on February 11, 2014
I think most people who own a lot of Paleo cookbooks (or have to sift through the growing number of Paleo cookbooks) would like to know the following things about this book that set it apart from the rest:
- The recipes are different. Not like a little different... like, vastly different from the other books. Russ takes on the role of being your culinary tour guide around the world. Each recipe is accompanied with a nice amount of background on the dish, as well as a little personal story when relevant. And while there are some exotic recipes in this book, there are also some familiar ones that are dead ringers. His pizza crust recipe is out of this world. My wife and I have made it two times this week. Okay... THREE.
- The ingredients are what I'd call "laid back Paleo." Russ's approach is more Perfect Health Diet slanted, which I actually tend to find sensible (another reviewer called it Sensible, and I agree). It is not a strict Paleo book, not do I believe is it intended to be. However, while there are dishes that include white rice, potatoes, and dairy - there is also an extensive substitution guide in the back of this book.
Some other general points about this book. It's beautiful, well organized, and nicely designed in what I would call a minimalist style. I like that. I like seeing design elements clearly on the page, adequate white space to leave notes if needed, and the beautiful photos accompany every recipe.
If you're interested in a Paleo book with a laid back, more culinary approach to Paleo cooking (and you aren't put off by some intermediate-level recipes), this is the book to get. Definitely!
That was a rhetorical question. One I know the answer to. Carbs. Plain and simple a fear that this was a carby starch fest that wasn't "right for me". How many times have I said that and heard and seen it come from other low carbers.
So what made me try this book? A simple desire to add moderate amounts of starches back to my diet. I read The Perfect Health Diet, was impressed, realized it wasn't an all you can eat Las Vegas style buffet of carb goodness, and so I figured maybe this cookbook wasn't either. I was right.
What it is is an exceptionally well done book with beautifully styled pages full of food that not only looks delicious but tastes just as good. I consider myself a well traveled well read person and growing up in HI I cook a wide variety of dishes and cuisines. This book still challenges me with some delicious yet unfamiliar recipes. You may have to do some searching for certain ingredients, galangal how you elude me!!, but the internet casts a wide net and almost nothing impossible to find. There are the familiar too, of course, like Shepherd's Pie, Clam Chowder, Salisbury Steak, Fried Chicken, but I urge you to not flip past the Nabemono, Lomi Lomi Salmon, or the Gamjatang. While some recipes may stretch your palette and culinary repertoire, none of them are excessively difficult, fussy, or tedious.
Safe Starches (starches that are low in plant toxins) are fairly represented in this book and I urge everyone to give them a fair try in the name of not demonizing real foods and eating from as wide a variety of foods as possible. Still, for those who must or simply wish to remain low carb there are plenty of easy substitutions like cauliflower rice, mashed cauliflower, turnips, rutabaga, celeriac, etc. Or you can do half mashed potatoes half mashed cauliflower. Basmati rice is easy to mix with cauliflower rice and makes a delicious lower carb fried rice. My point is don't let a fear of "carbs" stop you from experiencing this culinary masterpiece.
For the past month I've been cooking my way through this book and am loving it! So lets get to the important part...how'd the food taste?
Basic Red Sauce: This is an easy and versatile marinara that goes well with a huge variety of dishes. I've used it with zucchini noodles, on a baked potato with ground beef/sausage mix, over chicken breasts, and baked eggs in it. It's deeply flavored but light and fresh tasting without the excessive heaviness that some sauce recipes can have.
Teriyaki Sauce: I'm from HI and I hate Teriyaki. Or at least I thought I did. I find most of it too sweet and obnoxiously salty. Not this one. It's complex with just the right amount of flavoring. I've had it on grilled chicken, korean style ribs, and pork chops.
Beet Salad: This is really beet, carrot, and potato salad but that's kind of long for a title I guess. Whatever, it's delicious and a dish that is going into regular rotation around here. The earthy sweetness of the beets and carrots combined with the creamy starchiness of potatoes mixed with the tang of pickles is a genius combination.
