Super Natural Cooking: Five Delicious Ways to Incorporate Whole and Natural Foods into Your Cooking (Anglais) Broché – 1 mars 2007
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BUILD A NATURAL FOODS PANTRY
This chapter aims to set you up with something other than the standard powder-white pantry. It’s a whole new (and at the same time old) way of thinking about cooking from scratch.
When cookbooks repeatedly call for the familiar cast of cheap, refined, basic ingredients, people forget how to use anything else. The ingredients they seldom use fall out of favor, and they lose confidence in experimenting with new ones. Many of the ingredients that have fallen out of favor with the home cook are whole grains and whole-grain flours, natural sweeteners, and minimally processed fats.
The ingredients outlined here are going to be your building blocks–your go-to pantry of culinary fats, flavors, and flours. This doesn’t mean you have to take what you are currently using and throw it out, it just means that the next time you head to the store you will be armed with the information (and hopefully inspiration) to choose differently.
Just because you overhaul your pantry it doesn’t mean that you have to banish your favorite family recipes. Cook enough of the recipes in this book and you’ll be able to do updated versions of your favorites using better-quality (and better-tasting) ingredients.
Use this chapter as a shopping primer. The focus here is on what to buy, what to look for, and how to navigate toward more healthful ingredients. You will encounter more information on grains and sweeteners (as well as info on other ingredients) in chapters 2 through 5, with more of an emphasis on how to cook and prepare them.
Flours, Meals, and Powdery Stuff
When you think of flour, chances are the first thing that comes to mind is the processed white variety known as all-purpose flour, created by stripping wheat berries of their nutrient-rich bran and germ prior to processing. It is then “enriched” by adding a small fraction of the original nutrients back in so that the final product isn’t completely devoid of nutrients. Baking recipes you are familiar with often call for this type of wheat flour.
The good news is that there is a whole spectrum of other flours out there that can be used in everything from savory main courses to sweet baked goods. Flour can be milled from grains other than wheat; it can also be milled from an exciting range of nuts and legumes. I’ve even seen banana and coconut flours.
One thing to keep in mind is that using alternative flours isn’t always as simple as swapping one for another (although sometimes this is the case). Different flours have different properties, including gluten-protein levels, absorbency, appearance, texture, and of course flavor. The information in the front of this chapter will help you not only understand the recipes in this book, but help you make educated substitutions when you are working with recipes from other books as well.
We well know that different grains (as well as nuts and legumes) contain different types of protein and in varying amounts. So it follows that the many different kinds of flours contain different types of proteins. When it comes to baking however, the proteins that concern us are the ones found in wheat flour–the gluten-forming proteins, glutenin and gliadin. When these particular proteins come into contact with moisture and motion (kneading or beating), they produce gluten and this gluten forms a network lending structure and elasticity to dough. While all wheat flours contain some level of these gluten-proteins, the amounts vary. For instance, durham wheat, whole-wheat, and unbleached all-purpose flours (which are all milled from hard wheat) typically have gluten protein levels in the 12 to 14 percent range, while cake and pastry flours (milled from soft wheat) come in at around 7 to 10 percent. This is the reason hard wheat flours are the defacto choice for baking bread, making pasta, and creating super-stretchy pizza dough. If you are after a more tender crust, biscuit, cake or muffin, you are better off using a soft pastry flour. Wheat gluten is considered by some to be the only “true” gluten, but other nonwheat flours can contain some gluten as well. Typically, there is not enough to form the structure you get from wheat gluten, but enough to cause problems for people with gluten allergies.
I know it’s confusing, but also keep in mind that flours can be nutritionally high in protein, but have no gluten-forming proteins, for example quinoa flour. It is important to make the distinction. Try to make a leavened bread using 100 percent quinoa flour, and you are destined for trouble.
As you’ll see, I like to blend some of the low-/no-gluten-protein nonwheat flours with wheat flours. You end up with the structure you need from the gluten proteins in the wheat flour, alongside the interesting flavors, textures, and nutritional profiles that come with the nonwheat flours. I’ve also armed you with substitution tips on the following pages to help when you are working with recipes from other books.
