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Piglet Community Pick: Yummy Supper

Read up on some of 2014’s most-loved cookbooks, tested and reviewed by the one and only Food52 community.

Today: Rachel Esralew Hathaway goes gluten-free to test Erin Scott's Yummy Supper.

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There has been much fervor in recent years over the gluten-free diet, and I have found that people fall into three camps: They embrace it as part of a new diet to cure an ill; they mock those who abandon the pleasures of wheat and flour; or they actually suffer from Celiac disease and are either frustrated or elated that gluten-free diets have taken over stores and menus. Erin Scott’s Yummy Supper is a cookbook that can be enjoyed by all of these people. I don’t subscribe to a gluten-free diet, but I am intrigued by it in an experimental sense. I have family members who do, and I want to find simple and delicious recipes that I can cook for them.

More: Read our take on Erin Scott's honest approach to gluten-free cooking.

What drew me to this book was that there appeared to be so many easy, fresh, and full-bodied recipes that just happen to be gluten-free. While some recipes do call for gluten substitues (Crab Pasta with Citrus and Mint, Egg in a Hole, French Toast Sandwiches), they still sounded amazing. That being said, instead of focusing on gluten substitutes, I think this book could have done just as well by promoting what it does best, which is to highlight the abundance of rich flavor and fresh, whole ingredients with simple cooking. In my opinion, highlighting that these recipes are gluten-free isn't even necessary.

The recipe for Fish Tacos with Pomegranate Salsa is an example of this philosophy: The dish was rich and sharply tangy but also just sweet enough -- and amazingly delicious. Have you ever had one of those moments where you bite into something, then pause to tell everyone you're with to stop talking for a minute so that you can savor every bite? That was one of those moments. And the addition of a fruit salsa to the fish taco has inspired me with ideas for new flavor combinations in my own cooking.

I also liked the fact that Scott suggests pairings of recipes within the book, which means that you never have to reference more than one book to create a fully satisfying dinner. We paired the Fish Tacos with the Rainbow Slaw for a fresh, light weeknight dinner and the Parmesan Polenta with Pork Ragu, which was rich without being too heavy. We even paired the Simple Almond Torte with Strawberry and Rhubarb Compote for a perfect combination of nutty and tart.

More: Speaking of dessert, here's how to make the best gluten-free cookies.

Gluten-Free Cookies

We made quite a few other recipes that were successful: The earthy but snappy Pistachio Kebabs on Rosemary Skewers (we prepared these as meatballs with rosemary toothpicks for a party) were eaten so fast, I barely got to try one. And the Cozy Winter Soup with Sausage was an easy weeknight dinner that was both healthy and filling.

The Buckwheat Zucchini Muffins was the only recipe we tried that was a disappointment, but I’ll freely admit that I didn't add all of the honey that was recommended because I got tired of squeezing it out of the plastic bear. Scott recommends eating them with cream cheese, which turned out to be a nice pairing, despite my initial dissatisfaction.

More: Want to try the muffins for yourself? Get the recipe here.

This book is a nice addition to my family's collection and offers plenty of inspiration for fresh and simple cooking -- that happens to be gluten-free. Scott reminds us of the simplicity but incredible power of fresh food. And for that reason, I think this cookbook deserves praise and a place on your shelf.

First photo by Mark Weinberg; second by James Ransom; last by Emiko Davies

12 Comments

Phyllis G. March 5, 2015
I love this books much. I use it every week. Full disclosure: Erin Scott is one of my best friends. I've tasted her food. I've nibbled cookies in her kitchen. She has fed me her nourishing soup. This book is Erin in book form. It is warm and inviting and kick ass. It is for everyone, not just those with celiac. Pages 260-261 have changed my cooking life: "The simple pleasure of a pot of beans." Follow her directions and you will have a perfect pot of beans. She also encourages you throughout the book to play. To use her recipes as templates. To make the recipes your own. Her ease in the kitchen and her inclusion of her kids leads me (and many others via her blog) to really trust her point of view. The testing was meticulously done (I got to test the fabulous chai!). These dishes have all passed through her kitchen for years. All gushing aside, the most important point is that you can really trust these recipes. Nothing was rushed and slapped together (like some of the reviews we've been reading for the piglet). She is an inspiration.
 
Phyllis G. March 5, 2015
i love this *book*<br />not *books*<br />must slow down<br />
 
Author Comment
Rachel E. March 6, 2015
Great to hear from you! I wish I could meet her. I still continue to cook from the book. I am definitely flexible on recipe interpretation, and I truly appreciate that she encourages creativity, as you point out.
 
hardlikearmour March 5, 2015
Interesting mix of opinions on the book! Sounds like most of what you made worked out well, though. If you could go back in time and decide whether or not to get this book, would you do so??
 
drbabs March 5, 2015
Interesting question, Sara. I did like most of the dishes I made, and I liked the basic premise. I guess it depends on why you buy a cookbook (which goes to Kenzi's article from yesterday: https://food52.com/blog/12421-why-cookbooks-are-more-than-their-recipes). There were definitely good recipes in it, but I want a cookbook to do more than give me a few new recipes--I want to learn something, or be taken somewhere, or explore a different point of view. Love2cook has a good point about teens (or new cooks)--but that's why I was really confused about her point of view. There are a lot of basic and good recipes. There are also a lot of ingredients that are difficult to source. So, no, I wouldn't buy it again, and I actually gave it to a friend who wasn't put off by the writing and just wanted to see if she could find a few new recipes for her husband who has celiac.
 
