I LIVE IN A MODEST SIX-ROOM FLAT with twelve-foot ceilings on the second floor of a Victorian apartment in the middle of San Francisco. And by “middle” I mean that if you threw a dart at the center of a map of this city, you’d likely hit my house. My street dead-ends into an east-sloping neighborhood park, and when you stand at the front window you can watch a parade of pugs and pinschers, big kids on dirt bikes and small kids on scooters, dealers, joggers, and the occasional flute player go by. There are times when two girls set up a music stand in the shade and practice trombone.
San Francisco is a vibrant city that punctuates the top of a fist-shaped peninsula, contained on one side by the Pacific Ocean and flanked by its namesake bay on the other two. It is where the North American continent jets out of the sea in dramatic fashion before rumbling east. I’ve lived within a short drive of this coastline nearly all my life, and at the right moment, on the right day, in the right spot, there is no more inspiring place to explore.
Within reasonable walking distance of my front door, you’ll find plenty to eat and drink—paneer-stuffed kati rolls, freshly baked walnut levain, Neapolitan-inspired thin-crust pizzas, and egg sandwiches served on English muffins fresh from the oven. There is a teashop pouring silver needle, gyokuro, and monkey-picked oolong teas nearby. And as far as coffee goes, I often walk to one of the two coffee shops roasting beans on their premises. There is a boisterous bar worth braving just up the block with dozens of Belgian ales, IPAs, stouts, and hefeweizens on tap. And when I’m in the mood for something more low-key, the beer shop in the other direction has a similarly impressive selection in bottles I can take home.
There must be two dozen places to buy groceries. Some are chains; many are independently owned and small in scale. On any given afternoon I might stumble upon a box of purple rice grown by a workers’ co-op in Thailand on a shelf just a few feet from a jewel-toned jar of locally produced bergamot marmalade. Or, farm-fresh eggs a few hours old across the aisle from hand-harvested Mendocino nori. The farmers’ markets? There’s one nearly every day of the week, and choosing which to go to depends on how far I feel like walking.
But as exciting as urban living is, I often feel the pull of quieter realms. Drive an hour from where I am right now, and you might find yourself in the midst of a redwood grove, or standing on a bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean, or making snowballs at the summit of one of the neighboring peaks. There have been mornings in late spring when I’ve found myself traveling through wildflower-lined highways in west Marin County, poppies spilling from the ditches to flood the black asphalt. Farther inland, in the summertime, you’ll find endless stretches of golden hills punctuated by the craggy silhouettes of old oak trees. In these moments, there are few places I’d rather call home.
I live here with my boyfriend, Wayne, and it’s against this backdrop that I cook each day. The markets, shops, and restaurants define the palette of ingredients I reach for; they influence the flavors I crave. The hills and vistas, blooming flowers, and candy-colored houses—they shape my overall aesthetic sensibility and inspire me to highlight the natural essence of each of the ingredients I choose to use.
Super Natural Every Day
This book is a glimpse into my everyday cooking, with the hope that some of what inspires me will inspire you as well.
I resisted the urge to include over-the-top, special-occasion productions. I left out recipes requiring all day Saturday and on into Sunday to prepare, and skipped the ones with six different components. Instead, I kept a simple notebook over the past couple years of my favorite everyday preparations—ones I revisit often. The recipes are rooted in whole and natural foods, typically feature a handful of seasonal ingredients, offer some inkling of nutritional balance, and (broadly speaking) come together with minimal effort.
For those of you with Super Natural Cooking, consider this a companion volume. Many of the building blocks I outlined in that book are put into practice here. Simply put—here are real foods and good ingredients made into dishes that are nourishing and worth eating and sharing.
If you peek inside my kitchen cupboards you’ll probably notice I prefer my rice brown, red, purple, or black; and that I keep a spectrum of golden honeys close at hand. You’ll see soba noodles are allocated a good amount of real estate in the cabinets to the right of the stove, and heirloom beans have taken over 2 feet of shelf space on the left. You might (rightly) suspect my favorite section at the grocery store are the bins containing grains, dried beans, and flour.