The natural oils in whole-grain flours can go rancid quickly at room temperature, so purchase them from a store with high turnover. Refrigerate or freeze these flours as soon as you get home, or at least store them in a cool, dark place. In the refrigerator or freezer, store them in an airtight container so they don’t pick up flavors from other foods and moisture. Flours that are bought in smaller amounts, for example from the bulk/bin section, can be refrigerated in wide-mouthed Mason jars. Flours that come in larger, multi-pound bags I normally seal in large, reusable plastic freezer bags. Also, look for stone-milled flours, which are ground slowly; this method doesn’t generate the nutrient-compromising heat that occurs in other milling methods like hammer milling and roller milling.
What follows is by no means a comprehensive list of every possible flour; that could fill an entire volume in itself. Rather, think of this as a list of favorites.
People are convinced that the minute you make something whole wheat it’s destined to be brown, heavy, and unappetizing. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Because there is a range of whole-wheat flours to choose from, the key to successful use is understanding which whole-wheat flour to use when. These are two of my go-to wheat flours.
Whole-wheat pastry flour is a powdery flour made from soft red winter wheat or soft white winter wheat. Its lower gluten protein content (relative to standard whole-wheat flour) makes it great for recipes where you want a nice, tender crumb–quick breads, biscuits, muffins, cookies, and cakes. It can be substituted one-to-one for all-purpose white flour in many cases with good results. Using whole-wheat pastry flour instead of straight whole-wheat flour alleviates much of the heaviness often associated with whole-wheat baked goods. Of course, you would still opt for whole-wheat flour with its high gluten protein content if you were making a loaf of hearty artisan walnut bread, but this is a great flour to explore in all those recipes where you are after a nice crumb.
White whole-wheat flour is also fantastic and can replace all-purpose white flour one to one. It is less heavy than traditional whole-wheat flour but more flavorful than all-purpose white flour. If you’re trying to slip whole grains into your cooking under the radar, this is an ideal flour to turn to.
Nonwheat Whole-Grain Flours
High in protein, amaranth flour works well as an accent in combination with other flours. Because it’s a New World ingredient ground from the tiny amaranth grain, I like to pair it with other New World foods, but broadly speaking it has a natural affinity for chiles, cheese, honey, corn, brown sugar, and seeds. Try the Seed-Crusted Amaranth Flour Biscuits on page 36 or you can start by substituting amaranth for up to one-fourth of the all-purpose flour called for in recipes for waffles, pancakes, quick breads, cookies, and muffins. Toasting can mellow its assertive flavor. Keep in mind that it has no wheat gluten. Pairing it with a wheat flour in recipes where a leavener is used (or needed) helps.
Mild and sweet, with malty undertones, barley flour lends itself nicely to baked goods. Although barley flour does contain some gluten, it’s not enough to make a dough rise effectively and is often used in conjunction with a wheat flour. When using barley flour in baked goods, reduce the oven temperature by 25°F for more even baking. The maltiness lends itself nicely to pairing with lemon or other citrus fruits. Start by swapping it in for 25 to 50 percent of the flour in recipes, especially in breads, pancakes, crepes, and scones.
Corn flour simply comes from grinding up dried corn. This flour lends vibrant color and sweet flavor to favorites like muffins, corn bread, crepes. Favor stone-ground whole-corn flour, and keep it refrigerated.
Oat flour lends a moist, creamy sweetness to cookies, cakes, and piecrusts. For me, oats evoke a natural feeling of contentment. Maybe it’s the warming spices they are traditionally prepared with, or maybe it’s the memories of growing up with many cozy winter breakfasts enjoyed alongside my little sister. Either way, this comforting quality extends into food prepared with oat flour as well. Though there is no naturally occurring gluten in oats, low levels of gluten are detected in oat flour and evidently come from cross-contamination with other grains during milling and transport. Start by substituting up to 25 percent oat flour in quick breads, cakes, and muffins. It cozies up well with berries, seeds, and generous drizzles of honey.
