by Heidi Swanson
Photographs © Heidi Swanson
In terms of food blogs, Heidi Swanson is a pioneer. A professional photographer by trade, she started her healthy eating blog called 101 Cookbooks in 2003, and has won numerous awards since. The blog spawned two cookbooks under the umbrella titile of “Super Natural” cooking. The inspiration for Swanson’s newest book, “Near & Far,” came from her journals. So many of us keep travel journals to remind us of the details — what we saw, ate, and experienced. They provide a wonderful trip down memory lane years later. But how many of us turn our journals into cookbooks?
The near of “Near & Far” is a selection of recipes honed in San Francisco, where Swanson has lived from age 18. In this section, she offers 35 recipes developed in her San Francisco home. Recipes in this chapter left me wanting something more. I read headnotes and recipes but nothing screamed “stop reading and make this now!”
Then, there was a clever segue between the Near and the Far – she inserted a chapter dubbed “En Route,” where we find recipes she created to bring on the long journey from San Francisco to wherever… really tasty sustenance! There were only five recipes but kudos to her for, in the middle of the chaos that surrounds the day before or day of an overseas vacation, she makes nutritious carry-on food: Chive Dumplings and Strong Ginger Snaps were my favorites.
Then we arrive at the mouthwatering far – A wonderful variety of recipes gleaned from trips to Morocco, Japan, Italy, France and India. A sampling of recipes: Saffron Tagine, Yellow Couscous, Miso Oat Porridge (with radish, walnut and chives), Ricotta Crespelle, Fiasco-Style Fagioli, Tartines (endive, fromage blanc, squash blossom), Vin de Pamplemousse (wow!), Saag Paneer, and Aloo Bhaji.
I want to also mention that in 2012, Swanson’s cookbook “Super Natural Every Day: Well-Loved Recipes from My Natural Foods Kitchen” received a James Beard Foundation award in the “Focus on Health” category.
From Morocco, here is Roasted Winter Squash. Swanson suggests if you don’t have argan oil, you can substitute olive oil. If you like a nuttier flavor, I think walnut oil would also work well.
Photo © Heidi Swanson
- 1 medium acorn squash
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon dried ginger
- 3/4 teaspoon fine-grain sea salt
- 4 tablespoons (60 ml) argan oil
- Zest of 1/2 orange
- Scant 1/4 cup ((50 ml) freshly squeezed orange juice
- 1/2 cup (120 ml) plain yogurt
- A handful of cilantro
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F or 190 degrees C and place the rack in the bottom third.
- Cut the squash into eight 1-inch (2.5cm) thick crescent shapes, removing the seeds in the process; place them in a large bowl. In a small bowl, combine the cinnamon, ginger, 1/2 teaspoon of the salt, 2 tablespoons of the argan oil, the orange zest, and orange juice.
- Whisk together and then drizzle the mixture across the squash and use your hands to slather and massage it evenly across the wedges.
- Arrange them in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet, or in a shallow roasting pan, before placing in the oven.
- Bake for 20 minutes or until color starts to develop on the bottoms; flip the squash over and bake for an additional 10 to 20 minutes, until golden and tender through-out. Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly before arranging on a platter.
- Stir the remaining 1/4 teaspoon of salt into the yogurt and dollop across the wedges, sprinkle with cilantro, and finish by drizzling the remaining 2 tablespoons argan oil across the top.