I tend to cook with whole, natural foods—whole grains, whole grain flours, minimally processed sweeteners, and fresh produce—ingredients that are as seasonal and nutritionally intact as possible. I’d be misleading you if I said I don’t look forward to moments when I happen upon something new and special: a raw, vanilla-scented Fair Trade Certified cane sugar from the Philippines, or giant, golden salt grains from the Menai Strait in Wales. Those sorts of ingredients aside, a good portion of the food I buy is grown or produced locally. I find local ingredients taste better and often have a glow and vitality you don’t see in ingredients that have traveled long distances, particularly when you are talking about produce or perishables. And while I run the risk of sounding a bit preachy, supporting good ingredients grown or produced by people who care about our health and the health of our environment is something about which I feel strongly.
Some of you might be confused by the term “natural foods.” It is used in many different contexts, and it means different things to different people. By “natural foods,” I mean ingredients that are straight from the plant or animal. Or that are made with as little processing and as few added flavorings, stabilizers, and preservatives as possible, keeping nutrients and original flavors intact. For example, wheat berries ground into flour, grated coconut pressed into coconut milk, cream paddled into butter, or chopped tomatoes simmered into tomato sauce. For me, focusing on natural ingredients also means doing my best to avoid genetically modified and chemically fertilized crops, as well as dairy products that come from cows treated with growth hormones. I want each meal I eat to deliver as much nutritional punch as possible, and focusing on a range of real, minimally processed foods is the way I go about it.
I occasionally use unbleached all-purpose flour or white sugar, usually in baked goods, when using 100 percent whole grain flours (or less refined sugars) doesn’t quite deliver the results I want. For those of you who bake strictly with whole grain flours, I try to make note of what you can expect from using 100 percent whole grain flours in those recipes.
This is as good a place as any to mention that I’m vegetarian, and have been for a long time now. I’m happy to do what I can to leave a lighter environmental footprint on our planet, and I have enjoyed the challenge of shifting my way of cooking and eating to be lower on the food chain. For me, this means being vegetarian, buying a good percentage of my ingredients from local producers, and seeking out sustainably produced ingredients. That being said, it’s each individual’s own personal journey to work toward a way of eating that works for them. Many people seem to be looking for ways to incorporate more meatless meals into their repertoire for a whole host of reasons, and I’m happy to try to provide a bit of inspiration. Many of the recipes in this book, particularly the main dishes, welcome substitutions, and I encourage you to use some of the ideas as starting points. Go from there based on what is available in your area, or what your family likes to eat.
I think it’s also worth mentioning that while I try to shop, cook, and eat mindfully, I also do my best to remember why I was drawn into the kitchen in the first place—the punch of garlic hitting me in the face after being dropped into a hot pan, the perfume of chocolate wafting from room to room when a cake is in the oven, the explosion of color I discover every time I slice into a blood orange, or the pleasure of sharing a simple meal I’ve prepared with a group of friends or family. These are the sorts of things that get me excited to cook each day, and I do my best to let them inspire my time in the kitchen before all else.
My Everyday Pantry
While my everyday cooking is most often dictated by seasonal produce, I need to keep a supporting cast of ingredients on hand so I can put that produce to work in a variety of ways. I went into a lot of detail about the minutiae of individual ingredients (and some of their nutritional benefits) in Super Natural Cooking—specifically, how to build a natural foods pantry. Instead of repeating that here, I thought I’d open my cupboards, look to my shelves and fridge, and tell you about what you are likely to find in my kitchen on a day like today.
Before we get started, just a few notes. I’m not going to call out “organic” in every instance throughout this book. I suspect that would get tedious and turn off some of you. What I will say is that I care about supporting producers and farmers who are using sustainable farming methods. Many of those are certified organic; some of them aren’t certified, but are farming using organic practices. I read a report that over 160 million pounds of pesticides were sprayed in California in...
