Wednesday, May 30, 2007


“Super Natural Cooking” by Heidi Swanson is an exciting and tasty introduction the world of whole foods. The book has an unusual arrangement. Rather than lumping appetizers, entrees, soups, salads, and desserts into sections – the book is rather arranged like a course on natural foods cooking. The book begins with instructions for building a natural foods pantry – what foods to include and what to avoid, including flours, oils, sweeteners, spices and seasonings.

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.

If you’re into cookbooks, check out Swanson’s blog at .

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