food for thought: la tartine gourmande

When I went gluten free, I sadly accepted the fact that there would essentially be no reason for me to travel to France or Italy anymore, even though I’ve never been. After all, in the land of pastries and pasta, what would be the point? But apparently Italy is leading the world in gluten free-ness (not surprising, when you think about it), and for the time being, I can bring France to me, thanks to La Tartine Gourmande by Beatrice Peltre.

The synopsis of this book was all I needed to read it: French and American recipes, all gluten free (and all soy free, though that’s technically not mentioned–it’s just a coincidence). Now I know how to make galettes (though I still haven’t tried because I’m scared)! I can make tarts! I can make soups and salads that are more interesting than the ones I make for myself! Just the premise of this book is awesome.

As far as the recipes go, they are easy to follow, and she begins the cooking section of the book with a section on guidelines and tips. If you are confused by the tons of gluten free flours out there (amaranth? almond? tapioca? buckwheat?) she explains their taste and weight clearly so that you know what substitutions might work, and what might appeal most to your tastebuds. In each recipe, too, measurements are given in standard and metric, so you can really tailor her book to your cooking lexicon. And it’s a book that covers the spectrum of recipes, so you can basically cook the entire day out of the book and eat like a Frenchie. Start with her basic recipes, which teach you how to do the doughs and stocks that are the base of a lot of the more complicated ones. She’ll also tell you great trivia and tips throughout, like how you can reuse a vanilla bean by washing and drying it.

It seems modeled after other cookbook-cum-memoirs, and its prose is certainly not as well done as, say, French Women Don’t Get Fat, which was a really great read that just happened to contain recipes. But even though La Tartine Gourmande isn’t much of a read, there’s something in it that isn’t in the more prose-y cookbooks–the photographs. Oh, the photographs! You could say that any cookbook is best loved for its photos, but Peltre takes it to a new level, because she’s not just a good photographer, she really gets color. The photos are probably the best part, but the recipes look delicious as well. Peltre makes cooking and entertaining look fun and achievable, and that’s especially welcome when you’re a gluten free eater. I wish I didn’t have to skip or modify so many recipes with dairy in them, but ultimately, this is a great tool for gluten free cooking that even your non-GF friends will want to eat.

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the week: a new challenge

I’m back in Boston, and I’m refreshed and ready for a new year, the theme of which is Nothing to Lose 2012.

I need to work on spending less money, going to the gym more, and eating even more healthfully. I also want to force myself to be more efficient and creative in the kitchen–practice my knife skills, learn more about flavor profiles, and really use everything I can. So every week I’m going to buy under $50 worth of groceries and see how many different combinations I can use to make really interesting, healthy food.

I got home and was essentially out of fresh food, but I have tons of dry goods and frozen foods. I suggest that, if you want to participate, you stock up and spend a lot more than $50 getting essential dry and frozen staples, like herbs and spices, various frozen veggies and fruits, frozen chicken breasts and sausages, rice, kasha, flours, oats, dried fruits and nuts. Assume that I have a lot of those, and now see what I bought this week for my groceries:

Produce
2 leeks
2 russet potatoes
2 onions
Bunch of white mushrooms
2 carrots
Organic broccoli slaw
Brussels sprouts
4 apples
3 tangerines

Proteins
18 eggs
Hummus
Turkey bacon

Other
Stuffed grape leaves
Microwavable lentils and peas dish
Half a gallon of almond milk
Tias tortilla chips (after a year off gluten, I want to experiment with dairy re-introduction)

I have a dry-erase board on my refrigerator where I wrote all my meal plans for the week. We’ll see how it goes, and I’ll keep updating, but I think the way to make sure you succeed is to not plan all 14 meals (breakfast I’m not including, because that’s always almond pancakes or granola with fruit) but to plan most, and then to assume that occasionally you’ll want something quick (hence always having a microwavable curry dish or something in my freezer) or something that requires no skill or thinking (hence always having eggs for omelets, plus veggies and grape leaves for hummus dipping). With that, as well as some new recipes (going to try making a potage in my Crock Pot this week) and a project (I need a new batch of granola), I think this can be something that will work. Stay tuned.