Melissa Joulwan’s Paleo cookbook, Well Fed, was the first no-grains, no-dairy cookbook to grace my kitchen shelf. Since then I’ve acquired several more, usually after borrowing them from the local library and falling in love with them. But Well Fed will always hold a special place as the first cookbook of it’s kind in my home. (Thanks for the gift, Mom!)
My first pass at any cookbook includes flipping through and looking at the pictures. To me recipes are a form of inspiration. They are compilations of ideas that someone else has vetted. I love recipes for things like oven temperatures, approximate cooking times and inspiration for spice combinations, but I see pretty much everything else as flexible. So if the pictures don’t inspire me to experiment with the recipes, then what’s the point? The pictures need to be plentiful and awesome. If I knew what I wanted to eat all the time, I’d just Google those things and figure it out. I need ideas, and, for me, ideas are 98% visual.
How does Well Fed stack up in this department? Pretty darn awesome, actually. The pantry stocking intro includes artsy pictures of canned tuna, and each recipe has an editorialized, stylish picture. Love them. A few are a little blurry, but not enough to distract me from drooling a little on the pages.
Next on the cookbook checklist is breadth and depth of recipes. I really like how Melissa broke down the types of recipes. Rather than the classic breakfast, lunch and dinner options, she organized them in terms of “weekly cookup,” sauces & seasonings, protein, veggies & salads, and fruits. As a diehard breakfast-for-dinner fan, this makes a ton of sense to me. I love leftovers for breakfast and eggs at lunch. Regardless of when I’m eating, I’m usually looking for a protein and veggie combo. This cookbook makes my type of menu planning super simple.
I’ll also give Melissa some extra credit here for including information beyond recipes. For example, there’s an entire section about how to start with Paleo. While occasionally overdone in the Paleo-sphere, Melissa approaches this topic with a level of usefulness that you won’t find everywhere. Her practical tips and helpful lists would set a newbie up for success in the kitchen.
Speaking of kitchen success, Joulwan also covers kitchen tool recommendations. Her list would be really handy for a new home cook, though it’s a bit rudimentary for anyone beyond the very beginner skill level.
As for us anti-nut people, out of the 80 recipes in the book, ten have nuts in the recipe. Of those ten, you can easily remove the nuts from at least eight with minimal change to the final outcome. The recipe titles that include nuts are listed below:
Waldorf Tuna Salad
Blue Ribbon Country Captain Chicken
Velvety Butternut Squash
Cauliflower Rice Pilaf
Coconut Almond Green Beans
Zucchini Noodles Aglio et Olio
Fried Apples with Bacon and Pecans
Berries and Whipped Coconut Cream
Peach Almond Crisp
Nuts and other allergens are not called out on each recipe page, but the ingredients lists are easy to find and review on each page. I’ve modified a couple of these myself to remove nuts with no issues. I didn’t love the velvety butternut squash (not the right spices for me), but I’ve made variations of the Waldorf tuna salad several times and love it. A huge majority of the recipes do not involve nuts at all, and there is no dairy whatsoever.
I love the creativity and zestiness throughout. One thing about Melissa is that her food is far from boring. She also provides a ton of idea-starters, which she calls “you know how you could do that?” I love this because she encourages you to riff off of her creations rather than stick to the book (which I never do anyway).
I’m happy to report that some of my all-time favorite dishes have come from Well Fed. This includes Pad Thai (nut-free! and also on her blog), Bora Bora fireballs, cumin roasted carrots and the many varieties of nori chips.
Needless to say, Well Fed has my seal of approval (for whatever that’s worth) and I’m sure I’ll be gathering inspiration from it for some time. Give it a go and let me know what you think.