I wasn’t expecting anything in the mail until this evening, but there it was on the porch last night when I came home from work: a copy of Super Natural Cooking by Heidi Swanson (plus a few non-food related books I’d ordered). I’ve been a reader of Heidi’s blog, 101 Cookbooks, for several years, so I was in no way surprised to see a gorgeously designed book with mouthwatering photographs. I also knew that, like the blog, it would emphasize organic, minimally processed vegetarian cuisine in a very thoughtful way, and it doesn’t disappoint. I haven’t had time yet to read my way through the entire book, but I can already see how empowering it will be in terms of getting to know some of those less familiar (but incredibly nutritious) ingredients and how they can be worked into your everyday menu without too much fanfare.
Last year I bought The Splendid Grain, an award-winning cookbook by Rebecca Wood that focuses on the use of grains: familiar and esoteric, whole, cracked, rolled or milled. The grains are grouped by continent of origin, and each grain is discussed historically and practically with an offering of recipes. Every time I get that book out, I can’t wait to try the recipes. I even bought a bunch of fun flours and whole grains from the Bob’s Red Mill store in Milwaukie: millet, teff, buckwheat, amaranth, quinoa. I’ve tried them out here and there, and some have become fast favorites, like quinoa pilaf, which I vastly prefer to rice; or buckwheat, for fabulous cookies and banana waffles and pizzoccheri, or just a bit of seasoning in a cinnamon flop. But somehow I rarely seem to get beyond sighing over the recipes in The Splendid Grain to actually making them.
I don’t think Super Natural Cooking will have the same fate. It focuses on a narrower range of grains, and also spends time on minimally-processed fats, oils, and natural sweeteners, and also has a fantastic section on cooking by color, which is great for fussy people like me who gravitate toward brown and beige foods. Heidi also gives practical, and rather empowering, advice about making substitutions, which is really what I needed to feel comfortable buying unusual ingredients for one specific recipe and then being able to use up the remainder in other ways. Actually, I think that once this book gets me rolling, I’ll feel much more at ease going back to The Splendid Grain as well.
In the meantime, I wanted to note that if you haven’t already been playing with white whole wheat flour, by all means go out and get some! It’s in all the ordinary grocery stores around here these days, from Bob’s Red Mill or King Arthur, and I’ve been substituting it for all or at least half of the AP flour in most of my baking recipes lately, not to mention fresh pasta. We can’t taste the difference at all, and it gives me a warm, peaceful feeling to know I’m eating something slightly less bad for me. 🙂