Wednesday, May 25

Cookbook Review: Maria Speck's Ancient Grains for Modern Meals and a Recipe for Quinoa Cakes with Smoked Trout and Lime Mayo


There are people out there who don't want you to enjoy eating. You know who they are -- the carb-averse, all fat-fearing folks consumed with diets and detox. Maria Speck, author of the beautiful new cookbook, Ancient Grains for Modern Meals, is not of them.

In her introduction, Speck, in her refreshingly direct tone says, "Almost every conversation about my passion for whole grains evoked this well-meaning remark: 'Your diet must be very healthy.' This comment always leaves me speechless, because health is the last thing on my mind when I eat."

What is on her mind is cooking with unprocessed, real foods -- fruits, vegetables, meats, and whole grains -- that are full of flavor and which happen to be healthy. Speck began eating whole grains while growing up in Greece and Germany. As a kid, she noshed on oats, wheat berries, and bulgur and as an adult has committed herself to exploring their delicious potential.

uncooked quinoa

In the first section of Ancient Grains for Modern Meals, Speck describes a wide variety of whole grains from prosaic grits and rice to more exotic kamut and farro. She tells you how to buy, store, and cook with whole grains, and even provides a helpful table with measurements and cooking times.

Chapters are divided into standard meal types with a special chapter called "Modern Mains," in which Speck encourages you to "explore these ancient grains in your twenty-first-century kitchen." Recipes include Spelt Crust Pizza with Fennel, Prosciutto, and Apples and Saffron Risotto with White-Wine Clams and Peas. I am especially impressed with the "Breakfast, Brunch, and Breads" chapter which includes innovative and even sexy recipes. Consider these: Dark Chocolate Muesli with Hazelnuts, Apricot-Lemon Bars with Cherries, and Fig Muffins with Creamy Goat Cheese Filling.

Recipes are clearly written and include tips such as how to "get a head start" or how "to vary it." Interspersed throughout the book are engaging stories from Speck's worldly travels as well as call-outs boxes with cooking tips and food history. Sara Remington's photography is luscious. My only disappointment is that there weren't more photos.

So if you're looking to incorporate more whole grains into your diet (and feel and look better too), then make room on your bookshelf for Ancient Grains for Modern Meals.

quinoa cakes with smoked trout and lime mayonnaise

I have made Speck's recipe for Quinoa Cakes with Smoked Trout and Lime Mayonnaise twice already. A third will no doubt be soon to follow. These are like a healthier, trendier alternative to clam cakes. The savory smoked trout is enhanced with aromatic fresh cilantro and nutty quinoa, and the lime mayonnaise is delightfully zippy. I will note that I had to add 1 more egg to the batch in order for the cakes to adhere. If that happens to you, just be patient. They're worth it.

Please click here for a printable version of the Quinoa Cakes with Smoked Trout and Lime Mayonnaise recipe.

Give-away time! Tell me why you'd like to win this book, and I'll announce a winner (chosen randomly) on Monday, May 30th. Good luck! 

37 comments:

Jennifer B said...

Oooo, maybe you remember me by now seeing as how as have 2 of your cookbooks (one of which- Sandwiches- that I still have to review. Doh!), but then again you do have many admirers. Anyway, I'd love to win this book because it seems so interesting! I definitely cook a lot of processed foods and if not processed, then not too healthy. Having this book in my kitchen would inspire me :)

Nicole said...

Wow, I had not even heard about this book. It sounds wonderful. I just got a ton of grain samples that I would love to use, I bet this book would give me some great ideas.

April said...

I'd like this book because we have mostly cut refined flours out of our diet, but we still love grains. There is only so many times you can eat brown rice.

Joanne said...

There are definitely some super healthy eaters who are willing to sacrifice flavor for vitamins and minerals...but there are also those of us who manage to eat healthy without doing any such thing! this cookbook sounds fantastic and like one that I would really love! The quinoa cakes alone are reeling me in!

thetwicebitten said...

hmm good idea for the book. never tried quinoa cakes, just salads.

Jessica said...

Because I'm allergic to gluten and always looking for new ways to use grains like quinoa, millet, amaranth, etc. etc.!

Janel said...

Quinoa and smoked trout sounds like a match made in heaven! I love trying new grains, so this book sounds fabulous!

Sylvia said...

I would love to win this book because I've recently acquired some farro and am excited about exploring its potential!

Fran said...

I'd love to win this book because it fits in perfectly with my new eating regimen. I only very recently "discovered" quinoa and love it and know that there is much more out there that I need to learn about and this book will help guide me.

Ironmom (Julie) said...

