Thursday, June 4, 2015

Bob's Red Mill Everyday Gluten-Free Cookbook: 281 Delicious Whole-Grain Recipes

Bob's Red Mill Everyday Gluten-Free Cookbook: 281 Delicious Whole-Grain Recipes
Publisher:  (2015)

Muffins. Cookies. Waffles. Burgers. All fundamental parts of day to day Western eating, and all packed chock full of the latest nutritional “baddie” – gluten. While the protein, found  in wheat, barley, spelt, rye, Kamut and triticale, is no danger to most people, for the 1% of the worldwide population living with celiac disease that pesky little molecule becomes a big, life-altering problem. Thankfully, the increased (if misguided) popularity of gluten free diets has opened up a whole world of whole grain flavour and nutrition, and companies like Bob’s Red Mill are doing their part to bring naturally gluten-free grains and pseudograins safely to the table. Their latest endeavour is a cookbook full of healthy, hearty fare, all written by Camilla V. Saulsbury of the blog Power Hungry: Bob's Red Mill Everyday Gluten-Free Cookbook: 281 Delicious Whole-Grain Recipes.

Everyday Gluten-Free focuses on giving readers the opportunity to enjoy great-tasting, satisfying and nutritious meals and snacks without relying on overprocessed stand-ins for bread and pasta. Noodles, in fact, are completely absent from the pages of Everyday Gluten-Free, and with the exception of two burgers, store-bought bread products are eschewed as well. Saulsbury relies instead on the array of gluten-free whole grains and whole grain flours Bob’s Red Mill offers to create treats like Olive Oil Cake with Cherries and Dark Chocolate Chunks (p. 304), Mushroom Quiche with Teff Crust (p. 202) and even French Crepes (p. 56). Most of these, especially the ones involving baked goods or batters, use Bob’s Red Mill’s signature packaged  “all purpose flour” blend – however, a quick websearch will point you to any number of satisfactory flour combinations you can make at home and keep in stock (personally, I recommend these two).  

Something I particularly like about Everyday Gluten-Free is that the recipes are not only celiac-friendly but generally nutritious as well. While I wouldn’t suggest cooking a brand new recipe from the book in the middle of a hectic weeknight – learning some of the more unusual ingredients, methods and spices is a task more suitable for a lazy weekend – once you find a few favourites  dinner can be just as fast as “regular” meals. An extra bonus is that the book’s recipes tend to contain more fibre and whole foods than the Standard American Diet, so you can have your meal and eat it too! This book is not a vegetarian tome, but there is a sizeable chapter of Meatless Main Dishes (p. 179) is included and many other chapters feature a majority of vegetarian items as well. I even had success with converting a few baking recipes in Everyday Gluten-Free to vegan or eggless goodies, making the goods safe for the other food allergies in my taste-tester group.

Like most other books published by Robert Rose, Everyday Gluten-Free has limited photography. The photos that are present in the book are curated into four “blocks”, which are worth a perusal on their own. While not every recipe is photographed, Colin Erricson manages to cram enough mouth-watering images into such a restricted space that it tempts the reader into trying the others as well. After spotting the Chorizo, Kale and Teff Soup (p. 118) mug (bowl?) shot, I was inspired to cook up a few batches of soup myself. 

Bob's Red Mill Split Pea Soup
Split Pea Soup with Chia Chutney (p. 103)

I was pleasantly surprised by the flavour and texture of Saulsbury’s take on Split Pea Soup with Chia Chutney (p. 103) – split pea soup is a favourite around here and the zippy elements of lime, ginger and cilantro elevated it to another plane. Since transport and easy enjoyment of these soups was the name of the game for us (who took Thermoses to work), I swirled the elements of the Chia Chutney into the whole pot at the end, adding an extra layer of oomph in every spoonful. I also used some pre-roasted and frozen beets from last year’s garden to whip up the Amaranth Beet Soup (p. 83) with some flair of my own – blood orange juice and shawarma spices. While these recipes were delicious, what was strongly lacking in both was salt. Most of the recipes in Everyday Gluten-Free lack this ingredient, which is a disservice to the flavour potential the whole grains, legumes and produce offer. I’m not asking for heaps of sodium chloride, but a hefty pinch of Kosher salt really turned the soups I made from vegetable water into a hearty, flavourful meal. The other issue I found with the savoury dishes, at least, was with the stated yields – the soup recipes created 10-12 respectable main course servings, rather than the 6 Saulsbury documents. Luckily, we are a family who enjoys leftovers, but if your household is more into one-shot cooking, keep the scaling of recipes in mind!

Beet and Amaranth Soup
Amaranth Beet Soup (my version)(p. 83)

Everyday Gluten-Free is somewhat more than a run-of-the-mill cookbook, even a gluten free one. The introduction is a hefty 32 page exploration of gluten-free grains, including their history, flavour, cooking techniques and nutrition, as well as a section on fleshing out the pantry with staple goods and even measuring ingredients properly. For those who already follow a gluten-free diet due to celiac or gluten intolerance, this read is mostly review. However, for those just jumping on the gluten free trend or  who simply want to cook with more whole grains, it is a fabulous beginner’s resource. What I particularly liked was that the author gave a few different methods of cooking the grains, and included important ingredients for any healthy pantry such as legumes, nuts and seeds.

There are so many tempting treats in Bob's Red Mill Everyday Gluten-Free Cookbook: 281 Delicious Whole-Grain Recipes that it is hard to pick a single favourite. Moreso, this book is a fantastic point of inspiration and basic methodology for readers to develop their own spins on old favourites. Who knows, the language of delicious, nutritious whole foods may just become your (gluten free) bread and butter!