I like to read cookbooks, not just use them to look up recipes. A really good cookbook is one you can read and learn from. Not many cookbooks end up beside my bed, but Gluten-Free Girl and the Chef by Shauna James Ahern and Danny Ahern did. I haven’t finished reading all of it yet, because I am savoring it. I am giving it time to work its magic. This book is not a commonplace cookbook, it’s not a really good cookbook, it’s a great book. It is entertaining, inspiring, motivating, and educational. It has helped me to look at food and cooking in a new way.
If you have read Shauna’s blog or her previous book, Gluten-Free Girl, you know she is an engaging writer. In this book she tells her love story, how she and Danny met, became engaged, got married, and live life together. Because Danny is a chef, that story is full of experiences with food, cooking, and eating. But Danny is a co-author of this book and I love reading the colored pages that have his cooking tips like “How to Season Food” and “How to Make Sauces.” Sometimes the smallest tips make a huge difference.
Of course, this is a cookbook, complete with 100 recipes and numerous color photos. The recipes are terrific, and I’m sure I’ll be trying many of them for everyday and special occasions. They are not what I love most about the book, though. I love the way the story, the recipes, and the information all come together. The different parts are melded together into a book that you want to read from cover to cover. It’s like a dish with well blended but distinct flavors.
I have one criticism to offer and it’s regarding one page of the book: the recipe list. The 100 recipes are divided into two sections: “At Home” and “At the Restaurant.” After I’m done reading this book, it will mostly be used as a reference book for recipes and tips. A categorized list would be very useful. The book does include an index with both ingredients and categories which helps. I would just prefer to have the recipes list broken down more. It’s a small criticism, but one I thought was worth noting.
So far, I have made two recipes from the book: potato puree (mashed potatoes) and millet tabouleh. Both were very good. I should note that many of the recipes contain dairy products, such as the potato puree which uses butter, milk and cream. After cooking the potatoes, I removed a small amount to make a dairy free version for me. I wanted to follow the recipe as is for the rest of the family, though. My one picky eater didn’t like them for some reason (maybe just because they were a little different), but my husband and other sons thought they were great. I love the tips Danny gives in the recipe such as letting the potatoes dry off for several minutes before mashing them.
The book seems to have a nice mix of everyday recipes like the ones I made, and more sophisticated or unusual recipes like Smoked Duck Breast Ravioli and Rabbit with Mustard. I look forward to trying some things I wouldn’t usually make, because I’m confident in these recipes and the instructions given. If a recipe intimidates you, though, don’t give up on it. Take a look at the notes in the margin which often recommend optional ingredients such as using chicken in place of rabbit.
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Disclaimer: I was provided a free copy of this cookbook for review. The opinions in this post are my own.