Saag Paneer: Dairy is something I usually do without, save for butter and ghee, but I readily broke that rule for this dish. And have zero regrets. In fact, I'm going to break it again soon. The flavors are amazing, authentic, and it was actually easy. Even making the cheese from scratch. I couldn't find black mustard seeds in time and so used regular old yellow ones. I'm not sure how much a flavor difference that made but it was delicious nonetheless.
Various ways to make rice: OK this was one part that I found excessively tedious and complicated. Being from HI I grew up on sticky asian style rices and had only had Basmati in Indian restaurants. A rice cooker is the best way to cook rice but I've gotten really good at doing on a stove in a pot with some water. I followed the directions for steamed Basmati Rice and compared it to rice cooked on the stove. I couldn't tell the difference honestly. So next time I will forgo the soaking, lining a pot with coconut oil, sliced potatoes, and carefully forming the rice into a conical shape and just cook it "normally". I do agree that sticky rice should be soaked but I found the directions in the book too complicated otherwise and just go low and slow in a pot with some water. I encourage everyone, no matter how you cook it, to eat some sticky rice with mango drizzled with coconut milk. Amazing.
Colcannon: Mmmm comfort in a skillet. And with healthy greens! Add and egg or two and it's a delicious filling breakfast. I don't know what kind of sausage is authentic but I've tried with several and it's all good.
Tostones: The hardest part about this dish is finding plantains green enough. Incidentally riper plantains make this nice and desserty with a drizzle of honey and toasted coconut. Green plantains make a starchy crispy side dish that is addicting.
Pizza Dough: I'm only reviewing the dough because I used it as more of a flat bread with pancetta, figs, arugula, and olive oil, and balsamic. I figured the cheese in the dough was as dairy as I felt like going for that meal. It was amazing. and really easy. The recipe makes 2 balls of dough so the other is in my freezer waiting for the next splurge.
Salisbury Steak: So good. Comfort beefy goodness that is quick and easy to put together. Even on a weeknight. This was a big hit with the guys.
Japanese Beef Curry: Words cannot express how delicious this dish is. Having lived in Japan I can tell you this is absolutely authentic tasting. Like what you'd get at any of the many side street snack shops over there. This is the curry of my childhood. I make curry all the time and it never tastes like what I remember. Silly me for not thinking "Oh maybe Indian vs Japanese style curries are slightly different???" Duh, right? I will say that when I first tasted this it was just OK. The applesauce was even a bit overwhelming. I put it away not thinking much of it. The next day it turned into sheer ambrosia. And it was good to the last drop. Hands down, best recipe in the book!
Loco Moco: Hawaiian comfort food at it's finest. Which reminds me all of his gravies are simple and delicious tasting.
Beef Rendang: This one was just OK to me. I'll eventually make it one more time since the internet seems to rave about it and maybe I missed something but as of now I'm just "meh" about it. The only recipe I've tried that hasn't blown my socks off, BTW.
Shashlik: Yummy bbq lamb skewers. The marinade is amazing and really tones down the gamey "lambness" that can turn some people off this delicious meat.
Gamjatang: This recipe took some diligent searching for perilla leaves, korean red pepper powder (I hope I got the right stuff there), and perilla seed powder but eventually I found both and am glad I did. It's a delicious comforting pork neck stew with a satisfying boiled potato to add some oompf and staying power. It's getting way too hot for soups but I look forward to this again in the fall.
Lechon Asado: OMG good! Cuban marinated pork that is cooked low and slow on the bbq. And I mean really low and really slow. It's totally worth it. The flavor is unbelievable.
Southern Fried Chicken: Such a treat. Only my Tennesee born grandmother's is better. Sorry, it had to be said. Still this is delicious and completely worth the pain in the butt that I find frying to be in general.
Fish Pie: While cooking this "this is going to be bland" kept going through my head. How wrong I was. Such a simple preparation gives something so completely mouthwatering. This was my first ever fish pie and definitely not my last. I will say that it didn't make great leftovers, however. If you can eat it all within a day or two, it would be best, IMO.
