IT HAS ALL THE RIGHT INGREDIENTS TO TEMPT ME: A well-stocked pantry of whole foods; a vegetarian approach; an author as seductive with her keyboard and camera as with her combinations of flavors, colors and textures. So when my copy of 101 Cookbooks [dot] com creator Heidi Swanson’s latest volume of recipes arrived this week, I dug in—and then quickly bought two more copies of “Super Natural Every Day” to share with you (details on how to win at the bottom of the jump page).
If you have not “met” Heidi, she lives, cooks, and writes in San Francisco, where she began 101 Cookbooks in early 2003. It quickly grew into one of the most-visited food blogs, with a look and approach that’s at once ultra-modern and old-style homey, not unlike the food she prepares.
Heidi won’t proselytize or badger with her vegetarian philosophy in her book or online, but rather draws you into a happy day of Yogurt Biscuits or a handsome Frittata of seasonal produce and goat cheese, with a stop perhaps at Chanterelle Tacos—use any mushroom you like—along the way to a savory supper (Stuffed Tomatoes loaded with couscous, or Weeknight Curry with a splash of coconut milk, anyone?). These are recipes that take only a couple of short paragraphs to explain, yet feel spectacular.
Following up on her James Beard Award-nominated 2007 book “Super Natural Cooking,” the new “Super Natural Every Day: Well-Loved Recipes From My Natural Foods Kitchen” is about eating well in our daily lives, breakfast through supper.
THERE ARE SNACKS, drinks and sweets, too—Ginger Cookies with dried apricots and shaved chocolate; Buttermilk Cake laden with plums and lemon zest—but none is fussy. The only reason I haven’t made the Baked Oatmeal (left) from the breakfast chapter is that I fear I would eat the whole thing myself in one sitting, so I’m waiting for a brunch guest, though it looks like dessert to me.
Eggs are not just included in Heidi’s cuisine; they’re celebrated, whether hard-cooked and crumbled into the Broccoli Gribiche (roasted potatoes, capers, mustard, red wine vinegar) or the main event, like a herbed Open-Faced Egg Sandwich. So are high-quality dairy products such as yogurt and hard cheeses, like the parmesan shaved on top of the book’s cover dish: White Beans and Cabbage (with potatoes and shallots in the mix).
You’ll hear no talk of “meat substitutes,” but rather of savoring soy products and beans for their own distinct and delightful natures. Listen to Heidi on beans, for instance:
“I like to get to know each individual type of bean, and when I’m trying a new one I prepare it simply, so I can acquaint myself with its unique flavor, texture, and personality.”
Or her confession about her “mad collection” of spices: “My spice drawer is the one part of my kitchen I’m powerless to keep under control.”
Like I said, seductive; there is a sensualist behind these recipes, right down to the creamy-versus-dry aspect that distinguishes a single bean from another.
After dessert, an entire section called Accompaniments rounds out this beautiful book, offering the supporting techniques (from a perfect poached egg to how to cook whole grains and beans) along with the “simple sauces, drizzles and toppings” that are Heidi signatures.
Warning: After a few days with “Super Natural Every Day” I am off to add to my spice collection. The pantry will be just a little fuller thanks to Heidi Swanson, and the house figures to smell a little bit like a certain apartment in San Francisco at mealtime.
in the blood: of photography and pantries
I SUPPOSE WHAT DRAWS ME to feeling a kinship with Heidi most of all is that pantry, and how strongly I identify with it. I never feel quite right unless I have all my staples on hand; a well-stocked pantry is the foundation of my home and my health. The kitchen of my parents’ house, in a funny old-fashioned structure, had a big pantry closet with a tall ceiling; my grandmother’s did, too. You needed a stool to reach the top shelves.
And then it’s probably the camera thing: I discovered here that Heidi’s father, like mine, had a Nikon SLR that went everywhere with them, and that she, too, took a photography elective in her freshman year of college. Maybe brimming pantries and Nikon-toting fathers are the things that turn young women into longtime vegetarians and bloggers? I don’t know, but Heidi’s new “Super Natural Every Day” has all the right ingredients for the contemporary cook of any lineage.
how to win the a copy of heidi’s book
TO WIN ONE OF TWO COPIES of “Super Natural Every Day,” tell me about your pantry, whether a single shelf or an entire room. Do you have a “mad collection” of spices, too, or anything else you’d care to reveal, lurking in there?
I’ll pick two winners at random using random [dot] org after entries close at midnight next Friday, April 15.
You know me: I understand some readers are shy and just want to say “Count me in,” or “I want to win.” That’s fine—but if you feel comfortable, tell us about that pantry, won’t you? Good luck to all.
more, more, more
- Try the book’s recipes: There’s a six-recipe sampler on Heidi’s site.
- The cover dish recipe, White Beans and Cabbage, interpreted by Jaden Hair of Steamy Kitchen.
- The recipe for Baked Oatmeal, interpreted by Lottie and Doof.
- In her own words: What Heidi says about her new book.
- Meet Heidi: Her “about” page.
- Buy the book now: “Super Natural Every Day.“
Notes: Photo credit: Heidi Swanson © 2011
(And: Federal regulations require me to say that should you shop via links to Amazon on my site, I will receive a small royalty on purchases. I use this money to buy more books to give away, like the ones in this contest.)