I’m realizing that a great cookbook makes you feel like you are in the kitchen with the author and they have just made you lunch. You get a feeling for who they are, how they eat, what’s in their pantry, and what tastes good to them. Super Natural Every Day: Well-Loved Recipes from My Natural Foods Kitchen is the second cookbook by popular blogger Heidi Swanson, and I wanted to share my review and a copy with you. The book is vegetarian and not gluten-free.
The book contains nearly 100 recipes, and begins with a thorough description of the natural foods you would find in Heidi’s pantry (and mine), as well as kitchen equipment she uses. Heidi shoots her own photographs and is also a graphic designer, so her strong design aesthetic is apparent on every page. Her straightforward approach is reflected in the book’s organization: Breakfast, Lunch, Snacks, Dinner, Drinks, Treats, and Accompaniments. The overall direction you will get reading from this book is: Buy great ingredients. Some of the recipes are deceptively simple, because she relies on the flavors of uber-fresh local fruits and vegetables. You can tell she lives in the San Francisco Bay Area, truly a foodie’s paradise, as the type of ingredients she can get is atypical of the rest of the country.
My first recipe was avocados and mustard seeds, as I happened to have 2 perfect Reed avocados (from Mimi Avocado’s ranch) and all the other ingredients. This is actually a simple twist on guacamole, adding mustard seeds and curry powder to the bowl. I liked it, a lot, and it completely showcased the buttery Reed avocados.
Next I tried pan fried mung beans with tempeh, which I made with white beans (an alternate suggestion) and my vegan creme fraiche. It was again, very easy to make, a simple combination of fresh flavors, although mine turned out a little dry. It was very easy to test recipes from this book as we cook in such a similar way.
The white bean spread with rosemary and toasted almonds was also a bit dry and the flavor was not as vibrant or interesting as I expected. I loved her technique of infusing the olive oil with garlic and rosemary, and perhaps letting it steep quite a bit longer would help.The black pepper tempeh was also easy. She uses finely chopped cauliflower to substitute for rice in this dish. It did not taste at all like cauliflower, was nice and spicy. I used half the recommended amount of black pepper and it was just right for me. I liked the flavors, although as you can see, mine did not look anything like hers, it was a bowl of beige with very little texture. It made two generous servings, not the 4 listed in the book.Finally I made chickpeas and dandelion greens. I had never cooked with dandelions, and wanted to try using them. This literally took ten minutes to make. I would use less oil and possibly Swiss chard instead, as the bitterness of the greens (while super healthy) was strong for me. This recipe especially made me wonder what it tastes like when she makes it, imagining she can walk to a farmer’s market and get tender, baby dandelion greens with just a hint of bitterness.
What I liked about this book:
It’s a lovely book, with especially appealing photography and high-quality matte finish paper. (Everything looks like it came from Anthropologie.) It was interesting that each recipe title was followed by a few key ingredients, giving you a sense of the flavor profile of that dish. I would have liked some kind of indicators for recipes that were gluten-free and vegan. Nearly every recipe is photographed, which makes the book fun to page through. The design elements and landscape photos that separate each section also give a strong sense of place and lifestyle to the book.
I wasn’t so keen on:
The serving size indicators are somewhat low on each page, and there are no icons telling readers which recipes are gluten-free, vegan, or soy-free.
Vegetarians, people following whole foods diets or who want to eat more fresh produce, fans of her blog.
I’ll be giving away one copy of this book in our November giveaway, beginning 11/22/13.