Friday, January 11, 2013

Artisanal Gluten Free Cooking

Artisanal Gluten Free Cooking
Publisher: The Experiment (2012)

Artisanal Gluten-Free CookingIf you need to be on a gluten free diet, no doubt you’ve faced the temptation (or frustration) of confronting restaurant menus, grocery stores and celebrity chefs proudly declaring the joy of experiencing and selling artisanal food. From crusty, rustic loaves of sourdough to rough, bronze-die cut pasta cloaked in delicate sauce, crunchy grain filled crackers and blistered, brick oven pizzas, it seems that the label “artisan” is akin to “dough” – and a hearty, wheat-filled dough at that. However, artisanal simply means “made by an artisan” – that is, a master of their craft – and a myriad of delicacies can be made with integrity and passion, without a drop of gluten. Kelli and Peter Bronski have dedicated their lives to the art and science of gluten free cooking, and their second edition of Artisanal Gluten Free Cooking is clearly evidence of their passion.

With 275 recipes created from scratch, Artisanal definitely aims to bring the love of food and cooking back to the kitchens of those with celiac disease. While newbies to the lifestyle (especially those trying to cook for friends and loved ones) often see the diet as complex and difficult, the Bronskis detail supermarket tips, product recommendations, and gluten-free resources that ease the journey. Coupled with a signature gluten free flour blend that is a breeze to make in mass quantities, the family-friendly collection will help keep costs down and flavours up when compared to most store-bought specialty meals. Mindful of the other dietary restrictions that often accompany celiac disease, the omnivorous Artisanal includes Vegetarian Options (p. 317) and Useful Substitutions (p.321) sections as well.

Gluten Free Speculaas
Speculaas Cookies (p. 247)
Artisanal’s recipes span every meal, sweet and snacktime yearning the reader could ask for – from fluffy Belgian Waffles (p.22) at breakfast to Gnocchi (p.148) and Margherita Empanadas (p. 135) for dinner. Desserts and drinks aren’t excluded either – even Pie Dough (p. 265) gets the gluten free makeover. The recipes are fairly simple to put together, but items like the Pizza Dough (p.140) and the Tortellini (p. 156) are a bit of a process (but then again, gluten-filled versions of either recipe are too).  Thankfully, the recipes that take longer to prepare can be refrigerated or frozen for later enjoyment, so a quick pasta dinner is still an option. Artisan does have many quick and simple meal options as well, and the recipes channel cuisine from all over the globe. The results are consistently delicious and are almost indecipherable from “normal” home cooked meals, because that’s exactly what the recipes are –food made at home, with love.

One thing I noticed in Artisan which seems to be a running theme with many allergy-free cookbooks is the inclusion of recipes that were always gluten free, or so simple that I didn’t even know a recipe was needed to prepare them. While I appreciate their attempt to be like every other cookbook in it’s “normalcy” by including items like German Potato Salad (p. 108), the bulk of the “Sides” chapter is made of items like Grilled Asparagus (p. 112), Applesauce (p. 116) and various plain rice-cooking how-tos, and neither Pan-Seared Scallops (p. 168) nor Steamed Lobster (p. 170) are “recipes” per se, more techniques one could easily look up in any Joy of Cooking-esque book or learn via Google. I also wish there was more photography throughout the book, as the stigma of gluten free food as “boring” and “bland” is eradicated by the stunning photos already within the work’s pages.

Gluten Free Peanut Butter Cup Cookies
Chocolate Chip Cookies (p. 238)
That said, the recipes (rather than techniques) in this book are worth their weight in gold when it comes to their flavour. The Brussels Sprouts and Tofu Fried Rice (p. 183) was delicious, especially with a dash more chili sauce – and was a great way to re-discover the vegetable. Both the Chocolate Chip Cookies (p. 238) and Speculaas Cookies (p. 247) were huge hits over the holiday season, and I even added the twist of chopped peanut butter cups to the chocolate chippers for one batch. Bear in mind that Artisan is not a “diet food” cookbook – butter, sugar, eggs, chocolate and cream are all used throughout, but considering the majority of those with celiac disease have trouble keeping weight on I’m sure this was  not an absentminded choice by the Bronskis.

If you are faced with the situation of cooking gluten-free, whether for your own health or the health of a loved one, there is no sense in sacrificing the foods you love to eat. Artisanal Gluten Free Cooking proves that easy, weeknight meals as well as those for special occasions are not only possible, but delicious. It is a wonderful way to bring everyone to the dinner table regardless of restrictions in a manner that doesn’t alienate the afflicted diners, and I applaud Kelli and Peter Bronski for this welcome contribution to my collection.

Available on Amazon

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