Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Cookbook Review: The Big Book of Gluten-Free Recipes

Posted By on Tue, Jun 18, 2013 at 7:41 AM

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This week’s edition of Cooking the Books has another specialty diet book crossing my desk. The Big Book of Gluten-Free Recipes by Kimberly Tessmer is exactly that, too. It’s probably the most apt and direct book title I’ve seen in quite some time. Weighing in somewhere around 4 pounds, I think, it’s got more than 500 recipes crammed inside. There’s a short introductory chapter and then right into the recipes.

In that first chapter, Tessmer, a registered dietitian, gives a brief overview of what gluten-free is and why people are choosing the diet. Like anyone’s diet, the author notes that a gluten-free diet isn’t automatically healthy. Plenty of unhealthy foods are gluten-free, and the key to a healthy diet is balance and nutrition. Tessmer notes that many people get their fiber from wheat products, so people who eat a gluten-free diet need to ensure they eat enough fresh fruits, vegetables, legumes and other GF foods that are high in fiber.

The next 14 chapters helpfully divide the recipes up among meal type, and among the entrees, by protein/vegetarian. So there are plenty of recipes to make the book worthwhile, despite any dietary restriction other than gluten.

To get the most out of the book, however, you need to already have a base knowledge of the most popular gluten-free specialty ingredients. The one glaring omission of the book (in my opinion) was the lack of a section on properly stocking a gluten-free pantry. For example, as I was perusing the book (back to front, as I usually do), the recipe for Orange Cornmeal Cookies caught my eye, but the required ingredients included corn flour and xanthan gum, so I skipped it. I have been meaning to get some xanthan gum for other recipes, but what am I gonna do with a bag of corn flour? But as I was looking further (Vegetable Lasagna Primavera), I noticed that corn flour on the ingredient list had masa harina next to it in parentheses. Oh. I do have that!

Overall, I think this would be a great book for anyone who’s looking to get more creative with their gluten-free cooking. All of us can get in a rut, so it’s nice to have some inspiration. And in this huge volume of recipes, there’s plenty.

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