapter devoted to baking with this hearty, earthy, almost nutty tasting grain. Buckwheat Sables rely on buckwheat as the only flavor ingredient, and they are ideal melt-in-your-mouth cookies to serve with tea of a cup of coffee.
There are many more recipes I want to try, but here are a few I plan on making soon: Apricot Walnut Rugelach (my grandmother’s rugelach were a favorite childhood treat, and now a g-f recipe I am confident I will love); Nutty Thumbprint Cookies; Golden Corn Cake; Lemon Tart with corn flour crust; Buckwheat Gingerbread; Date-Nut Cake with Cherries and Buckwheat; Panforte Nero (probably this weekend); Chestnut Jam Tart; Sorghum Pecan Tart.
Rick was a frequent contributor to Bon Appetit, and when we tested his recipes, editors always lined up to taste his creative, comforting food. Rick is also the author of numerous excellent cookbooks. His latest could be called the Side Dish Bible, because it offers over 450 great recipes for almost every type of side dish you can think of, the majority are quite easy, and many are naturally free of gluten. The book is packed with helpful information about the ingredients, suggests main courses to match with each recipe, and lists the occasions for which each is most appropriate—holiday feasts, company fare, buffet dish, family favorite, weeknight supper, etc.
It took less than 10 minutes to prep the spectacular Whole Roasted Cauliflower with Za’Atar Crust, just as the recipe headnote says. After baking for 50 minutes, the golden brown-crusted head of cauliflower looked dramatic, and its complex Middle Eastern flavors complimented the chicken I roasted at the same time. Chipotle Black Bean Cakes also took about 10 minutes to mix up and form. The book suggests serving them with roasts, steaks or chops, but I set the tender, smoky cakes atop an arugula salad for a satisfying lunch.
I have many more recipes marked with post-it notes. Up next are Carrots with Pomegranate Glaze, or Roasted Fennel with Parmesan Crust and Lemon, or maybe Sweet and Smoky Acorn Squash, or how can I resist Baked Sweet Potatoes with Ginger-Lime Butter. Rick tells me I must make the Brazilian Cheese Rolls, which he describes as “Made from gluten-free tapioca flour, these crusty rolls have a moist, chewy interior and are a Brazilian classic.”
Laura, who follows a gluten-free diet, is a cookbook author and writes about food for many publications. We met early this year at Living Without’s Gluten-Free Fest, where we were both speakers. Knowing that kale, broccoli, cauliflower and all the other brassica (also known as cruciferous) vegetables contain more vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals than most other foods, I thought maybe Laura’s new book would offer recipes that would tempt my husband Steve to eat more greens. And it does. Although the book is not marketed as gluten free, all the recipes are free from gluten.
Kale and Sweet Potato Sauté was a gamble because it features two of Steve’s least favorite ingredients. With the chili powder and cumin seasonings and cooking technique that turned the sweet potatoes crispy on the outside and tender inside and the delicate ribbons of kale tender but not the least bit bitter, this recipe won over Steve. It was a great accompaniment to Alaskan salmon. The next day, per Laura’s suggestion, I topped the leftovers with fried eggs for a fabulous breakfast hash. The photo of Roasted Cabbage Wedges with Lemon-Thyme Vinaigrette looked so tempting with the crisply browned large hunks of cabbage, I was eager to make it. The cabbage was sweet and delicate straight from the oven, and irresistible when drizzled with the tangy dressing and sprinkled with walnuts and blue cheese (embellishments suggested in the book- actually Laura recommended feta or soft goat cheese, but I was craving blue cheese and it was great).
Recipes I am looking forward to trying: Spicy Kale Fried Rice; Indian Potato and Cauliflower Curry; Colcannon with Brussels Sprout Leaves; Broccoli and Pepper Jack Frittata; Broccoli Rabe with Romesco Sauce (the sauce is made without the usual bread thickener); Moroccan Turnip and Chickpea Braise.
I feel as though I know Yotam Ottolenghi because I’ve spent many inspiring hours devouring and cooking from his three previous cookbooks, but we haven’t actually met. Plenty More is this Israeli born, London chef's second book devoted to “vibrant vegetable cooking." The photos are of gorgeous food, and the ideas are fresh. The entire book is not gluten-free, but there are enough g-f offerings to keep any gluten-free cook making exciting food for a very long time.
When the book arrived, I wanted to get cooking right away, so I found a recipe that used ingredients I had on hand: Urad Dal (black lentil) with Coconut and Cilantro. I didn’t actually have black lentils, so I used the lentils in my cupboard, cooking the dish a little longer to compensate for the larger sized bean. This Pakistani inspired recipe is fragrant with fresh ginger, garam masala, lime, and mustard and has a most satisfying texture. Steve’s son Ethan is always starved when he walks in our door for a visit, and I try to have something ready for his nonstop pre-dinner munching, otherwise he will hit all the cookie tins or whatever else I have planned for dessert before we sit down to eat. Squash with Chile Yogurt and Cilantro Sauce was just right. It is as colorful as it is packed with exploding good tastes, and very easy to put together.
Coming to my table soon: Lentils, Radicchio, and Walnuts with Honey; Squash with Cardamom and Nigella Seeds; Polenta Chips with Avocado and Yogurt or Smoky Polenta Fries; Root Mash with Wine-Braised Shallots; for our Christmas eve open house: Membrillo (quince paste, available at Whole Foods and many cheese shops) and Stilton Quiche (made with my Basic G-F Pie and Tart Crust (link to my book); Spicy Scrambled Eggs. And I have tons of ideas for food I want to create, inspired by this book, so expect to see a few recipes influenced by Plenty More.