Monday, November 30, 2009


One of my closest friends suffers from celiac's disease, which means's she is wheat intolerant. This makes Thanksgiving and the holidays a particularly difficult time of the year for anyone who requires a gluten-free meal. Pies, cakes and cookies containing wheat flour are out of the question. So are stuffing, gravies thickened with flour, breads, rolls, and muffins, nearly all crackers and other foods that are practically required eating during the holidays. Publishers have recently been stepping into the breach offering some very fine gluten-free cookbooks. Two new and very appealing ones have recently appeared, making the task of cooking for those who must eat gluten-free that much easier and a lot tastier too!

THE GLUTEN-FREE ALMOND FLOUR COOKBOOK by Elana Amsterdam (Celestial Arts; $16.99; ISBN 978-1-58761-345-6) and GLUTEN-FREE ITALIAN: Over 150 Irresistible Recipes without Wheat--from Crostini to Tiramisu by Jacqueline Mallorca (Da Capo Lifelong, a Member of the Perseus Books Group; $18.95; ISBN 978-0-7382-1361-3)

THE GLUTEN-FREE ALMOND FLOUR COOKBOOK may have the edge here because almond flour "is as easy to use as wheat flour and much less tedious than complex gluten-free flours, which require numerous supplemental ingredients such as xanthum gum, cornstarch, and potato flakes for binding purposes," says Elana Amsterdam. While you can offer anyone in your family lots of choices of alternative gluten-free foods, dessert poses all kinds of problems, as I've discovered whenever I've had a guest for dinner requiring a wheat-free ending to the meal. Amsterdam offers a fine group of tasty desserts such as a Classic Carrot Cake, Chocolate Velvet Torte, Chocolate Cranberry Biscotti, Pear Crisp and Pecan Pie. In addition to fine main courses, Amsterdam provides recipes for five different crackers plus breakfast muffins, French Toast, pancakes, which have been off -limits to people with wheat allergies. This attractive cookbook offers 95 easy recipes with handsome photographs and clear instructions.

Italian food would seem to be a nearly insurmountable cuisine with its emphasis on pasta, gnocchi, bread and pizza. GLUTEN-FREE ITALIAN is Jacqueline Mallorca's second gluten-free cookbook. The former West Coast editorial assistant to James Beard, and a food columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle, Mallorca when she discovered she was "a food writer with celiac's disease. I could no longer eat anything that contained wheat, barley, or rye," she reveals in GLUTEN-FREE ITALIAN. "As I had absolutely no intention of giving up good food, I acquired a lot of funny flours and set to work." She discovered that a gluten-free Italian pantry has lots of wonderful options such as anchovies, balsamic vinegar, many cheeses such as mozzarella, pecorino, gorgonzola, tallegio and others, pancetta, prosciutto, porcini, polenta/cornmeal, risotto, tomatoes--even gluten-free pasta. And of course, there are a huge variety of vegetables--a category that Italian cooking has elevated to an art form. Mallorca has assembled a wide-ranging collection of recipes for breads, pizza, and crostini, soups, pastas, polenta, and gnocchi, risotto and other grains, fish, poultry and meat entrees, and desserts.

These two books add considerable luster to a growing health-related cookbook category.

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