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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.