If you have spent any time on my blog you are probably wondering what I am doing reviewing a gluten-free cookbook; after all, you will find plenty of pasta, bread, cakes and cookies on here. Since I have a few friends who must eat gluten-free and I am always interested in learning about cooking for different dietary needs, I jumped at the chance to review the Gluten Free Every Day Cookbook by Robert M. Landolphi. Landolphini is a gluten-free chef and a graduate of the prestigious Johnson and Wales University culinary school. He began experimenting and perfecting his gluten-free cooking after his wife was diagnosed with celiac disease, because he wanted to give her back some of the foods and flavors she was missing. The cookbook is filled with over 100 recipes for every part of the meal from soups to side dishes, entrees and breads and plenty of desserts; like pies, cakes, cookies and cobblers. There were lots of delicious-sounding recipes to choose from.
Not having a lot of practice cooking gluten-free, the most valuable section in the book for me became Landolphi's chapter on "Gluten-Free Basics", which contains comprehensive information on the numerous flours, starches, nut meals and seeds that are used in gluten-free cooking. This section includes information on the taste, appearance, nutritional value and even storage guidelines of these ingredients and is very helpful to the less-experienced GF cook. There is also a list of gluten-free brands and specific products. I was amazed at how many GF ingredients and products that I could find here in Hawaii in grocery stores, Whole Foods, and natural foods stores; although a couple of ingredients proved to be a bit elusive at my usual haunts. Landolphi also has another chapter on gluten-free eating out and a list of GF resources in the back of the book.
Information on the book states that "flavor does not have to be compromised in gluten-free recipes" and his "recipes are so good that no one will miss the wheat". I decided to put that to the test by trying five different recipes.
My first pick, and what is normally a favorite dish of mine was the Chicken Picatta. The Gluten Free Every Day version uses a combination of cornstarch and tapioca flour to bread the chicken and has a sauce with lots of lemon, capers and white wine. It was delicious and just as flavorful as my normal chicken picatta recipe. I served it with some gluten-free pasta in order to soak up the lovely sauce. It was excellent re-heated the next day too.
Next I tried the Smoked Gouda Polenta from the Side Dish section and found it to be creamy, cheesy and delicious--of course it is hard to go wrong with smoked Gouda! I learned something interesting with this recipe; I thought all cornmeal was gluten-free because it is made from corn and doesn't contain wheat, but the challenge is in the processing. Unless it is processed in a GF factory or section of the factory, it can face cross-contamination, so if your corn meal doesn't specifically say gluten-free on the package, you cannot assume that it is.
The Parmesan Popover Bites were interesting. The book says these little nibbles are "crispy on the outside yet light and airy on the inside and a delicious substitute for the dinner roll." I'm not sure if it was the recipe or something I did, but I found them crispy on the outside and chewy, almost a bit rubbery inside. Even if they were not flaky, the flavor was cheesy and good, and they were oddly addicting.
The flavor of the Chocolate-Banana Bread was excellent and I liked the idea of layering the chocolate chip/walnut mixture in two layers in the loaf, but my loaf sank and seemed a bit too brown on the outside and a bit undone on the inside. Not being a baker, I am not sure what the issue was but this was the recipe I had the biggest challenge with. Because I liked the flavor, I am going to try this recipe again, this time as muffins, an alternative suggested in the book.
Finally I made the Lemony Almond Cake, made with ground, slivered almonds instead of flour and lots of lemon zest for a tangy flavor. This was a great little cake, the eggs are whipped so it has a light texture with the crunchy almonds mixed in. Very easy to make and a a great summer dessert, served with berries.
There are still some recipes I want to try--I wanted to make a couple of the "bars", like the Luscious Lemony Chestnut Bars and the Almond Fudge Bars but couldn't find any chestnut flour. I also couldn't locate the GF arrowroot cookies to make the Vanilla Cookie Piecrust for a couple of the pies. I'm going to keep looking for it--there are a couple of places I didn't get a chance to check. I have some more recipes tagged and a lot of GF flours to use, so I will continue to cook from the book.
Overall, I like this book and it was interesting and fun to get a good look at the basics of gluten-free cooking and try my hand at it. Although the ingredients may not be that familiar to me, the recipes themselves are classic and pretty simple to make. At no time did I feel I was missing something in the flavor or texture by not having the wheat or gluten in there. There are no pictures, but again the recipes are classic enough, you don't really need them. I would recommend Gluten Free Every Day Cookbook to the new or newer gluten-free cook or to anyone who wants to learn more about how to cook for someone avoiding gluten.