The cross-contamination from other grains that adds gluten to oats can be a problem for some gluten-sensitive people; if you’re on a gluten-free diet, you’ll need to be careful about using oats, as well as other “nongluten” flours to be sure they’ll work for you.
I discovered quinoa flour quite by accident when I couldn’t find the buckwheat flour I was searching for at the time. Milled from a tiny, fiber-rich power grain, it has a soft texture and a grassy taste that becomes more tempered when cooked. I use it as the base of my favorite crepe recipe (page 48). While it has a high-protein content at 17 percent, it is gluten free, so combine it with a wheat flour for baked goods. As with many of the other flours in this section, start by substituting up to 25 percent. I like to pair it with corn, potatoes, chiles, pine nuts, and brown sugar. Like amaranth, it generally goes nicely with other New World ingredients.
Most of the teff flour I’ve encountered comes from brown teff grains. (There is also ivory teff available if you want to grind it into an ivory flour.) An obscure, iron-rich mini grain indigenous to Ethiopia, the flavor and color of brown teff is rich and seductive to both the eye and the palate. Make a tart crust using 50 percent teff flour and you’ll see what I mean–dark, sophisticated, and delicious. Teff is a gluten-free flour that excels in all sorts of applications–rustic quick breads, cookies, cakes, pie- and tart crusts, and even biscuits. Start by substituting a modest percentage of teff flour (25 percent), and go from there. It is possible to use a higher percentage of teff flour in a recipe with good results, particularly in nonleavened endeavors like tarts, or the teff polenta on page 58. You can also use the tiny whole grains of teff to thicken soups, stews, and sauces.
Nongrain Flours and Meals
It may surprise you to learn that flours are sometimes made from foods other than cereal grains. But flour is basically a powder of varying fineness that can be made from any food, including nuts and vegetables.
A native of Russia, buckwheat is actually an herb, not a cereal grain. You’ve most likely had buckwheat flour in the form of soba noodles or crepes. Although it’s great for crepes and pastas, its purplish gray tone lends an odd shade to baked goods. It is low in gluten and has an affinity for buckwheat honey, ginger, and fruits on the tart side of sweet, like cherries, cranberries, and other berries.
If I can convince you to track down just one esoteric flour, mesquite flour would be it, even though it can be hard to find. Also known as mesquite meal, this flour made is made from the ground pods of the mesquite tree. It has a scent that is warm and comforting, but without the edge of warm spices, such as cinnamon or even cinnamon’s mellower Mexican cousin, canela. When heated, mesquite flour permeates the kitchen with a mellow, sweet fragrance. Because it lacks gluten, start by substituting about 25 percent mesquite flour in place of regular flour in baked goods. Because of its distinct, slightly sweet, malty, smoky flavor, it also works beautifully as an everyday seasoning. Sprinkle it over oatmeal, add it to banana-based smoothies, or dust it over piping hot corn bread. It can be a bit pricey, but the amount needed to make an impact on most recipes isn’t much. (See Sources for mail-order suppliers.)
My favorite pancakes use wild rice flour as their secret ingredient (page 43). As I explain in the chapter on grains, wild rice isn’t technically a grain at all; because it is used like one though, I squeezed it in there anyway. It is a marsh grass native to North America. Wild rice flour is more difficult to locate than whole-grain wild rice, and if you can’t find a source for it, grind your own in small batches until powder fine using an electric coffee or spice grinder. Start by substituting this rich, textured, hearty gluten-free flour for 25 percent of the all-purpose flour in recipes.
Flours to Avoid
It is important to stay away from commercially processed flours that contain bleaching agents and chemical additives; instead, opt for pure flours made from whole, intact (preferably organic) ingredients.
Revue de presse
“Super Natural Cooking isn't just any other cookbook; it's meant to inspire and educate, utilizing natural and native ingredients and worldly flavors . . . A great addition to your culinary library as you expand your definition of healthy cooking.”
–Healing Lifestyles & Spas
“A good, solid guide to natural foods, ingredients, and how to use them without the stigma of this food being only boring, bland steamed vegetables and tofu. You'll like her style and simple recipes along with some beautiful photos. Simplicity and ease are great assets of this book.”
