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Super Natural Cooking for the Rest of Us

One of my favorite websites is 101 Cookbooks by Heidi Swanson. So, when I found out that Heidi's cookbook, Super Natural Cooking was finally published, I had to get my hands on a copy. I had no idea that it would become one of my most favorite cookbooks - I have even taken to reading it before bedtime - especially since it's one that's "good for me." And yet, I can't stop myself from gushing about this book, I've told so many people about it, and plan on getting a copy of it for many others. It is handsdown one of the most gorgeous cookbooks I've ever seen (and I've seen a lot of cookbooks). The beautiful photography and layout really draw you into the book, and the recipes look so delectable, if it wasn't for some of the odd ingredients, I might not have realized it was "healthy."

Designed for people who want to easily incorporate healthier, natural, whole-foods into their cooking style, Super Natural Cooking is surprisingly modern and fresh. It manages to do it without coming across as stuffy, preachy or annoyingly hippy. There are general guidelines on how to begin thinking in these terms, tips on how to stock a whole-food pantry and great definitions too. Seriously, this book is fantastic (see, gushing about it again), the recipes are great, simple and there are even substitutions for some of the harder to find ingredients. If you've always thought that healthy food meant disgusting food, this book will make you think again.

Jimmy's one of those people who hate "healthy food", so it was difficult convincing him to try something from a book called Super Natural Cooking, but once I showed him the recipe for Muhammara-Slathered Kabobs (and promised that we could use chicken instead of tofu) he was sold on the idea. The muhammara had a nice rich flavor that really brought a nice complexity to the kabobs - I've been enjoying the leftovers on chips too. I tried to find a salad to pair with it, but in the end I really wanted to try the Clemenquat Salad and so opted to make it as a starter. The celery brought a fantastic crunch to the salad and the tang from the citrus really paired well with the parmesan - I believe I just found my new spring staple.

To check out the recipes for Muhammara-Slathered Kabobs and Clemenquat Salad,

And if you need something to wash this down, I suggest trying Heidi's White Sangria.

Muhammara-Slathered Kabobs
Reprinted with permission from Super Natural Cooking: Five Ways to Incorporate Whole & Natural Ingredients Into Your Cooking by Heidi Swanson. Photographs by Heidi Swanson. Copyright 2007. Published by Celestial Arts.

1 tbsp red pepper flakes (or 1 small chile)
1/2 tsp ground cumin
3/4 cup toasted walnuts
1/4 cup whole-grain bread crumbs (coarse)
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tbsp pomegranate molasses (or pomegranate juice)
1/4 cup tomato paste
2-3 roasted bell peppers
1/2 to 1 cup warm water
1/2 tsp fine-grain sea salt

2 red onions (cut into 6 wedges)
3 lemons, each cut into 4 lengthwise wedges
12 ounces extra-firm tofu, cut into 12 equal-sized cubes
12 mushrooms
extra-virgin olive oil
fine-grain sea salt

  • Prepare a medium-hot grill; if the temperature is right, you should be able to hold your hand a few inches above the grate for 4 or 5 seconds.
  • In the meantime, make the muhammara. Using a hand blender (preferably) or a conventional blender, puree the pepper flakes, cumin, walnuts, bread crumbs, olive oil, pomegranate molasses, tomato paste and red peppers to a smooth, even consistency. Mix in the warm water in increments to achieve an easily spreadable consistency similar to a thick yogurt. If you're going to use it for dipping, you might want to make it a bit thicker. Stir in the salt and adjust the seasoning if needed.
  • Onto 6 medium-length skewers, thread an onion wedge, a lemon wedge, a cube of tofu [we actually used cubes of chicken that were sprinkled with salt & pepper], and a mushroom, then repeat. Brush each kabob generously with olive oil and season with salt. Put the kabobs on the grill and cover. Cook, rotating regularly and brushing with olive oil every few minute until onions are tender [or until chicken is cooked] - about 12 minutes.
  • To eat, slather each kabob with muhammara, slide off the skewers and squeeze the juice from the roasted lemons over everything.

Makes 6 [delicious!] kabobs.

Clemenquat Salad with Walnuts and Parmesan Shavings
Reprinted with permission from Super Natural Cooking: Five Ways to Incorporate Whole & Natural Ingredients Into Your Cooking by Heidi Swanson. Photographs by Heidi Swanson. Copyright 2007. Published by Celestial Arts.

6 or 7 clementines
7 stalks of celery, stripped of strings
10 kumquats
3 big handfuls of walnut halves, toasted
juice of 1/2 a lemon
2-3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
fine-grain sea salt
fresh ground pepper
block of parmesan cheese

  • Cut away the top and bottom ends from each clementine with a serrated knife, removing just enough to get to the flesh. Rest each clementine on one flat end and slice downward, cutting off the peel in 4 or 5 big strips. If you don't like citrus membranes, cradle the fruit in one palm and cut out each segment by running the knife between the fruit and the membrane one the sides of each segment. Otherwise, just pull the clementines into segments by hand. Either way, you'll want to remove any seeds. Place in a bowl.
  • Slice the celery 1/8 inch thin on a slight diagonal and add to the bowl. Using a serrated knife as not to crush the kumquats, slice them into 1/8-inch-thick rounds and add to the bowl. When you hit seeds in the kumquats, pop them out with the tip of your knife. Add the toasted walnuts.
  • In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, olive oil, a few pinches of salt and a few grinds of pepper. Drizzle the dressing over the salad, then toss gently with clean hands so the fragile citrus pieces remain intact. Make Parmesan curls by running a vegetable peeler along the long side of the block of Parmesan and top each serving with a few curls.

Serves 4-6.

Join The Conversation
Food Food 10 years
designergirl - do you mean step by step sort of instruction visuals? because the book is full of fantastic photography and great imagery.
GiggleSugar GiggleSugar 10 years
Yum, thanks so much for this book recommendation! Just looking at the cover photo makes me inspired to put down the nachos and bring on the aparagus! Lovely and inspiring...
jendudley jendudley 10 years
Oh, yeah...I like alot of pictures as well. Pictures of food are the best!
designergirl designergirl 10 years
I almost bought this book, but as a designer, I have a really hard time buying books without visuals. I love her blog, though!
kimbit kimbit 10 years
I just bought this book! It is fantastic, I like the way it is broken into the different sections, it isn't just recipes, but a lot of really good information as well.
ALSW ALSW 10 years
Wow. They both look delicious! I'm probably with Jimmy on making it chicken rather than tofu, but still - flavorful!
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