Nabemono: OK, not gonna lie. The picture is a little intimidating looking. Get over that, scrounge around for the ingredients, and make this Japanese hot pot soup. It's worth it!! I couldn't find any fish cake I wanted to eat so I left it out. This broth is so good and makes really good leftovers too. It's also versatile and can be made to fit almost anyone's tastes.
Almond Panna Cotta: I don't like almond milk so used cashew/macadamia milk. It made a delicious light guilt free dessert.
Birthday Cake: Wow! I wasn't expecting something so delicious. I think the combination of chestnut flour and coconut sugar gave this cake it's deeply sweet, nutty, mollassesy taste. Combine that with a Maple Butter Cream frosting? Out of this world delicious. The best thing is that it's so deeply satisfying you can enjoy a small slice without wanting to dive into the rest of the cake. While I have no intentions of saving this for birthdays only, making this for company will ensure that sentiment is never tested, however. ;)
I have so many more recipes to try from this book and it will keep me happily occupied trying new things and revisiting favorites. My only regret is that I waited so long to buy this cookbook. This earns an easy five stars and shot up to a place within my 5-8 favorite cookbooks...and I have a lot of cookbooks.
on February 12, 2014
I have been following the Perfect Health Diet for about 10 months now and have been wondering if there ever would be a cookbook to support the diet. I have a few Paleo cookbooks but, as people have noted, those recipes tend to have very few complex carbs in them.
Interestingly, I found this cookbook a few days ago as I was doing some searches around the word "tapioca". (I was getting a bit tired of only eating rice, potatoes, sweet potatoes and peas for my complex carbs, but didn't know of many tapioca recipes except for pudding.) I was sooo excited when I saw Paul Jaminet's name on the book, and noticed that there was still a day or two before it was released, so I immediately put in my order.
As others have noted, the cookbook has a beautiful presentation and photographs, with a supportive foreward by Paul Jaminet. I also loved the fact the author (Russ Crandall) wrote a bit about his personal journey towards eating well. At first I was a bit hesitant in reading it wondering if it would be "too long", and well boring, but I was pleasantly surprised. He has had some unique experiences in his life, and he does write about them in an engaging manner. Russ has an "everyday person" style to his writings which contrasts nicely to Paul's and his wife's more scientific style of writing. The Jaminet's style of writing was absolutely essential to the writing of the Perfect Health Diet as the whole point of the book was to show the diet was developed and based on scientific studies. However, there are a number of people (per comments on the Amazon reviews of the PHD book) that really struggled with some of what was written due to not being used to reading that type of book. Those individuals will probably find this book more comfortable to read.
Mr. Crandall has a slightly more relaxed take on dairy, which I was very glad to see. My ethnic heritage is primarily Northern European which has the lowest percentage of lactose intolerance, but one of the highest percentages of severe problems with wheat. I am the classic example of this--no one in my family has ever had problems with dairy (I was in the first generation not to grow up on a dairy farm on my father's side in at least 200 years), but I have Celiac's disease and have been gluten-free since the year 2000. So, an author who completely accepts dairy will always be my friend. :)
on November 4, 2014
This review is a quick FYI not on the content itself, but the kindle edition. Other reviewers have thoroughly covered the content of this cookbook, and I agree with the positive reviews.
However, the formatting for the kindle edition is beyond terrible, to the point that I haven't used the cookbook nearly as much as I would like. The images are randomly at the end of recipes, the text is choppy, and the book extremely cumbersome to navigate through. It's frustrating to waste money on duplicate content, but I am most likely going to bite the bullet and order the hard copy, too, just so I can actually use and enjoy this book.
If you are interested in this cookbook, don't bother trying to save money on the kindle edition. It isn't worth it.
on June 5, 2014
I wanted to wait a couple months before I reviewed the book, so I had a chance to try out some of the recipes more than once. By now a dozen of these recipes have become favorites in my kitchen, making it the most used cookbook of any type I have ever purchased.
