Brassicas by Laura B. Russell {Book Review}

by Jeanne on December 15, 2014

Brassicas-home-coverToday I want to talk about something a bit different: vegetables. I am lucky to have a family that loves vegetables. Further, we happen to adore the ones that are often the ones that other people haven’t figured out how to love yet,  brassicas.  So today I want to talk about the wonderful cookbook that highlights these veggies: Brassicas: Cooking the World’s Healthiest Vegetables: Kale, Cauliflower, Broccoli, Brussels Sprouts and More, by Laura B. Russell.

Laura and I know each other from the gluten-free world (see my review of her first cookbook, The Gluten-Free Asian Kitchen). This time around, Laura turns her recipe creativity towards the often misunderstood brassica family (which, of course, is naturally gluten-free). Brassicas include: kale, cauliflower, broccoli, Brussel’s sprouts, cabbage, radish, turnips, and rutabaga.

Luckily, D’Ahub, Girlfriend and I love just about all of these. And they have the added bonus of being extraordinarily healthy for you. Now, I’m not going to lie: I haven’t always loved this family of veggies. I grew up with a mom who cooked all vegetables (especially Brussels sprouts) until they were dead, dead, dead. I couldn’t stand them. My opinion of them until I was an adult was simple: Yuck. As you can imagine, they were on my “never, ever eating those disgusting yucky things ever again” list. Then, at some point, I became an adult and was introduced to Brussel’s sprouts, kale, cauliflower, and other brassicas that were cooked in ways that highlighted their deliciousness and I gradually became an ardent fan.

Much as I like them, I will admit that my repertoire for cooking them has been a bit limited. I usually roast or sautee them. But this gets boring. This is why I was so happy when Laura’s book came out. Finally I had a resource with a variety of recipes for each brassica category. I loved the book the second I got it. I attended a book talk where Laura made and shared some samples from the book. The recipe that sealed the deal for me was her Roasted Cauliflower with Pickled Peppers and Mint. In fact, I loved it so much that I bought the ingredients to make it on the way home.

One thing I really like about Laura’s books is that she has done her homework on her topic. In the beginning of the book, she has an invaluable chart that lists the “flavor profiles” for each brassica, ranging from “Mild” (including bok choy and cauliflower) “Stronger (including broccoli, cabbage, kale), “Peppery (including arugula, radishes); to “Pungent” (horseradish and wasabi). I find this categorization quite helpful when I’m planning meals. In addition, she has a “Taming the Beast” section that talks about how to approach the flavors of these strongly flavored vegetables and how to use them in balance with the other flavors in a meal, how to compliment and accentuate the bold flavors, and how to use heat to tame and mellow the flavors. There’s a “Universal Pairings: Brassicas’ Best Friends” section that lists more than 30 ingredients that mate well with brassicas. Of course, there’s a section on how to select and store them, as well as how to wash and cut them.

Then each chapter contains a wonderful collection of recipes for each brassica (or family of brassicas). Each chapter contains appetizers, salads, soups, sides, and main dishes. Thus, you are given a host of ways to prepare the vegetables. Most of them use fairly simple and straightforward preparation techniques—so you don’t have to run around looking for weird ingredients or trying to figure out advanced cooking techniques.

Truly, I’ve loved everything I’ve made from this book. In addition to the cauliflower and peppers recipe above, a few more of my favorite recipes are: Kale and Sweet Potato Saute—which is quite simple to make and then you can use as a topping for corn tortillas; Kimchi Pancakes, for which she has a recipe for making your own kimchi if you don’t want to use store-bought; Wilted Brussels Sprouts with Bacon and Tomato; Roasted Cabbage Wedges with Lemon-Thyme Vinaigrette; and the Spicy Noodles with Wilted Watercress.

In a nod to her gluten intolerance, in each recipe Laura offers tips on how to make it gluten and wheat-free if it already isn’t.  Then, in the back of the book, she includes an incredibly handy “Special Diets Table” that lists each recipe and whether or not it is vegetarian, vegan, as well as whether or not it contains meat, fish, dairy, eggs, soy, peanuts, coconut, or sesame.   This is so useful when you or folks for whom you’re cooking need to avoid any of these ingredients.

This is a terrific cookbook and resource book for an under-appreciated family of veggies–it will change the way you think about them!

Note: if you buy the book via the above link to Amazon, I receive a tiny percentage of the sale.

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Hi there! Long time, no see! I hope you are enjoying this festive season!

