Wednesday, September 15, 2010

gluten-free girl and the chef

I often say that being SIMPLY gluten free would be so easy. My child and I have a long list of food sensitivities that can make meal planning and cooking feel like a chore.

As I read gluten-free girl and the chef, a love story with 100 tempting recipes, I realize that being SIMPLY gluten-free would be fun, too. The Aherns remind me that food is supposed to be fun, something to enjoy, not a chore to dread. Shauna and Daniel Ahern are an inspiration.

gluten-free girl and the chef, a love story with 100 tempting recipes is, as the title reveals, part cookbook, part love story, and Shauna Ahern tells us that it is meant to be read cover-to-cover, from beginning to end. It's more than a cookbook and a love story; it's an education, too, with real how-to tips and instructions about cooking basics.

I read it cover to cover yesterday and today. What a fun book!

I first "met" Shauna at the library, when her book, gluten-free girl: How I Found the Food That Loves Me Back...And How You Can Too caught my eye. I brought it home and read it cover to cover. Shauna James Ahern weaves a wonderful story. I found Shauna's blog. I anticipated the new cookbook would be wonderful. (I think it is!)

Back to gluten-free girl and the chef: Their story, their love story, is hard to put down. Shauna and Daniel's closeness is something I envy. I enjoy the glimpse inside a restaurant kitchen, the peek into how a chef thinks. The images they describe, and some of the language, is quite colorful. (They occasionally use words and phrases that I don't use; particularly in descriptions of conversations in restaurant kitchens. There was a comment about the colorful language on an Amazon review; while I don't use language like that, it wouldn't stop me from buying a cookbook.) Their descriptions make me want to visit the Pacific Northwest again. I visited Seattle a couple of times (years ago); I've been inside some of the very places described vividly in the book; the authors' detail helps me picture them in my mind.

(I think Food Network should create a reality-tv show that chronicles the days of this family. I'd tune in.)

The Aherns, apparently, think about food the way I think about autism, all the time, or a majority of the time. And they cook and write about it, deliciously. (I can't believe they don't each weigh 400 pounds. They must have some big self-control when it comes to portion sizes.)

They inspire me, revitalize my desire to try to find new recipes, new foods, that fit our food sensitivities, that we can enjoy together. They remind me what food and cooking are all about. They remind me to eat as locally as possible and cook seasonally, which is healthier and supports local farmers. I have the urge to get to the farmers market more often.

This cookbook is beautiful. The photos make my mouth water. I'm all over the place. One minute, I am intimidated by some of the recipes. Next, I want to make several of them right now. Flatbread crackers (and that pizza on the cover). Asian pear tart. Waffles. Crusty Bread That Even Those Who Eat Gluten Might Like. Halibut with Millet, Carrot-Fennel Salad, and Golden Raisin Sauce. And, the Bacon-Wrapped Pork Belly (probably the most unhealthy thing in the world, but oooooooooh, it sounds so good!). And I want to have a bacon party. The Aherns have a long list of recipes on the blog if you'd like to peek at some of the recipes they make at home. This video and this one demonstrate a couple of the recipes in the book. (Chef makes everything look easy.)

To my readers who, like me, are more than simply gluten free: gluten-free girl and the chef is a gluten-free cookbook. Not allergen free. I use gluten free cookbooks as a starting point and improvise from there, based on our sensitivities. They sometimes use foods I can't use (cheese, milk, cream, milk powder, eggs, almond flour, nuts, shellfish, and no, we cannot simply substitute goat's milk for the cow's milk), some I rotate in our weeks. Some of the ingredients that are off limits at my house, I can omit or substitute; some I cannot. Still, there are quite a few recipes I can try, as is. And they give me a baking tip that is new to me: When I substitute a gf flour for a gf flour in a recipe, I need to match the weight in ounces, not the amount by cup or fraction of a cup. What an a-ha moment for me. They include weights in the ingredient lists of recipes in this cookbook.

There's a good mix of recipes in the cookbook. It's not just a baking cookbook or just entrees or just desserts. gluten-free girl and the chef includes a little bit of everything. Some of the recipes I think are too fancy for everyday (I suspect the authors would disagree with me). Maybe that's because I feel intimidated by the techniques and length of the ingredient lists on the ones that I consider "fancy". Whether you're cooking for a dinner party, for a pot luck, or for the family at home, the Aherns have something for you.

They have me wishing for some cooking classes and a new (gourmet) kitchen. One reason I'm reluctant to broaden my horizons in the kitchen is because prep and clean-up seem to take forever, and I have a small counter space on which to work. I am not experienced at searing and braising. If I were more practiced at chopping and didn't have to stop to read how-to directions when using a new technique, if I could just go into the kitchen and cook and not think about it, I'd do it more. There's only one fix for that: get in the kitchen and practice more.

One of the first things I did when I received my review copy was look for the pizza recipe inside. Pizza is pictured on the book jacket, but I couldn't locate the recipe inside. I headed over to Gluten-free Girl's facebook page to ask about it, and found I was not the first to ask that question. I'm told that FRIDAY, the gluten-free girl and the chef will do a blog post and video about making the pizza from the flatbread cracker recipe in the cookbook.

(I'm confused by information about making waffles.
According to the side bar on page 86, variations:"Play with other whole grain flours for this mix...""...but keep the potato starch and the sweet rice flour so the mix will be light."... I don't see potato starch or sweet rice flour in the original recipe list of ingredients. Is there supposed to be potato starch and sweet rice flour in the original recipe? I'm not sure. Waffle recipe is HERE.)

For those of you who are like me and often start at the back of the book, the index is available online, along with the TOC. The table of contents is here and the index is here. And a video featuring the authors is here.

Thank you, Shauna and Daniel Ahern, for reviving my desire to bring the family together with food as the glue, for encouraging me to keep trying new things, looking for new recipes that fit our situation! The cookbook is a jewel and I treasure it.
Wiley sent me a complimentary copy of this cookbook so that I could review it on my blog. I am not financially compensated for reviews and am not obligated to provide a positive review.

1 comment:

Melissa said...

Penny - Hope over to my blog and contact won the RS giveaway! :o)

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