Sunday, January 5, 2014

Having switched to a primal/paleo lifestyle in 2012, I’m always looking for cookbooks that support this eating plan. Some have been better than others. Danielle Walker scores high marks for Against all Grain. Not only is this a beautifully photographed work of art, the recipes are delectable, too. Danielle, who struggled for years with debilitating ulcerative colitis, gives a bit of her background and how her debut book came into being. She covers many topics in a friendly and informative manner in her topic Navigating a New Lifestyle. Here she covers some basics on paleo food ingredients (with a focus of fresh, organic and local) and kitchen equipment. Most of the rest of the book is divided into sections covering breakfasts(“to start off your morning”), appetizers (“small bites”), “soups, salads, and sides”, “the main event”, kid-friendly foods (“for the kid in us”), “muffins, loaves and morning cakes”, “sweets and treats”, “basics”, and finally a few drinks (“sip on this”). Two pages of menu suggestions—showing how some of her recipes can be combined, a resource guide and a substitutions and conversion page complete the contents. However, it would be a disservice to Ms. Walker to not go into a little detail about the book and the recipes. First of all, Against all Grain is a large format, 368-page volume with a classy folded cover and exquisite photography. The glossy pages are thick and have a quality feel to them. To keep from getting spatters while I tried the recipes, I used a stand-type acrylic book holder. I tried several recipes. Ms. Walker states that she has striven to create paleo recipes from foods she and her family knew and loved. Fortunately for me, her favorites are mine as well, so finding recipes to sample was easy peasy. I made the Thai “Peanut” Vinaigrette (p. 314) to serve with her Asian Mango Slaw (p. 106). We loved both taste and texture, however, since coconut oil solidifies when cold, I recommend giving it a few seconds in the microwave to liquefy the dressing. I also made her Currant Scones (p. 232) and found them delectable. I’m a scone lover and plan to try the Lemon Curd listed in the sweets section. Next I made the Slow Cooker Sesame-Orange Chicken (p. 130) and found the sauce way better than the sugar-laden creations in other Oriental recipes. I made the Orange-Cranberry Muffins, once with fresh cranberries and once with dried, and found them the best I’ve had. And today I made her Marinated Artichokes (p. 76) and World-Famous Sandwich Bread (p. 226). Both were very good, however, I admit to preferring Brazilian Cheese Buns over sandwich bread. (A tip from another reviewer suggests using the 7 ½-inch bread pan, which I did, with the result of a higher loaf.) My preference notwithstanding, Ms. Walker has created a gem of a cookbook with many delicious-sounding dishes. I will be making many more of the recipes featured in Against all Grain. It has just become my go-to cookbook. Thank you Ms. Walker.