July 03, 2014


Good Morning Paleo: More Than 150 Easy Favorites to Start Your Day, Gluten- and Grain-Free. By Jane Barthelemy. Da Capo. $18.99.

Salad Samurai: 100 Cutting-Edge, Ultra-Hearty, Easy-to-Make Salads You Don’t Have to Be Vegan to Love. By Terry Hope Romero. Da Capo. $19.99.

     Specialists in specific forms of eating, Jane Barthelemy and Terry Hope Romero here turn their attention to specific types of foods to go within those areas of specialization. Barthelemy focuses on the Paleo diet, an attempt to improve health today by returning to an elegantly conceived, make-believe version of what our ancestors might theoretically have eaten in the distant past, and guides readers through breakfasts without orange juice, yogurt, cereals or breads. Paleo advocates focus on vegetables, meat, fish, poultry, nuts, seeds, tart fruits and unprocessed fats, without counting calories or insisting on portion control. “It’s all about respecting yourself and your body, understanding your relationship to the Earth, and achieving your true human potential,” writes Barthelemy; New Age advocates will thus be pleased with the introduction and setup of the book, although it is somewhere between naïve and silly to accept the assertion that this modern diet “mimics the hunt-and-gather food of our ancestors.” Barthelemy explains up front what equipment is needed for Paleo cooking and what is not. For example, she says “you won’t need a microwave – I’m pretty sure it’s not Paleo,” but you will need a KitchenAid or Cuisinart food processor with “S” blade and grater, plus a blender, waffle iron, digital scale that reads both pounds and metric measurements, ice cube trays, and so on. Apparently our ancestors had strong preferences in electrical kitchen appliances, measurement systems and Paleolithic refrigeration. Well, the point here is less the philosophy of Paleo – the book is only for those who already agree with it – than the breakfast recipes that can be made within the diet’s requirements. Barthelemy’s sections include such “Breakfast Staples” as coconut butter, homemade bone broth, fermented veggies; “Savory Breads” such as sweet potato rosemary biscuits and plantain tortillas; smoothies; grain-free cereals such as “cauliflower rice pudding”; griddle items; quick breads and muffins; “My Dad’s Favorite Hearty Breakfasts,” such as wild salmon cauliflower hash, tamale pie and egg foo yong; and egg dishes, quiches, meats, sauces and more. Ingredient lists are clear, as are preparation instructions, and there are boxes at page bottoms showing which dishes are gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free, meat-free and so on. One box shows “10 minutes or less” but is not frequently marked. Still, people determined to follow the Paleo diet will likely be happy with Good Morning Paleo as a book whose nearly 300 pages show them a variety of possible breakfast foods and give them straightforward information on preparing them.

     Salad Samurai is a much shorter book – 180 pages – and is intended not to be straightforward, in the sense that its purpose is to showcase recipes for elaborate and out-of-the-ordinary salads rather than typical, quick-to-make ones. Romero has a strong vegan orientation and even dedicates the book “to hungry 16-year-old vegans everywhere of all ages” (sic), but as the book’s subtitle makes clear, the idea here is to reach out beyond those committed to vegan requirements and simply show how to make unusual and hearty salads. Maybe “simply” is not quite the right word, though, since ingredient lists are specific and tend to be long – even a less-than-10-minute item such as “Back at the Ranch Dressing” includes 10 ingredients, with a note that “there’s no substitute for unroasted cashews in this recipe.” Salads here are given by season: Spring includes “Thai Sartan Larb in Lettuce Cups,” Summer has “Avocado Amaranth Bhel Puri Chaat,” Fall offers “Coconut Samosa Potato Salad,” and Winter provides “Gingery Beets & Lentils with Tahini and Agave Nectar” – among many others. There is also a final “Sweet & Savory” section in which appear “Avocado & Tofu Breakfast Bowl with Carrot Ginger Dressing,” “Overnight Oats with Mexican Chocolate Crème,” and more. The recipe titles show clearly that these are not simple or straightforward salads, and the preparation – except for vegans used to all the ingredients Romero calls for and accustomed to making meals of this type regularly – will take some time and some getting used to. There are three “side salad” ideas included that will be good starting points for non-vegans interested in trying some of what Romero recommends. Nevertheless, Salad Samurai, despite its subtitle, will be of most interest to those who practice vegan eating and are looking for ways to combine some of the staples of vegan food preparation in new and creative ways.

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