–South Florida Sun-Sentinel
“Looking for new ways to eat more naturally and healthfully? Super Natural Cooking is full of good ways to expand your use of whole and natural ingredients.”
“Super Natural Cooking provides not just recipes and advice, but a new perspective on food and how to eat what you should.”
“At last a cookbook is coming that makes natural food appear glamorous and desirable.”
–UPI (United Press International) Eat to Live column
“[T]he book's layout is urbane, the photos lush, the recipes modern and sophisticated. The teff-and-tofu crowd, it seems, has gone high-gloss.”
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Luckily, Heidi Swanson decided to start that process for us.
"Super Natural Cooking" is packed with information on how to best store, handle, and use all of the wonderful ingredients you'll find. You'll find out which all-natural sweeteners have a surprisingly low glycemic index, making them appropriate for diabetics and those worried about their blood sugar or carbohydrate intake. You'll learn how much of those exotic flours you can substitute, which recipe-types they work best in, and how to make sure their different characteristics don't cause your recipes to fail.
The recipes from this book more than prove Ms. Swanson's skill in the creative kitchen. One of the surest signs I've found of a brilliant cook over the years is the ability to take a few, often mild ingredients and turn them into something that is more than the sum of its parts--a wholly new and complex flavor. This she does easily with such recipes as a luscious fig spread that includes a bit of honey, lemon juice and black pepper. Then there's a curry noodle pot that yields new tastes in every delicious bite. I feared the seed-topped amaranth biscuits would be unduly heavy after feeling the texture of the dough, but they came out tender and wonderful, with an elusively delicious flavor I can only attribute to the amaranth flour. Each recipe came out perfectly without any alteration on our part; the directions were simple, clear, and without error.
The book even makes a beautiful gift, as it's filled with Ms. Swanson's own food photography--and believe me, these photographs will make you hungry!
Then she moves on to whole grains, beginning first with information about the different types of grains (helpful because many may be unfamiliar), she then moves on to recipes. There are baked goods like Seed-Crusted Amaranth Biscuits and Espresso Banana Muffins; soups like Toasted Wheat Germ Soup and Creamy Wild Rice Soup. The Spring Minestrone with Brown Rice made with fresh asparagus and snap peas has been a regular for us on Fridays when I get my box of produce from the local CSA. We also loved the Risotto-Style Barley made with crème fraiche and lemon zest.
Next, Swanson encourages us to "Cook by Color." This section is all about fruits and vegetables - brimming with essential phytonutrients (don't worry if you're not sure what they are, it's explained in the book.) Recipes include Baked Purple Hedgehog Potatoes (your kids will love these), Red Indian Carrot Soup, Curried Tofu Scramble, and Crema de Guacamole with Crunch Topopos.
If those foods weren't healthy enough, the next section teaches you to "Know Your Superfoods:" alliums, cruciferous vegetables, beans and legumes, nuts and seeds, sea vegetables, sprouts, tea, and yogurt. Dishes include Beluga Lentil Crostini, Sprouted Garbanzo Burgers, and Golden Crusted Brussels Sprouts. My family absolutely loved the Creamy Cauliflower Soup.
Of course even natural foods eaters love their desserts and there a plenty of good ones here as Swanson presents a section on natural sweeteners. There are recipes for Thin Mint Cookies, Spiced Caramel Corn and Ginger-Amaranth Shortbread. The Dairyless Chocolate Mousse is so rich and decadent, no one will believe it was made with tofu. The biggest hit of the desserts for us - I've already made it several times - was the Raspberry Curd Swirl Cake. My gosh, it was good. I couldn't find Raspberry Curd at Trader Joe's so I used Lemon Curd and it was wonderful. Really, really great.
