by Paris Finley
Yes, as I expected, “Gluten-Free Recipes for the Conscious Cook” is a contribution to the cook’s reference library for those who are gluten sensitive or have a family member who cannot eat wheat. And, yes, it’s also a terrific introduction to the many other grains available to those who are interested shaking up their habitual dependence upon wheat flour.
But first and foremost, it’s a fine cookbook. I found it full of great recipes for tasty meals that make the body feel good. Leslie Cerier, the author, is a teacher, too, and that means that she explains things so that we’ll not only learn but learn to appreciate. (Be sure to see the section on cooking with color!)
I like eating, I confess, so a cookbook is not a hard sell. That said, I’m fussy about my cookbooks. The print has to be easy to read. (It is.) The pages have to lie flat easily. (They don’t. I put a piece of glass over the book–which is probably a good idea if you don’t want your copy to look like all of my cookbooks, as if illustrated by an abstract water-colorist whose favorite color is coffee-stain brown.) The book has to be organized well. (It is, with sections on breakfast — my favorite meal — desserts, soups, salads and entrees.) I also like a cookbook that is international without being impossible (shopping for ingredients should not be a scavenger hunt). Leslie’s book meets that criteria nicely.
“What about the recipes?” you ask. I thought you’d never.
I started by making the Banana Pancakes with Cinnamon; they were OK but seemed oddly chewy. That’s something that I should have expected — different grains have a different “tooth” and feel different in the mouth. After two bites, I was used to it. Please pass the syrup.
I made a batch of the Garlic Peanut Soup; of the four who tried it, three loved it and one person didn’t; unfortunately, that was me. I love peanut and I love garlic, but I didn’t care for the combo. That said, there wasn’t any left in the pot by the other three.
Granny Smith Apple Pie. Yowza, that’s really good. It’s the kind of dessert that makes you want to cook another right away. And eat another one right away. Also inviting are Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie, Topless Blueberry Pie, and I remember something about hazelnut and cookies that I’ll be trying.
The book has many sauce recipes, as well. Moroccan Tahini Sauce looks perfect as a topping for wraps with a variety of ingredients. Then there’s my personal favorite, Thai Peanut Sauce.
Entrees run the course from Roasted Vegetable and Quinoa Casserole to Coconut Curry Lentil and Millet Stew. Add a side of Spiced Yams with Pecans.
Leslie Cerier, who specializes in whole foods and organic cuisine, has more than 20 years’ experience. She is a national authority on gluten-free cooking and baking; teaches vegetarian cooking nationwide, and is the author of five cookbooks: among them, “Going Wild in the Kitchen,” “The Quick and Easy Organic Gourmet.” Leslie Cerier is a chef, educator, environmentalist, photographer, and recipe developer.