If you are curious about gluten-free living, you've probably already found yourself browsing (and drooling over) Shauna James Ahern's blog glutenfreegirl.com. Diagnosed with celiac disease after years of feeling ill, Shauna started cooking gluten-free in 2005 and blogged to document her culinary experiments.
Now, more than six years later, glutenfreegirl.com is considered one of the top blogs on celiac disease, and on food in general. Her second book, Gluten-Free Girl and the Chef, continues her culinary path with pages of recipes, gluten-free tips, and many manifestations of her love for food.
Reading Gluten-Free Girl and the Chef as just a cookbook is like watching a football game to check out the uniforms - you'd miss the whole point! This book chronicles a love story through the lens of food. Shauna had been diagnosed with celiac disease after years of pain, sick days, and time spent in the hospital. Relieved at her diagnosis, she dove into the world of gluten-free cooking and founded a blog to catalog her experiments with food.
A year into this joyful time in her life, Shauna met Daniel, a chef at a prominent Seattle restaurant. His shy ways and her exuberance met over the topic of food. Soon he was wooing her with food he'd bring home from his restaurant and eventually, she learned to captivate him with her cooking, too.
Yes, there's plenty in the book about flour substitutions and gluten-free living, but what kept me glued to the pages was Shauna's (and sometimes Danny's) head-over-heels descriptions of the foods they love. Then, they show you how to make them!
Shauna starts with one of the first foods Danny cooked for her: braised white beans. She waits as long as she can to eat them, worrying what she will do if they don't taste good.
"But I really liked this guy. Hell, like wasn't the word. I was deeply smitten, already falling, stirring him into my life. But if he couldn't cook beans?
I hesitated before I tried them, the fork halfway to my mouth. Here it was, the moment of truth. I closed my eyes and took a bite. The first layer of those beans felt crisp against my teeth, but when I bit down, the softness oozed out. I swallowed, my eyes still closed, but in pleasure this time. I was done."
The recipe for braised white beans isn't a fast 30-minute meal suggestion. Like most of the recipes in the book it involves time and preparation. But how can you not want to taste it after reading that description?
I appreciate that most of the recipes in Gluten-Free Girl and the Chef are inherently gluten-free. Sure, she uses substitutions here and there, but most of the dishes don't need them, and that's a realization that comes to many who eat gluten-free.
• Find the book: Gluten-Free Girl and the Chef (Wiley; September 2010) $19.77 at Amazon.
Braised White Beans
1 cup dried cannellini beans, soaked overnight in cold water
1 small nub Parmesan cheese rind (about the size of half a thumb)
3 cups olive oil (you want a mild to peppery oil, not fruity)
3 cloves garlic, peeled
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
4 to 5 sprigs fresh thyme
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Drain the beans. Pour the beans into a large saucepan along with the Parmesan cheese rind. Cover the beans with the oil and set over medium-high heat. When the oil starts to bubble, turn the stove to its lowest possible setting. Allow the beans to simmer, with only the occasional bubble rising to the surface, until they are soft and tender, 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
Throw the garlic, rosemary, and thyme into the saucepan. Season with salt and pepper and stir everything in. Grab a spoon full of beans, drain the oil from the spoon, taste the beans, and season with more salt and pepper, if necessary. Take the saucepan off the heat and allow the herbs to mingle with the beans as the oil cools down. Allow the beans and oil to fully cool before you eat them, about 1 hour. When you serve the beans, drain them from the oil. Reserve the oil and store any uneaten beans in the oil in the refrigerator.
Related: Can You Recommend Good Gluten-Free Resources?
The views expressed in this review are the personal views of the reviewer. This book review was not sponsored or paid for in any way by the author, publisher, or an agent working on their behalf. The publisher provided the book for review purposes.
(Images and recipe courtesy of Wiley)