We have all heard about the importance of grains in our diet. But what about when you’re following a gluten free diet? Many of the classic grains are out of reach for us, such as wheat, barley, and mainstream oats. However, there is a whole realm out there of lesser known grains that pack a healthy punch. The Complete Gluten-Free Whole Grains Cookbook- 125 Delicious Recipes from Amaranth to Quinoa to Wild Rice by Judith Finlayson not only informs us about them, but teaches us how to prepare them with many tasty recipes.
Hot off the presses, I was asked to be one of the first to review this cookbook. I have to be honest, I was a bit skeptical at first when I saw the number of obscure ingredients needed for many of the recipes. This is one of my pet peeves that I see as a downfall in many of the gluten-free cookbooks unfortunately. It’s a double edged sword. We want the consistency of the product to taste like normal baked goods and products that contain gluten, however, it usually takes multiple flours and xanthan gum to recreate that texture. This particular cookbook not only asked for multiple flours in baked goods, but also in many of the other recipes as well. This is a criticism I do have to make against Finlayson. I feel she has to consider what audience she is in fact targeting. If she is targeting people who cook daily for their families, she has to remember that many of them want their dishes to be fast and easy. They do not want to have to go out and buy multiple types of flours, use a half cup or two or each, and then have them all open and waiting to fall over and make a mess in their pantry. However, if she is targeting people who enjoy cooking and who will in fact return and use the multiple bags of flour in the pantry on a regular basis, itt could be a different story.
Once I actually did go out and hunt down these ingredients in Whole Foods, I settled in for a weekend of cooking. I had a few events where I had to bring food, so I had a few willing volunteer taste testers at my disposal. I began with making the Cranberry Pecan Oatmeal cookies for a Cinco de Mayo Happy Hour my friend was hosting. Made with cranberries, pecans, coconut, oatmeal and a mixture of flours, it took a little time to prepare, but my taste testers said the product was worth it. I had to agree as well; it was a moist and delicious cookie. The texture was slightly grainy, but I think that was from the coconut shavings rather than the gluten-free flours. Overall, the cookies were a definite success.
Saturday I decided to prepare the Roasted Red Pepper Risotto for dinner. Substituting brown rice for the usual Arborio rice, it did cook much faster and was healthier. However, my husband and I were not completely sold on the finished product. It just didn’t have the same risotto texture or oomph of flavor.
Sunday I had another Cinco de Mayo party, this time I prepared the Zucchini Fritters and the Oatmeal Shortbread cookies. My willing taste testers all declared that the shortbread cookies were a definite hit. In fact, they all said that they wouldn’t even be able to tell they were gluten-free if I hadn’t told them. They had the same texture and flavor as real shortbread cookies. The Zucchini Fritters were more of a split decision. Although, everyone liked them, the recipe called for a good amount of dill and that herbal flavor really came through. So personal preference was an issue here. The final verdict was that the fritters would have been better if a little less dill had been used.
Today I prepared the Cranberry Millet salad for lunch. I really enjoyed this salad. Although millet is not a grain I am accustomed to, the flavors in the dressing are refreshing and the millet has a nice texture.
Overall, I think that Finalyson is on to something here. If you are willing to step out of your comfort zone, try some new textures, and do some experimenting with different flours, this is a great cookbook to try.