Latest healthier-eating cookbooks zero in on ancient grains
Resolutions to change to a healthier way of eating usually begin with a diet of less fats and meats, and more fish, fruits and vegetables. Once comfortable with this adjustment, consider the next step: ancient grains.
"Tartine Book No 3." Chad Robertson spent two decades of study, apprenticeship and hard work between his first interest in bread baking at the Culinary Institute of America and opening the immediately uber-popular San Francisco Tartine Bakery and Cafe in 2002 with his wife, Elizabeth Prueitt. More years passed before his iconic book on bread baking, "Tartine Bread," was published in 2010. It revolved around the making of Tartine's basic naturally leavened, slow-fermented country loaf at home. Though the book included whole wheat, semolina and enriched components, "this bread, and all its variations," writes Robertson, "tilted toward whiter flour and a lighter-flavored loaf." The book was instrumental in advancing the character development of bread for both chefs and home cooks. But Robertson was not one to rest on his laurels.
After another two years of extensive travel and research, he wrote "Tartine Book No 3." Dedicated to recapturing "the flavors of ancient grains" (the word grain also serving as an umbrella for buckwheat, corn, oats, millet, brown rice, amarath and quinoa), Robertson starts with his master method and moves forth through kamut, emmer/einkorn, and spelt-wheat. Seeded breads follow, then hearth breads with sprouted grains; pan loaves; porridge, cracked, and flaked grain breads; and crispbreads.
That the measurements in the bread baking portion of the book are given only in weights and baker's percentages demonstrates that it's intended for a serious baker. However, the small price of a kitchen scale shouldn't stop anyone ready to move beyond white bread.
The pastry section finds Prueitt applying her experience in alternative baking. Recipes range from salted rye chocolate cookies to chamomile-kamut shortbread, buckwheat-hazelnut sables to buckwheat pate sucree, inverted spelt puff pastry to kamut brioche. The recipes produce pastries customarily made from white flour, eggs and butter with a far healthier profile. The mouthwatering photography adds additional encouragement to give white flour substitution a try.
"Tartine Book No 3" is laced with sections of stories and pictures of Robertson's journey into ancient grains. They add a delightful note. Hardcover. $40. Chronicle Books.
"Grain Power: Over 100 Delicious Gluten-Free Ancient Grain and Superblend Recipes." Authors Patricia Green and Carolyn Hemming set out to correct the current heavy dietary dependence on wheat, corn and rice. Like Robertson, they umbrella seeds, including amaranth, buckwheat, chia, kaniwa, millet and quinoa, with oat, sorghum, and teff as ancient grains. They begin the book with a primer on each. Their "superblend" recipes combine more than one ancient grain to optimize flavor, texture, and nutrition.
Rather than addressing a single grain, chapters are dedicated to their use: breakfast; appetizers, snacks, salads, and side dishes; soups and stews; meals (dinner); desserts and baking. The recipes are especially inventive, such as popped amaranth mixed grain granola, cheddar garlic ancient grains biscuits, Vietnamese vegetable noodle soup with quinoa sprouts, tarragon and brown butter superblend vegetable pilaf and vegetable pizza on a thin crust of sorghum, millet and buckwheat flours.
Another book to put on your list of healthier next steps. Paperback. A Pintail Book. $29.95.
Reach Marion Sullivan at firstname.lastname@example.org.