By Maria Speck
Published by 10 Speed Press
Pages 261

BACK COVER: The award-winning author of Ancient Grains for Modern Meals, Maria Speck makes cooking with ancient grains faster, more intuitive, and easier than ever before in this collection of recipes, most of which are gluten-free.

From black rice to red quinoa to golden Kamut berries, ancient grains are showing up on restaurant menus and store shelves in abundance. Yet in home kitchens, many fear that whole grains are too difficult and time-consuming to prepare. In Simply Ancient Grains, Maria makes cooking with these fascinating and nourishing staples easy and accessible with sumptuous recipes for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert. Her family-friendly dishes are Mediterranean-inspired and delicious, such as Spicy Honey and Habanero Shrimp with Cherry Couscous; Farro Salad with Roasted Eggplant, Caramelized Onion, and Pine Nuts; and Red Rice Shakshuka with Feta Cheese. Maria’s tips and simplified approach take whole grain cooking to the next level by amplifying the flavor and enduring beauty of these nutritious grains.

REVIEW: The recipes inside this colorful hardback book give readers a fresh and flavorful whole grain recipes for eating and living well. I appreciated the introduction to ancient grains A to Z. Many of these grains I’ve seen in the health food section of the store but knew nothing about. I enjoyed reading about where the grain originated and how it was originally used. I also appreciated that the author described the texture, flavor and nutrition bonus of eating each grain.

There’s a section on how to cook each grain with a grain cooking time table. There was a section on baking with grains. Many you can grind up to flour. She tells you the equipment needed to get started cooking grains; all found in your kitchen. I like how the author broke down each recipe in the book and labeled them in reference to gluten in and gluten free.

I enjoyed the section titled Pick Your Grain. If you have a favorite grain or would like to try something new she has a list of grains on the left and then on the right some menu choices for you to try. This author does a good job in showing you how easy it is to cook up ancient grains for your busy life. There were several recipes I’d like to try.

In the BREAKFAST section – warming bowls for busy mornings – I’d like to try the Farro Scones with Almonds, Apples and Thyme – Lemon Pancakes with Millet and Amaranth – Overnight Waffles with Teff, Coriander and Caramelized Pineapples – Frittata Muffins for any grains. SALAD and SIDES – Kamuth Salad with Oranges, leeks, and Blue Cheese – Freekeh Soup with Spicy Harissa Shrimp and dates – Chicken Stew with Honey – Balsamic Squash and Farro. PASTA – From Ancient Grains to Modern Heirlooms – Spelt Spaghetti with Lemony Parships and Olives – My Mac and Cheese with Greek Yogurt and leeks – SIMPLY MAINS – Proscutto-Wrapped Roasted Bass with Teff Polenta – Roasted One-Pan Chicken with Leeks and Barley – Vegetarian Wild Rice Paella with Sweet Potatoes, Tart Cherries and Gorgonzola. SIMPLE and SWEET DESSERTS for Every day and Holidays – Simple Maple pudding with Farro Piccolo, Greek Yogurt Chocolate Mousse – Lemony Millet Pudding with Caramelized Grapes and Kamut Shortbread with Hazelnuts.

I like what the author says about the recipes which makes me excited to try them, “My own passion for cooking is rooted in bringing good food to the table. In my mind, a meal has to be thoroughly enjoyable and mightily delicious! That doesn’t mean good food has to be complicated or time consuming.”

Most of the recipes in the book are vegetarian to begin with the author states, “If meat or fish are used, I offer a meatless variation wherever possible.”

I liked the fact that the author has several variations for each recipe. If you or a family member is not fond of a grain or something in the recipe she helps you substitute. The author states, “two thirds of the recipes in this book are gluten-free or have at least one, sometimes several, gluten-free options. All of these versions have been tested in my own kitchen and by my recipe tester.”

I look forward to digging into this cook book discovering the ancient grains and their health benefits. I also appreciated the color pictures sprinkled throughout the book. I’m excited that there were several I know my family will love.

Nora St. Laurent
TBCN Where Book Fun Begins!
The Book Club Network blog

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