Before purchasing The Ancestral Table, I had read books and sites explaining the theory underlying nutrition and disease, and how our bodies react to the food we consume. As a scientist I was curious and appreciated the background information, but it was time to put it to practice. The difficulty was that you can't simply go to the corner store and buy a prepared meal without grains, oils or other ingredients on the "banned" list. Likewise for restaurants. You're stuck with buying basic, healthy ingredients and doing it in your kitchen. Except I knew only how to bake, and I was useless for preparing a dinner from simple ingredients unless you asked me to grill hamburgers or barbeque chicken. That was around the time I found and ordered Russ Crandall's new book.
So I set about to learn basic cooking. I found the instructions throughout the book are simple to follow, the ingredients generally easy to find, and the results are delicious, every recipe came out anywhere from good to excellent. Keep in mind I'm feeding a family of 4, and my two teenagers do not adhere to this or any other diet. But I found recipes in this book that caused them to clean their plates at dinnertime.
My first attempt was the garlic mashed potatoes. Don't laugh--with only potatoes, dairy, garlic and oil, surely we don't need a book to make these? But I had never tried (aside from simple mashed potatoes) especially by starting with roasting my own head of garlic. And it was fabulous. My teenage daughter, the pickiest eater in my family, declared them the best potatoes she'd ever had.
I moved on the try the teriyaki chicken, beef stew, jerk pork, and red sauce (served with rice pasta). The results of each tasted fresh and delicious. I never had the feeling I was giving anything up with a restricted diet--the dinners we made were full of flavor and very enjoyable when served with basic vegetables such as green beans or asparagus, and white rice, sweet potatoes or white potatoes.
Then there's the famous pizza recipe, featured on the cover. Yes, some will say pizza is not "Paleo" and has no business on the cover of a cookbook such as this. But we don't follow a strict Paleo diet--we do consume dairy--and I felt one key to a successful diet is to not feel as though we are dieting. That means sometimes we have fun with our meals, and we don't give up our pleasure foods like pizza. For the pizza sauce I use the red sauce recipe from the same book, and prepare the crust exactly as described. I would never have thought of making pizza dough with tapioca flour--but the tapioca makes the dough easy knead and stretch and perfect for shaping into a pizza crust. The cheese and herbs lend amazing flavor to such a simple recipe without the use of any sweeteners. Plus, this is pizza, and we can top it with whatever we enjoy or whatever we have on hand--onions, peppers, pineapple, ham, pepperoni, sausage, artichoke, anchovies, anything. It's a great excuse to have fun, and we loved the result! My teenage son actually said it's the best pizza he's tasted. This is a new treat we try to prepare at least once every couple weeks. And it adds fun to the diet, which gives me encouragement to continue, and helps my teenage children to take their own interest in cooking with basic ingredients and preparing meals in the kitchen. All good outcomes, while sacrificing nothing.
In summary, this book gave me the confidence that we could eat a healthy diet and continue preparing our own meals indefinitely. I also follow thedomesticman.com where Russ publishes new recipes each week. Hopefully someday he'll pick from the best of these to write a new cookbook!
on February 11, 2014
This is more than a cookbook. It's a labor of love.
- For over a year, I've been following the food blog of The Domestic Man (aka- author Russ Crandall), wherein he provides hearty, satiating recipes which won't leave you feeling deprived …and, now I'm beyond thrilled to have my own copy of his first cookbook! The author does more than merely present delicious meal ideas. He includes instructive sections on nutritional requirements (not the old food pyramid), modern challenges to finding healthy food options (even at the grocery store), and kitchen tools and techniques (not assuming that every reader is a seasoned chef).
- Each mouthwatering recipe is accompanied by a full-color photo -- which is the first thing I demand in any cookbook (I want to know what the finished dish is supposed to look like). It gives me confidence knowing that my finished product can look nearly like that in the cookbook, because each photo is the REAL finished product (not some plastic mock-up; not professionally arranged by a hired food designer). The photographs weren't taken by career food photographers (nope, Russ and his wife did it themselves). There are also helpful drawings included on some pages.
- The recipe instructions are clearly written, descriptive, and easy to follow -- not assuming anything of the reader. Substitutions are even included for hard-to-find foods and individual preferences.
- These are authentic dishes from a vast array of cultures and tastes, representing a number of ethnic regions. More than single item recipes, there are entire meal ideas (including sauces, sides, and desserts). My palate never gets bored!
