I recently had the opportunity to attend a party at Portland’s fabulous Cheese Bar in honor of my friend Ivy Manning‘s new cookbook, Crackers and Dips. Ivy prepared a spectacular spread for the party, which included not only Steve Jones’ finest charcuterie and cheeses, but also a sampling of homemade crackers, schmears and dips from the book. Always one to take care of her friends with food sensitivities, Ivy included THREE types of gluten-free crackers in the mix. Yay for inclusion! My favorite dip was the decadent Bacon and Caramelized Onion Jam, unless you count the Salted Whiskey Caramel sauce I was licking from the tips of my fingers. (I guess you should count that.)
Crackers and Dips is not a gluten-free cookbook, but it’s considerably more gluten-free friendly that you might initially assume. Even I was surprised. Eleven of the 37 cracker recipes are gluten free. Fourteen dips are safe, and the remaining four can easily be converted with a simple ingredient (gf soy sauce, beer or bread crumbs) substitution. The crackers I’ve sampled so far–Senbai Japanese Rice Crackers, Macadamia Nut and Coconut Flour Club Crackers, and these Amaranth Crackers with Cheddar and Pepitas–were knockouts and, not surprisingly, so much fresher and more interesting than purchased gluten-free crackers. I’m looking forward to trying out the remaining options: Smoked Almond Thins, Brown Butter Hazelnut Crackers, Seeded Quinoa Crackers, Flax Seed Pizza Crackers, and “A School of Gluten-Free Fish” Crackers. Ivy also included a few naturally gluten-free choices: Frico with Basil, Pappadums Three Ways and Vietnamese Shrimp Chips.
As I read through Crackers & Dips, I couldn’t help but hope that more cookbook authors will take a tip from Ivy’s play book. For all intents and purposes, this should be just another wheat-filled baking book that I’ll never be able to touch. But it’s not. Ivy clearly thought outside the box, and by experimenting with alternative and whole grain flours and carefully choosing the ingredients in the dips, she has created a book that addresses everyone’s needs. Give her Amaranth Crackers with Cheddar and Pepitas a try (hint: they taste particularly great with tomatillo salsa or guacamole) and I know you’ll catch the cracker-making bug. Enjoy! ~LbR (Cracker photograph by Jenifer Altman.)