Thanks for the contest! I'd like to win it because I have several pounds of quinoa on my kitchen counter and no good ideas for it.

irene said...

i currently need new recipe ideas and i'd love to try out cooking with quinoa! that's why i'd love to win this cookbook, it looks like the book i was searching for :) thanks and many greetings from vienna!

Brooke said...

I love grains but never know what to do with them! I would love a guide for variety... Plus her pics are beautiful!

queencake and titangirl said...

i loooooooove grains! so that`s why i would love to win this book. and i love to read cookbooks before i go to sleep:)

ChichaJo said...

I smiled when I read how people react to the author's way of eating...health is also not really top of mind when I am eating. I eat what I love...and I love grains (along with bacon)! :) I will check to see if this cookbook is sold here...

Meredyth Haas said...

I'd like to win this book to learn innovative, creative, and healthy ways to incorporate alternative grains and carb options into my diet. I've always been curious to experiment with new grains, but have never quite known the best way to prepare them. This book would be an AMAZING resource!

MsBrownBird said...

I would love this book based off just the picture of those little cakes, they look amazing! But I'd also love this book because I'm trying to get away from eating so much bread and rice, and a starting point would be great.

Sarah said...

I think this cookbook would be a great way to learn how to incorporate these delicious grains into my diet more often.

Rebecca said...

This book looks and sounds fantastic. I'd love a copy--and the 30th is my b-day! :)

Janet said...

I would love to add this cookbook to my collection! I have been cooking Quinoa since the late 80s! A delicious food for sure. So adaptable. Plus, I have 8 pounds of it in the pantry due to a purchasing mistake! Could use all the ideas for recipes I can get!

Sarah said...

I love love love whole grains. My favorites are quinoa and spelt berries, but any grain will do. I'd love to win this book-- it seems like one I'd use a lot.

Sippity Sup said...

I have this back of Farro that has been staring me down for a week. Now I actually hear it calling my name. I sense inspiration from this book. GREG

Joanna said...

Neat! I love Quinoa particularly after a trip to Ecuador and Peru 3 years ago. I would love to learn more about cooking with other grains!

ricekernel said...

We've been tackling different grains for baking recently, but less so with savory dishes. This cookbook would provide inspiration at my fingertips!

Malia said...

I've just gotten into trying out different grains since they are available at my local farm stand. I'd love to have some recipes to incorporate yummy whole grains into my meals.

stacief said...

That looks delicious! I love new used for quinoa

Sue said...

The word "Quinoa" got my attention as it is one of my favorite grains. I love to cook with whole grains and having a cookbook that focuses on that would be awesome.

Andrea Zeng said...

I would love to learn about the grains of years past. I think it is wonderful to revive these underused grains and would be so happy to learn how to incorporate a bit of the past into my present diet.

Neil Butterfield said...

Thank God! at last someone who is more interested in good food than healthy food :-)

Erica said...

I want to be fabulous... that's why I want to win this cookbook. My personal trainer/bodybuilder of a husband and I have been married a little over a year. You would think that I would have gotten the hang of this stuff by now... but mission fail. I fell into the "grad school diet" a bit more than I like to admit, and now I need a little kick in the pants to get a fresh start, literally. Winning this cookbook would help me learn how to use natural ingredients for creative recipes... and make my husband happy :).

Sarah H.P. said...

I've got a cupboard full of alternative grains with no idea how to use them properly! I need this cookbook to put an end to my ignorance of grains!

Magic of Spice said...

Sorry I missed the giveaway, sounds like the kind of book I would enjoy. And I love this recipe here and gorgeous photo, but the always are :)

Sue said...

who won the cookbook?

Kristen @Batterlicker.com said...

I started incorporating whole/ancient grains into my diet in January, and have found them so much more flavorful than processed stuff (in addition to the health benefits). Would love to check out the recipes in this book, as I've heard wonderful things!

Kristen @Batterlicker.com said...

Just realized I missed the deadline for the giveaway, but I'm content with the quinoa cake recipe! I'll just have to go out and purchase the book. :)

Susan from Food Blogga said...

Thanks to everyone for entering! Brooke of Brooke on the Run is the lucky winner. There will be many more give-aways, so keep on tryin'!
-Susan

Mother Rimmy said...

This book sounds like a must have. I like her philosophy of eating whole foods, and I'm a big quinoa fan. The quinoa cakes sound terrific. I recently found a red quinoa that makes a colorful presentation.

B&B for Sale said...

Fresh ingedients and non processed foods, that is always the key to health.
Having moved from the UK to Portugal we are lucky to have more time to prepare something fresh every day. It is the biggest bonus of all, never mind the sunshine!

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