- Author Russ Crandall takes a non-fanatical approach to what is commonly referred to as the Paleo Diet. He bravely tells his personal story in the pages of this book, demonstrating his motivation, passion, and concern for others through the presentation of his collection of art-like culinary creations. I can’t say enough about how amazed I am with this beautiful book and the man behind it.
on June 23, 2014
I have nothing to add to the 107 other reviews that exist as I write, EXCEPT to identify which recipes I've actually made & comment on those:
1) Fish pie: excellent, but 2 pounds of potatoes + 2 pounds of seafood produces a lot more than 4 servings (except for young men, perhaps?)! I used one pound potatoes and cut the butter correspondingly, still got 6 delicious servings for my husband (71) and self (64).
2) Dirty rice: yummy. Recipe specifies 1 pound chicken livers/giblets and 4 andouille or chorizo sausages--no weights given. I used one 1/2-pound andouille sausage along with 1/2 pound of chicken livers, for 4+ servings. (I also cut the rice from 1.5 cups to 3/4 cup and cut the broth correspondingly; kept vegetables at full recipe amount).
3)Blue cheese dressing in the wedge salad recipe: also delicious. Used a mini food processor to puree the cheese into the other ingredients & put all 4 ounces of cheese in, rather than mixing in 2 ounces and using the other 2 ounces directly in the salad. Getting lotsa servings out of this recipe as dressing, plus it makes a great raw veg dip.
Updated 2/1/15, to correct an error in amounts I stated were in original fish pie recipe.
on July 14, 2014
My non-paleo family loves everything I've made in this cookbook. To not torture my family too much with my own dietary issues, I have been attempting to translate non-paleo recipes to suit the tastes and needs of all of us, which can be exhausting, and sometimes I have even resorted to just making separate meals. It almost feels like cheating being able to crack open a cookbook and be able to pick things without reinventing them that the whole family will gladly eat.
Tostones, how did I not know about you before? Oh my, what an amazing treat. After making them for my kids, they now start circling when they see me with plantains. My VLC self a few years ago would faint at the mere thought of tostones, but my belly really is grateful to share a body with a brain that was willing to give this safe starches thing a try. Thank you Paul Jaminet and Russ Crandall for the work you've done in this area.
This cookbook also contains a recipe for the most amazing butter chicken I've ever eaten. I've made it 3 times now, and each time I stand there over the pan as it cooks down, I am taken aback by how wonderful the sauce smells, and how wonderful it makes the house smell afterwards. It is pure bliss.
on April 2, 2014
It is a beautifully photographed book. The recipes are well laid out and easy to reproduce. From a paleo perspective it is not a purist tome. There is an abundance of "safe starches" which I don't subscribe to at this point. But if you are eating rice and potatoes this is a good choice.
I will start this by saying that I follow a mostly paleo diet, but I have found that the Perfect Health Diet allows me a little more flexibility and I feel every bit as good as when I follow a strict paleo diet. I must have gone back and forth a dozen times trying to decide if I was going to buy this book. There have been a glut of paleo cookbooks recently and I have really not been that impressed. And I was strongly berated for giving 3 stars to another popular paleo cookbook because there was really nothing in it that I would fix. I was really expecting more of the same.
But I ended up making the purchase and I am soooo glad I did. I would have to say that I will make 80-85% of the recipes in this book, which is near perfect considering personal tastes. I have a wheat allergy and there are certain foods that I just crave and I cant have them. I am not sure how he knew, but they are ALL in this book. Pizza. Check. Pao de quejo. Check. Gnocchi. Check. And even the things that are not wheat dependent...how did he know? Chicken fried steak? Butter Chicken? Bibimbap? Saag Paneer? Literally all of my favorites from pretty much every cuisine.
More importantly, I think that the Perfect Health Diet is one of the greatest contributions to the health book sector in a long time, but it is difficult to apply. This book gives you a range of great options. I am literally so excited I am like a kid in a candy store. What on earth will I make first?
BRAVO! Thank you Russ!