Get ready to meet the most beautiful book in the word. Small Plates & Sweet Treats: My Family’s Journey to Gluten Free Cooking is the prettiest collection of recipes to cross my desk, ever.
As somebody who’s spent the better part of my life reading cookbooks in bed for relaxation, this gorgeous tome is one sweet treat. It’s so pretty, I even found myself cooing over the floral print on the inside of the dust jacket! If you are familiar with Aran’s award-winning blog, Cannelle et Vanille, you will know that her food photography and styling are truly top notch. Her work is sumptuous, real, always telling a story, and making you desperately want to eat whatever it is she’s just prepared. So imagine how breathtaking these images are in book format. Big, glossy, full-paged… Dare I say it? Even better than on the blog, because there’s more immediacy, more clarity, so tangible you want to dive right in.
Call me antiquated, but I still love a book. Food blogs are special for their real time experience, the in-depth process shots, the window into somebody’s life, and the community they can foster. But nothing replaces a COOKBOOK. The pages you pour over and spill food on. However, in full disclosure: I don’t want to spill food on this book. I want to keep Small Plates & Sweet Treats as the stunning coffee table book it is, or could be if I keep it clean. I obviously need two copies: one for breaking in, and the other for perusing.
But let me be clear, Small Plates & Sweet Treats’ beauty is way more than skin deep. First, let me talk about its structure. It is divided into seasonal chapters, a structure I’m particularly fond of. Seasonal chapters simplify life, by letting you flip directly to the seasonally applicable recipes for inspiration. Warming soups for fall, cooling salads for summer, already curated for you. Cooking seasonally is preferable for many reasons, perhaps most importantly because it simplifies shopping by sourcing what is in season, and thus readily available and cheaper. Cheaper, easier to find, and hitting the spot based upon your seasonal moods? What could be better? Interestingly, Aran has started the book with autumn, while most seasonal cookbooks begin with spring. I like that she’s started with autumn, because I always think of the beginning of the year as the beginning of the school year, so this works for me.
Another highlight of Small Plates & Sweet Treats is that it’s comprised of small plates. Derived straight from Aran’s Basque childhood, small plates are a great way to eat. Make one recipe for lunch, or whip up several complimentary dishes for a lively and varied supper. And the best thing about small plates? They leave room for dessert, which believe me, you’ll want to be doing. Aran was previously a professional pastry chef, and has lifted gluten-free baking to new heights.
Best of all, these recipes are simple. While they range in style from innovative (candy-striped beet, fennel & raclette tart with buckwheat crust) to traditional (sunday beef stew) they are all easy to execute, and most of all delicious. I can’t wait to cook and bake my way through this cookbook. At the top of my list are crispy & creamy chicken, mushroom and potato bake (see recipe below), eggplants stuffed with millet & serrano ham, roasted parsnip & apple soup with mustard croutons, autumn panzanella salad (made with Aran’s homemade seeded bread), celery root, sweet potato & quinoa crumble, chocolate sweet potato donuts, and coconut cream cookies (which my son Lennon looked at and said “make that!”). Please note that while all these recipe are gluten-free, they are not specifically free of other common allergens, so pick and choose those that are safe for you. I chose to share the recipe below because it’s easily made top-8-free if you just omit the cheese.
I don’t know about you, but I know what I’ll be getting people for Chrismukkah this year! Thank you, Aran, for this lovely luscious book!
crispy & creamy chicken, mushroom & potato bake
From Small Plates & Sweet Treats by Aran Goyoaga
I WAS ELEVEN THE FIRST TIME I VISITED IRELAND. I spent a summer with the O’Sullivans, who took me in as an exchange student while I attended English classes. Every morning, Una packed my lunch in a brown bag: a chicken sandwich, an apple, and a packet of malt vinegar crisps. It seldom varied. During a lunch break at school I saw a fellow classmate pack his crisps inside his sandwich. I had never seen anything like it! “He might be on to something,” I thought to myself, and he was. This dish is inspired by those fl vors and textures, with a creamy chicken, mushroom, and tarragon filling and a crunchy potato, malt vinegar, and parsley topping.
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for brushing bowls and frying
4 slices pancetta, chopped
1 medium yellow onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 celery stalk, diced
1 pound (450 g) boneless chicken breasts or thighs, cut into bite-size pieces
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 ounces (110 g) cremini mushrooms, sliced
1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon
¼ cup (60 ml) white wine
1/2 cup (125 ml) unsweetened coconut milk
2 medium Yukon gold potatoes, peeled
1 tablespoon malt vinegar
½ ounce (15 g) Parmesan cheese, finely grated
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh parsley
1 Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C). In a large sauté pan, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the pancetta and cook until crispy. Add the onion, garlic, and celery and cook for 5 minutes.
2 Season the chicken with 1/2 teaspoon of the salt and 1/2 teaspoon of the black pepper. Add it to the pan. Cook for 5 minutes, turning once. Add the sliced mushrooms and cook for another 2 minutes. Add the tarragon, white wine, coconut milk, 1/2 teaspoon of the salt, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon black pepper. Cook for another minute.
3 Brush the inside of 6 (8-ounce) oven-safe bowls with oil. Divide the chicken mixture among the bowls and bake for 20 minutes.
4 Meanwhile, thinly slice the potatoes on a mandoline, or slice them by hand as thin as possible. Pat them dry with a paper towel. In a large sauté pan, heat 1/2 inch of olive oil over medium heat. Fry the potatoes in batches until crispy, making sure not to overcrowd the pan. Drain them on paper towels. Drizzle the malt vinegar and remaining ¼ teaspoon salt on top.
5 Remove the bowls from the oven and top with the crispy potatoes and Parmesan cheese. Put the bowls back in the oven for 5 minutes. Top with the parsley and serve immediately.