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Friday, February 20, 2015

Book Review: Bob's Red Mill Everyday Gluten-Free Cookbook

As you might've guessed, I don't have a problem with gluten, but I know people who do. At some point "gluten free" became a diet trend, with some people unnecessarily avoiding gluten, but there are certainly people who legitimately need to avoid gluten in their diets.
So I was curious to take a look at Bob's Red Mill Everyday Gluten-Free Cookbook, from Robert Rose Publishing. While the title is a bit cumbersome, the name itself gave me some confidence, as Bob's Red Mill is a brand I've come to trust in my own baking, especially for typically hard-to-find grains. 
Logically enough, the book pretty much presumes that the reader wants to pursue a gluten-free diet, or at least to cut back on gluten. Other than a brief mention in the preface about how "[m]ore people than ever before are seeking ways to cut back on gluten or completely eliminate it from their diet," there's scant mention of whether or why you should do so.
But this is a cookbook, after all, not a treatise on the role of gluten in one's diet. And as a cookbook, it succeeds admirably.
The book starts with a primer on various gluten-free grains, such as amaranth, millet and quinoa, with some basic information on their origins, uses and cooking methods. That's followed by a rundown of items that should be in every gluten-free pantry (which for the most part aren't much different from what should be in any other pantry), and from there it's on to the recipes.
These are arranged thematically: "Breakfasts," "Soups, Stews and Chilis," "Salads and Sides," "Meatless Main Dishes," "Seafood, Poultry and Meat Main Dishes," "Breads, Muffins and Snacks," and "Desserts." The recipes are clearly laid out, and mostly pretty simple, with an average of three or four steps.
Surprisingly, there wasn't much here in the way of pizza, other than a "pizza quinoa casserole," which sounded good, if not particularly pizzalike.  I ended up more interested in some of the regional and ethnic dishes, like the Chinese-inspired pork, bok choy and millet hot pot, the Persian-spiced lentils and millet, and the Ethiopian injera (flatbread), which I've tried making before, rather unsuccessfully. It may be time to give it another go.
Not all of the 281 recipes are illustrated, but many are, with beautiful, full-page, full-color photographs. The index is comprehensive, which is helpful if you can't remember whether a particular dish was classified as a "side" or a "snack." And despite the name, the book is not one big ad for Bob's Red Mill; you won't find recipes calling for brand-specific products, and pretty much everything listed can be obtained at a good supermarket or natural foods store.
Health issues aside, I've enjoyed adding new grains to my diet and my cooking. Some of them are quite tasty, and as far as I'm concerned, the more variety the better. So while I don't see myself cutting back much on gluten, I'm looking forward to trying a number of the recipes in this book. But if you or a loved one are serious about avoiding gluten, for whatever reason, this volume would make a worthy addition to a kitchen bookshelf.

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