by Diane Kochilas
Published August 1, 2005
I grabbed this book as soon as I saw it, though it wasn't quite what I expected. I'm always interested in the Mediterranean Diet approach, and have also been trying to find ways to increase the amount of whole grains in my diet. I read grains, good carbs, and Mediterranean in the title, and it was like three cherries in a slot machine. It also never clicked that Against the Grain meant anti-grain. Silly me. My next surprise was to find a lot of references to low carb cooking in the introduction, and I don't follow a low carb diet. Most bookstores will no longer order new books with "low carb" in the title, so many low carb books are now changing their names to good carbs, even if they really mean no or low carb. I started to dread my purchase, but decided to give this book the benefit of the doubt.
In the introduction to this book, the author describes her experience losing weight with the Atkins diet, which she felt was too strict, and she ended up craving pasta, bread, and rice. She then reintroduced her Mediterranean favorites back to her diet, but regained her weight. She also admits that she overate these foods, and never practiced moderation, which is an important principle of the Mediterranean Diet. Kochilas then discovered the South Beach Diet and the good carb, good fat approach. She explains that she liked what the diet plan offered, though she doesn't actually say she followed it. However, she reached out to find ways to incorporate more fresh vegetables and other good carbs into her diet, while sticking to a moderate, good fat goal, and with litte emphasis on grains.
The lack of grains in this cookbook is painfully evident, but can be overcome by thinking of this as a good vegetable cookbook. In that respect, this is a wonderful cookbook, filled with delicious recipes that will make your mouth water, no matter what diet you follow. The recipes will fit in with any diet, from Atkins to Weight Watchers. I might have hit the jackpot after all!
If you are veggie challenged, this cookbook may be what you need. Every recipe contains fresh vegetables, but they are well seasoned to make them very lovable. Kochilas uses a lot of high flavor ingredients throughout the book, such as roasted red bell peppers, olives, capers, fresh herbs and spices, and fragrant nuts and oils. I tried the Moroccan Spiced Tomato and Chile Salad recipe, which was very easy to put together, and was loaded with fresh, bold flavors! I also tried the Greens and Lentil Soup with Bacon and Olive Paste, which took more time, but was well worth the effort. The flavors were layered in a rich mixture which was very soothing on a chilly, Autumn night. The soup contained Swiss chard, spinach, bacon, red onions, lentils, tomato paste, sherry vinegar, Kalamata olive paste, and a variety of seasonings. Now close your eyes, and I'll bet you can smell it cooking! I was amazed that there were only 221 calories and 8 grams of fat per serving.
There are 150 recipes in this cookbooks, and I look forward to trying most of them. The concentration is on vegetables, but there are plenty of chicken and seafood recipes to round out your menu. Included are recipes for dishes such as Balsamic-Honey Glazed Chicken Breasts, Pan Seared Shrimp with Romesco Sauce, Spanakopita Souffle, Andalusian Monkfish Soup, and Lamb Baked in Parchment Paper.
Overall, I'm very happy with this cookbook. I don't usually buy books so blindly, but I'm glad that I did in this case. Otherwise, I may not have given it the chance it deserved, and the attention I will surely pay it. If you see a copy at your local shop, you might want to browse the pages for a few minutes. I'm sure you'll have dinner all planned out before you even leave the bookstore.