For the next few posts, I want to talk about this year’s cookbooks I recommend. Every year there are a zillion books that come out—and I want to get all of them. Unfortunately, D’Ahub and Girlfriend need some space for their books, too, so I have to limit myself to certain categories. The categories I’ve chosen for this year are: baking (duh), gluten-free baking (more duh), canning and preserving, vegetables I like, and tea. I think that covers all of my favorite food groups.

Today I want to talk about Flavor Flours: A New Way to Bake with Teff, Buckwheat, Sorghum, Other Whole & Ancient Grains, Nuts & Non-Wheat Flours, by Alice Medrich with Maya Klein. This book is a must-have for the baker—gluten-free or not. Medrich and Klein created a book that is not only full of wonderful (gluten-free) recipes, but a book that explores and takes advantage of the flavors and qualities of each individual flour. This is a game changer.

There are a lot of books out there that use a variety of gluten-free flours for baking, but this one is different because it pays particular attention to the flavor profiles of the flours and the ingredients with which they are paired. Each chapter is based on a flour (Rice, Oat, Chestnut, Teff, Corn, Buckwheat, Sorghum, Nut and Coconut Flours). And, at the beginning of the chapters there is a description of the flour and its historical and geographic provenance. What I find extraordinarily valuable is that this introductory information also includes a “Flavor Affinities” section for each flour.  Here Medrich and Klein have done their homework and have provided the other ingredients that play well with each flour, including things like butter, various nuts, fruits, and spices. This is invaluable information.  They then provide a series of recipes that capitalize on these flavor partnerships.

When I first get a new cookbook, I go through and put a Post-It note on each page with a recipe I want to try. Of course, I followed this procedure here. The problem I had here: There is now a forest of Post-It notes coming off of the pages of Flavor Flours! I want to make all of the recipes—even for things I wouldn’t normally want to bake. For example, I was immediately drawn to the Corn Flour Tea Cake With Currants and Pistachios. I am generally not a major fan of corn, pistachios, or anise seed.  But it turns out that the combination is a knock-out! I had the honor and pleasure of baking for a book event for Medrich when she was in town—and I made this cake. It was a hit. People asked for seconds and thirds. Of course, it has now come into regular rotation at our house.

In addition, the authors include a nice variety of baked items: tea cakes, brownies (of course there is chocolate here! The Teff Brownies are to die for), crepes, waffles, layer cakes, tarts, cobblers, scones, cookies, and meringues. I’m always looking for different baked goods to take to parties or for when friends come over and this book has provided me with a plethora of options for every type of occasion and taste preference.

Full disclosure: over the past few years, I have had the pleasure of getting to know Alice on a personal basis. When she comes to town, we get together for breakfast or lunch and chat about life and baking. You can imagine what a thrill this is for me: I’ve been a die-hard fan-girl of Alice’s for years and years. I have every one of her books. She is one of my “Baking Goddesses.” I feel beyond lucky that I can now call her a friend and a colleague. Each time we chat, I am struck by how thoughtful she is about the craft of baking. Of course, she tests her recipes like crazy—she is known for this and her excellent books reflect this. And she is always open to learning. For this book, I am enormously grateful that even though she eats wheat, she is respectful of gluten-free folks and asks questions that allow her to create recipes that are delicious and that address needs of the gluten-free world. In addition, her writing and researching partner, Ms. Klein, is gluten-free and is dedicated to getting it right. I am so thankful to them for creating this book—and I highly recommends that you add it to your baking shelf!

(Note: if you buy the book via the above link to Amazon, I receive a tiny percentage of the sale)

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Radio Interview, Thursday, December 4, 2014

by Jeanne on December 3, 2014

Greetings!  Long time, no talk!  Tomorrow I have the honor of being interviewed by the amazing Jules Shepard on her blog radio show!  We’ll be chatting about gluten-free baking–especially holiday baking!–as well as my new book, Gluten-Free Wishlist: Sweet and Savory Treats You’ve Missed the Most (which comes out next fall 2015).


The Gluten-Free Voice with Jules

Thursday, December 4, 2014

11 am to noon, PT/2 to 3 pm, ET

Please join us!

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Classes on Gluten-Free Baking: Breads

by Jeanne on August 8, 2014

vintage_label_clip_art_bread bakery_2Hi!  I’m back!  I’m finally coming out from under book stuff.  And summer stuff.  It’s been a busy and fun summer but, as usual, it’s going by much too fast. Just wanted to let you know that I am starting to schedule gluten-free baking classes for the fall.  I will be teaching Gluten-Free Breads three times at the Pantry at Delancey on October 6th or 7th or 8th, 2014.  Check it out! I will let you know about other classes as they are scheduled.