Revue de presse
"Lovers of whole grains, local produce and farm fresh eggs, listen up. (Here's looking at you, Northern California.) San Franciscan Heidi Swanson - of the acclaimed blog 101 Cookbooks and 2007 James Beard Award-nominated "Super Natural Cooking" - has brought us "Super Natural Every Day: Well-Loved Recipes From My Natural Foods Kitchen," a paean to natural foods."
—San Francisco Chronicle, 5/22/11
"It's an inspiring book, and one that I'm cooking out of quite a bit. If you love grains, noodles, and fresh vegetables, as well as Heidi's famous and lovely blog, do check this out. You won't regret it."
“When it comes to our modern approach to eating right, there's no better way to discover how delicious "dieting" can be.”
—BA Daily, Bonappetit.com, 5/11/11
"Whether you’re a vegetarian, a “Meatless Monday” convert or just trying to eat more healthy, wholesome foods, Heidi’s recipes will be valuable additions to your every day meals."
—Devour The Blog, Cooking Channel, 4/5/11
"The author of Super Natural Cooking and the blog 101 Cookbooks, Swanson offers a glimpse into her favorite everyday recipes. A huge and often preachy proponent of the buy organic/local/seasonal movement, she focuses on whole, natural foods including whole grains, whole grain flours, and fresh produce--ingredients that are seasonal and minimally processed. Recipes run the gamut from breakfast through desserts and include healthier variations of familiar favorites including crepes made with rye flour and ginger cookies with dried apricots and shaved chocolate. Lunch offerings include unique and palatable dishes such as kale salad with toasted coconut and sesame oil, and chanterelle tacos. Dinner recipes such as chickpea stew made with saffron, black pepper tempeh and weeknight curry made with tofu are big on flavor. Swanson spends several pages detailing her pantry staples including oils and fats, grains, and flours to guide those unfamiliar with key ingredients. For those looking to incorporate more healthful ingredients into their diet, Swanson offers a welcome variety of appetizing recipes that are easy enough to prepare on busy weeknights and sure to appeal. (Apr.)"
—Publishers Weekly, 4/4/11
“It is easy on the eyes, a good read and full of recipes that had me itching to cook. It is rare that a book can do all three things, but when it does- you know it is a keeper.”
—Lottie + Doof, 4/1/11
“Swanson is the Deborah Madison for the digital age. Her cooking is earthy but approachable - she made grains fashionable again - and she swaths it all in stylish photos shot in the natural, grey light of her hometown San Francisco.”
—Say100, Food with Amanda Hesser, 2/23/11
“Expect plenty of interest in Super Natural Every Day, Heidi Swanson's follow-up to Super Natural Cooking. The book features more thoughtful, interesting meatless recipes along the lines of the ones that have made Swanson's blog, 101cookbooks.com, so popular.”
—Publishers Weekly, Spring 2011 Announcements: Top 10 Cookbooks, 1/24/11
“This looks like fabulous companion to Swanson’s earlier Super Natural Cooking with new riffs on old faves, and plenty of fresh ideas, too.”
—Publishers Weekly, 10 Cookbooks to Watch in 2011, 1/10/11
“It's like this love child of Martha Stewart and Plenty. Brilliant, really!”
“Heidi Swanson is one of the most original voices in cookery today. No other writer combines luscious, fresh, wholesome, and completely enticing food so well. Honeyed manouri, quinoa patties, membrillo cake—I want to cook everything!”
—Yotam Ottolenghi, author of Plenty
“To open Super Natural Every Day is to want to read it through and then cook like mad. Heidi’s food is simple, warm, and nourishing, the kind of food you want every day.”
—Dorie Greenspan, author of Around My French Table
“Heidi’s food is nourishing and soulful. What makes her food so appealing is her ability to create flavorful, healthy, and satisfying recipes. Heidi makes food that I want to eat.”
—Kim Boyce, author of Good to the Grain
“Heidi Swanson’s newest book is bewitching, clever, and outstanding in every way. It is far more than a gathering of tasty, health-oriented recipes. Every page is bursting with fresh ideas, new kitchen concepts, and inspired ingredient pairings. I know I’ll be turning to it again and again.”
—Melissa Clark, New York Times food columnist and author of In the Kitchen with a Good Appetite