Whether you are already into natural foods like I am (but there were ingredients here I've never tried like wild rice flour, teff and farro) or completely lost in a natural foods store but want to know more, this book will work for you. The recipes are very "normal" and nonthreatening - like chocolate chip cookies with a bit of mesquite flour millet-fried "rice." In other words, comfortable favorites with a little twist. Swanson does an excellent job of explaining the ingredients (and offering substitutions if you are unable to find some of the more uncommon ones). This books is vegetarian - many recipes use dairy products but there are some great vegan recipes as well.
Review as seen on [...] by Cathe Olson
As other reviewers have noted, she has gorgeous photography, and her instructions are clear and helpful. She is artful in her use of the English language, I must say. She is my go-to source for tasty and creative vegetarian dishes. I should mention that I am not a vegetarian, although probably a third to half of the meals I eat each week are. (I did experiments with going veg that didn't work out for me, because I seem to really need animal protein to be healthy.) I do genuinely think veg food is tasty, but I don't think it is a healthy diet for everyone.
So why three stars?
-She stresses using organic, quality, whole ingredients. That is essential, in my mind, for healthful cooking.
-She doesn't stray from saturated fats. Thank goodness! I was so glad to see that Heidi isn't part of the anti-saturated fat campaign. If you are skeptical, and believe that saturated fats are terrible for you, google the "diet heart hypothesis" and "women's health initiative" and you will see that in the past few years, research studies are showing that a diet low in saturated fat actually doesn't reduce your risk of heart disease or cancer. Even more interesting is that the whole idea was built on shaky use of data to begin with. Google "Ancel Keys".
-Did I mention Heidi is an amazing photographer?? I want to eat the pictures.
-Heidi does a lot of innovative work, and these recipes are testament to that. However, some of her methods aren't based on traditional cooking techniques. For example, there is phytic acid in whole grain flour (wheat, rye, etc). Phytic acid blocks nutrient absorption and causes other digestive issues over time. I am not going to go into a lot of detail, but it is important for flour to either be soaked before it is used (like the teff flour she mentions from Ethiopia--they always ferment it for a few days to make injera bread in Ethiopia), or the grains should be sprouted and then thoroughly dried before they're ground into flour. I didn't see evidence of her mentioning that in the book. (If I'm wrong, I would appreciate someone pointing that out.)
-This may draw the ire of some vegetarians, but I have read a lot about soy foods being harmful to one's health. As a woman in my child-bearing years, I have chosen to remove soy foods from my diet, even though I had a happy love affair with tofu for a long time. Soy foods can mess with your hormones, ladies. I think traditionally speaking, soy was fermented or specially prepared to be consumed in smaller quantities (miso, soy sauce). And we generally eat a lot of soy here, either knowingly as vegetarians or often unknowingly in processed foods. So recipes in this book that are soy heavy, I just skip. That is a bummer. (And again, I recommend googling the subject for more info.) After I went totally organic in dairy and meat, and cut the soy out of my diet, my menstrual cycle is like clockwork now. Sorry if that is TMI, but it's true. This is after 14 years of it being unpredictable.
So I give three stars to this book. What I do is take what I've learned about traditional food preparation methods (i.e. soaking flour/sprouting grain, etc) and incorporate those practices into these recipes to have something tasty and healthful--in a way that has stood the test of time. It's a win-win: healthy preparation + awesome Heidi taste!
For more info on traditional food preparation, I recommend Nina Planck or Michael Pollen books for the theory, or Nourishing Traditions for the practicality.
She didn't have to make it this beautiful. But she did.
I love the warm paper and the sturdy construction. It took me a few minutes to grasp that there's a dust-jacket on this paperback book. How cool.
Luxuriously textured with rich color photos (love the dahlias, the Christmas stockings and the tattoo), and dotted with charming graphics, you realize the book is a treasure before you even get to the recipes...
I feel the book has so much to teach me; expedient, because I am anxious to learn about whole grains, natural sweeteners and alternative oils. Along with her talent for photos and food; I love the way Heidi speaks to us. Intelligent. Amusing. Never dull.
Allowing no personal bias as a fan of her web-site, I am charmed and excited by this book on it's own merit. Because I have cooked from her first cookbook, I know the recipes will work and impress. In my collection of three hundred or so cookbooks, this is a stand-out.