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Hey folks!  I have gotten so many applications for recipe testers for the new book that I am bumping up the deadline to apply to Wednesday, May 7th at 5 pm (versus the original deadline on Friday).  Info for testers and instructions on how to apply in my Call for Testers post.

Get your survey completely quickly! I can’t wait to start!  And thank you!

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Hey folks!  It’s finally recipe-testing time!  I am in need of volunteer recipe testers for my book, Gluten-Free Wishlist, due out Fall 2015.  Recipe testers are the quality control officers for the process of writing a cookbook.  Their work makes sure that the book has recipes that can be easily used and that work well.  I am deeply grateful to the folks who have served (and will serve) as recipe testers for my books!

To apply to be a tester, please read this post and then go to the survey link at the end and complete the survey.  Thank you!!

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA (Not the best photo, but check out the patches of bourbon the cake is infused with)

First, I want to let you know that dAhub finally got a job! Hooray! His new company is wonderful and seems like a perfect fit. He really enjoys his work there and they seem like a dynamic and fun company. Phew. This is such a load off of our minds, I can’t even tell you. We are settling into our new routine (which is like our old routine except for the fact that I now have the house to myself during most of the day. This is very helpful when you’re writing a book!)

The other big thing that happened to us is that one of our chickens, Lulu, developed a life-threatening respiratory infection a couple of a weeks ago. We have been pretty lucky with our chickens–mostly they are fine and healthy and if they do get sick, I haven’t noticed. (Except for the chicken in our old flock who had avian malaria–that was weird). Anyway, one day I kept hearing a sound like a child’s squeaky toy in the back yard. I went out to see what was going on and I noticed that Lulu was sneezing. If you have never heard a chicken sneeze, you are missing out–it’s actually quite cute. The cute part got lost on me when I realized that I could hear her wheezing. It was so loud that it sounded like she was moaning. And she was just kind of standing in one part of the yard, sneezing and wheezing.

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My Big Fat Google Talk Adventure

by Jeanne on January 29, 2014

In November I had the honor of giving a talk on gluten-free baking and my book at Google headquarters (aka, the Googleplex) in Mountain View, CA.   Wowee!  Being asked to do a Google talk is something of a holy grail for an author.  I’ve watched many videos of the talks, but never dared to imagine that I would get a chance to do one!  I still can’t quite believe it happened, but it did–and the video above is proof!

I was told that my topic should center around my book.  I decided to do a talk that I called “The Road to Deliciousness” that chronicled how I became gluten-free, how I learned to bake again after my diagnosis, what gluten intolerance is and who has it, my philosophies around baking, my love of teaching baking, and the principles of community and tradition that I wanted to infuse into my book.  I even included slides!

I was met and taken care of by two awesome folks at Google, Jacky Hayward and Nick Miranda.  After my talk, Jacky and Nick took me to one of the cafes on the Google “campus” called Root that is gluten-free.  The chef at Root is herself gluten-free and she said that she was thrilled that the powers-that-be at Google allowed her to make the cafe gluten-free.  The food was excellent–I was quite pleased and impressed.  Each dish was flavorful, interesting, delicious, and exciting and there were so many options–I kind of wanted to go back again and again to get everything (I restrained myself).  For dessert there were individual gluten-free cakes topped with specialized chocolate bars.  Yum!

Thank you, Google!



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I’m Writing Another Cookbook!

by Jeanne on January 6, 2014

fireworks-clip-art-9Yes, yes I am! I can’t quite believe it! Yes, it is another gluten-free baking book.  The new book will be more general than my first cookbook, which is terrific. The working title is: Gluten-Free Wishlist: Sweet and Savory Treats You Miss the Most. How awesome is that? I am so excited about this book–it will contain all of the things that you have been asking for over the years: croissants, naan, pita bread, ramen noodles, dumplings, pantry essentials, etc. It will be bigger that my last cookbook and contain more recipes and more baking tips. I am so excited I am about to burst!

This new book will again be with Chronicle Books–I feel so fortunate to be able to work with them again. They are an awesome publishing house and love working with everyone there. Each time I visit their offices, it’s like visiting home. I am a lucky, lucky woman to have yet another chance to write a cookbook and to be with such a wonderful publisher–squeeeee!!

The projected release date is Fall 2015.

I will put out a call for recipe testers, soon. Keep your eye out for a post on that, soon! Yay!

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Merry Christmas!

by Jeanne on December 25, 2013


I want to wish you and yours a very Merry Christmas from me and D’Ahub and Girlfriend and the Chickens! Thank you so much for being such terrific readers and for your kindnesses throughout the year. And thank you for your questions that keep me on my toes and help me learn more and more! Thank you!

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