Spring has sprung. It’s time for lighter, fresher fare.
This season – whether the goal is to go gluten-free, transition from vegetarian to vegan, start juicing, or simply eat more vegetables – there’s a new crop of cookbooks to guide home cooks through the changes. Here’s a roundup:
“Make It Lighter” by Angela Nilsen (Hachette, $24.99) – This gorgeously photographed cookbook offers modern, healthier takes on a range of classic recipes from Chicken Caesar Salad, Coq au Vin and Beef Wellington to New York Cheesecake, Chocolate Mousse and Crème Brûlée. In some cases, a few simple tweaks or substitutions can take away 200 calories or more. Make an Onion Tart with low-fat yogurt, milk and reduced-fat crème fraîche, for example, and cut the calories from 604 to 309 per serving. Replace some of the mayo in a Shrimp Cocktail with fromage blanc or Greek yogurt and use avocado and watercress instead of iceberg lettuce for an appetizer with fewer calories and more nutritional value. Recipes are divided into six chapters – from Light Entertaining to Devilishly Good Desserts and Guilt-Free Baking. Helpful symbols let you know recipes are low in sugar, salt, fat and calories, or high in fiber, folic acid, vitamin C, calcium and iron. Plus, there are additional tips in the back of the book, which the author swears “is not a diet book.”
“Fresh from the Farm: A Year of Recipes and Stories” by Susie Middleton (The Taunton Press, $28) – The author gave up her long commute to her corporate job to work the land at a rural farmstead on Martha’s Vineyard. This well-organized, gorgeously photographed cookbook describes a year of her farming life. It’s divided into three parts: late spring and early summer, high summer and “the bonus season” of Indian summer and early fall. Photos show the author on the farm, spotlight her lovely crops, and illustrate her recipes – like Spring Celebration Salad with Crab Cakes and Avocado-Chive Dressing, Swiss Chard and Fresh Peas with Ham and Maple-Balsamic Sauce, and Roasted Eggplant, Roasted Tomato, Fresh Mozzarella and Basil “Stacks.” The book includes 125 recipes, all of which feature fresh farm fare. Some are sweet: Backyard Berry Ice Cream Pie with Chocolate Sauce, Very Berry Vanilla Clafoutis, Honey-Vanilla Roasted Pears and Simple Homemade Maple Granola. The appendix includes instructions for building your own farm stand, shelving rack, raised bed and chicken coop. The book also features cook’s tips as well as charming anecdotes that let you into the author’s life on the farm. “Rustic living isn’t for everyone, I know. But I am strangely happier in this quirky house than I ever was in one with all the trappings.” The tone is casual and friendly. It – along with the mouthwatering photos – makes you want to get in your car and drive to the farm to meet her and buy her produce, then fix one of her recipes right away in your home kitchen.
“The Best of Rose Elliot: The Ultimate Vegetarian Collection” by Rose Elliot (Hamlyn, $29.99) – The 150 unfussy but exciting recipes in this collection are divided into nine chapters like Dinners to Impress, Midweek Meals, Alfresco and Classics with a Twist. Many carry Asian, Italian or South American influences. All seem approachable, elegant, vibrant and flavorful. You don’t have to be a vegetarian to enjoy appetizers like Rosemary Sorbet and Red Pepper Hummus with Smoked Paprika or desserts like Luscious Vegan Pumpkin Pie and Dreamy Raspberry and Rose Meringue. Other recipes include Iced Beet Soup, Hot Pomegranate and Pecan Leafy Salad, Saffron and Garlic Mashed Potatoes, Vanilla-Poached Figs and Polenta Slices with Roasted Tomatoes. Mouthwatering photographs accompany many recipes. Plus, there’s additional information on recipes and specific ingredients in the back of the book.
“Meatless All Day” by Dina Cheney (The Taunton Press, $19.95) – “Who needs meat or fish?” questions the intro to the dinner chapter of this book, which focuses on “substantial,” meat-free dishes for all meals. The 85 recipes emphasize the “meatiness” of each vegetarian entrée as well as meat substitutions – bean balls instead of meat balls, beet instead of beef Wellington, lentil instead of beef patties, and plenty of tofu. There are lists of ingredients that provide “meaty” flavor, texture or both – like beans, peas, lentils, eggs, mushrooms, whole grains and, of course, tofu. Recipes are organized by meal: breakfast and brunch, lunch and light entrées, and dinner. Breakfast includes stratas, frittatas, and Potato and Cheddar Latkes with Brown Sugar Applesauce. For lunch, there are Banh Mi Sandwiches with Tempeh, Thai Salad with Crispy Tofu and Peanut Dressing, Zucchini Fritters with Fresh Mint and Pecorino, and Quinoa-Polenta Cakes with Roasted Red Pepper Sauce and White Bean Purée. Dinner recipes include Greek Stuffed peppers with Lemon-Thyme Breadcrumbs, Mexican Pinto Bean Burgers with Fresh Guacamole and Corn Pico de Gallo, Rustic Vegetable Tart with Roasted Butternut Squash, Parsnips and Brussels Sprouts, and Pumpkin Lasagna with Brown Butter and Sage.