Author Comment
Rachel E. March 6, 2015
That is a great question! Yes, I think I would. Every cookbook has a few duds, but most of the recipes here are relatively simple, which is so appealing. Many of my other cookbooks aren't so approachable (and the photography is very inspiring).
 
love2cook March 5, 2015
I was also a reviewer for this book for Piglet. As someone cooking for a family with teenagers who are not gluten-free but who are interested in more healthful eating alternatives, the title and cover of this book were intriguing. My teens went through and tagged a number of recipes that they thought sounded interesting. As a result, I was more inclined to overlook the cutesy aspects of the writing and organization to focus on how each dish was constructed.<br /><br />I do agree that not all of us live in California with an abundance of fresh produce available year round. As someone living on the East Coast during this unending winter of snow and ice, her description of “Candied Tomatoes” (“I get to work candying…Early Girls by the crateful. I toss them into freezer bags, and the juicy roasted tomatoes are ours to savor year-round.”) was very frustrating. However, I did find the "Bourbon-Braised Short Ribs with Brown Sugar and Coffee” to be a perfect dish to be started ahead of one of our predicted snowstorms. While the ribs have to sit overnight in their brown sugar-coffee grind-pepper rub and you need the better part of an afternoon to brown and braise the ribs, the effort was certainly worth it when we had literally falling off the bone tender short ribs with a rich interesting deeply flavored sauce over soft polenta to enjoy on a frigid snowy evening.<br /><br /> If you can overlook the flaws in the gushing tone, this book can be an interesting one to encourage families with teenagers to take a different look at cooking.
 
Dana V. March 6, 2015
I'm confused. I thought the whole point of roasting and freezing the tomatoes in late summer, when they're in season everywhere for everyone, was that they'd be available anytime, but especially in winter. How is that a strictly California thing? Did I miss something?
 
Author Comment
Rachel E. March 6, 2015
I have not yet tried the short ribs but have been eyeing it recently. Glad to hear you liked it! As for the comment about California, I live here in Sacramento (right in the heart of CA - the Central Valley), and we only have fresh tomatoes from June through early September. I actually didn't even need to candy mine, our fresh tomatoes from the garden were canned at peak ripeness and I find them sweet enough. However, candied tomatoes seems to work for winter tomatoes or those that need a little extra help. Now that we're out of our canned supply, I'll probably be playing with those to hold us over until June. BTW, we'll take your snow any day, we are in a devastating drought!
 
drbabs March 5, 2015
Did we cook from the same book? I had a completely different reaction to it. While I did enjoy some of the same recipes you did (and think her theme of using whole foods is really worthwhile), I found the frame of reference to be confusing. If it's for a new cook, why wasn't there more information about where to source ingredients and what to substitute if the chosen ingredient (red rice; black cod) is not available? If it's for an experienced cook who needs to eat gluten free, why are there recipes for smoothies, compound butter, a pot of beans? She advises readers to make the recipes their own, but if the reader is such a new cook that she needs a recipe for a smoothie, how is she supposed to do that?<br /><br /> Also, I found the writing completely off putting. Just in the first chapter (Slurp. Slurp?!): Recipes are luscious. Her children are kiddos. A meal is droolworthy. Tamari is delish. Vegetables are veggies. I don't mean to criticize your review--there were definitely good recipes in the book. I know that the blog Yummy Supper is quite popular, and Erin Scott seems to be a warm and engaging person. This could have been a much better cookbook with editing of the cliche-heavy writing, suggestions for alternatives to the ingredients in her recipes (we don’t all live in northern California) and an index to help the reader source the needed ingredients or find alternatives. Encouraging people--whether they have to eat gluten free or not--to cook with fresh food, and creating simple approachable recipes to achieve that are both worthwhile endeavors.<br /><br />I personally found the cutesy writing and the lack of a cohesive point of view to be so frustrating that I stopped using the book before I made the recipes I had tagged. Even though there were other recipes that seemed worth making (I really liked the dishes from her travels), I couldn't get past my visceral reaction to the book as a whole. <br />
 
Author Comment
Rachel E. March 6, 2015
I actually agree with you somewhat on the lack of focus in the book. I was frustrated at first, looking for a theme and audience (mostly related to inconsistency about the approach to "natural" gluten-free recipes), but when I decided to give that up, I had a great time! I can understand your frustration about the writing, I agree it was cutesy at times (although so is the title). I guess it depends what we are looking for in a cookbook. I needed this book to bring me out of my processed food haze and appreciate all of the simple ingredients around me. I will admit though, having only lived in California for 4 years (I grew up on the East Coast and lived in Oklahoma for 4 years prior), I can see even that being frustrating for someone who doesn't live in a place with some of the most diverse and freshest ingredients in the world. It was nearly impossible to find many of these ingredients, fresh, in Oklahoma. Going back in time, I probably wouldn't not have picked up this book if I lived anywhere else but California - maybe because it would make me long too much for treasures I didn't have.
 
Author Comment
Rachel E. March 6, 2015
I actually wish to rephrase my comment (but I can't seem to edit). While I think the book was very California-centric in an Alice-Waters kind of way, I think that you can find the pleasures in whole food eating anywhere. My point was more that now that I live here, this book would probably make me pine to return should I ever move away (although it would work anywhere I'm sure). It just feels very California to me. I'm not going to lie that finding fresh produce was somewhat of a challenge in Oklahoma, but is certainly achievable in many parts of the East Coast, where the climate is temperature but lush. Anyway, I did not mean in any way to dismiss my fellow Americans who don't live here. But yes, this book is very California.