“The How Can It Be Gluten Free Cookbook” by the Editors at America’s Test Kitchen (America’s Test Kitchen $26.95) – “Gluten-free cooking represents the pinnacle of recipe development since replacing wheat flour is tricky business,” write the editors at what is perhaps this country’s most trusted brand for home cooking. That’s because “simply substituting a gluten-free flour blend for regular flour doesn’t work.” One of the best parts of America’s Test Kitchen cookbooks, including this one, is editors explain why each recipes works. They walk you through the steps they took to test each one, so you don’t have to experiment. This bible of gluten-free cookery includes instruction on the science of gluten, strategies for replacing wheat flour, troubleshooting and tips, and an evaluation of commercial flour blends. There are recipes for gluten-free grains, pasta, comfort foods, breakfast, breads, pizza, cookies, cakes and other desserts. Recipes center on American classics: buttermilk pancakes and waffles, sandwich bread, cornbread, biscuits, chocolate chip cookies, shortbread, brownies, pumpkin pie, deep-dish apple pie, layer cakes, lemon pound cake, meatloaf, and macaroni and cheese. But there are some creative, innovative entries, too, like quinoa patties and a variety of pilafs.
“The Warm Kitchen: Gluten-Free Recipes Anyone Can Make and Everyone Will Love” by Amy Fothergill (The Family Chef Publishing, $26.95) – This collection of recipes comes from a Cornell University-trained chef who began doing gluten-free cooking after learning one – then both – of her children had gluten sensitivities. “It might be a change and a challenge, but it is manageable,” she writes in the introduction, which features a list of staples for stocking a gluten-free pantry – including what not to keep. It’s a reference guide as much as a recipe book. There are time-saving tips, gluten-free takes on American classics like chicken pot pie, and an array of uses for quinoa: turkey quinoa wraps, chard and quinoa salad, almond quinoa pilaf, and mango quinoa with lamb or turkey, for example. Perhaps most helpful are the homemade, gluten-free breads: baguettes, bagels, focaccia and more. There’s also a sample menu with recipes for a complete, gluten-free holiday menu.
“Vegetarian to Vegan” by Sarah Taylor (The Vegan Next Door, $14.95) – This small but information-packed volume is divided into three parts: why make the change, how to implement the change, and easy-to-follow recipes for vegan home cooking. The back cover asks, “Even if I wanted to go vegan, how could I ever give up cheese?” The Gig Harbor, Wash.-based author empathizes. “When I give a speech, I always tell my audiences that, before I went vegan, my four food groups were Swiss, Havarti, Cheddar and Chocolate,” she writes. A vegan since 2002, she makes many arguments for eliminating dairy and eggs – even honey – from your diet. They include disease correlations, chemicals, the treatment of chickens and dairy cows, and importance of bees. She advises focusing on what you can eat as a vegan – whole beans and grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds – versus foods from which you abstain. The not quite 50 recipes come from chef Mark Reinfeld, who suggests coloring tofu scrambles with turmeric to resemble scrambled eggs. He also describes how to make your own nut milk and vegan mayo, cashew cheese, ranch dressing, chocolate mousse, vegetable korma and raw carrot brazil nut soup, among others.
“The Juice Lady’s Remedies for Stress & Adrenal Fatigue” by Cherie Calbom (Siloam, $12.99) – The first seven chapters of this slim volume explore the relationship between stress and food. They’re filled with personal anecdotes from the author, who lives in Western Washington. “Food is a reliable friend – consistent and dependable. It can be a surrogate for human contact and the bridge by which we form connections,” she writes. The final chapter presents raw vegan recipes that require a blender, dehydrator or juicer. Recipes include cold soups and chowders, salads, raw buckwheat groat pizza dough, and other dehydrated foods, including crackers. There are also more than 20 juice recipes, like Magnesium Special, Adrenal Booster and AntiAnxiety Cocktail. “What we drink is as important as what we eat, writes the author, who has a Spokane connection. Her husband, John Calbom, is a Spokane native and 1971 Gonzaga University grad.
“ How to Make Frozen Yogurt: 56 Delicious Flavors You Can Make at Home” by Nicole Weston (Storey, $9.95) – Beat the heat with this pocket-sized guide, which offers healthier, lower-fat alternatives to ice cream. It discusses classic frozen yogurt making as well as suggests a new method: using meringue for a lighter and softer consistency. Part one covers the basics of making the creamy and tangy treat with or without an ice cream maker. Part two offers recipes for frozen yogurt flavors like basic vanilla bean, chocolate, coffee and fresh strawberry as well as creative, gourmet combinations like Roasted Banana and Salted Caramel, Ginger and Cardamom, Maple Bacon, Avocado, Vanilla Browned Butter and Honey and Goat Cheese. The book isn’t just for summer. Winter holiday recipes include Spiced Pumpkin Pie, Candy Cane, Cranberry, Eggnog and Gingerbread.