Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The Review Series: #1.1: Heidi Swanson’s Super Natural Cooking

Cryptic title, right? That’s because I’m embarking on an adventure. Let me explain:

I have a lot of cookbooks. An embarrassing amount of cookbooks. To give you an image: On Saturday, we had some friends over for drinks and some chickpea stew. At one point in the evening, some beers in, one of our guests was sitting with his back to my vertical tower of cookbooks—my nearly seven foot tall tower of books, the shelf strapped to the wall with a heavy leather strap. The tower started to teeter dangerously. I nearly didn’t mention it, because there’s something mortifying about saying it out loud: “Hey buddy, you see that ludicrous tower of books? The one that makes me seem insane? I think it might crash to the floor if you lean back any more.”

Now, there were no bloody accidents, but it got me thinking: that’s a lot of books. There’s no reason to be embarrassed about having books, except that if I continue to collect beautiful cookbooks, I need to make sure I cook from all of them.

So, here’s the project: I have about ninety cookbooks, I counted them. I’m going to cook from all of them.

Most of these books I love. Some of them I like. And a few gather dust because they are, frankly, terrible. 

I’m going to try to review them all. Naturally, it makes sense to do this on La Cuisinette. I’ll spend about a week with each book. I’ll post two recipes from every book on this blog.

I don’t know exactly what this will mean: will I only post recipes from my new “Review Series?” Probably not. I still want to post simple photos from time to time, or a family recipe, for example. But, for the most part, I’ll be cooking through a very, very giant pile of books.

#1.1: Heidi Swanson’s Super Natural Cooking

It makes sense to start with Heidi Swanson. Her blog, 101 Cookbooks, was inspired with a similar great-many-cookbooks dilemma.

Super Natural Cooking is, as you might guess, a bit of a health cookbook. She proposes five ways to approach cooking: keeping a pantry full of natural foods, using a range of whole grains, using colourful, nutrient-rich ingredients, having a “superfoods” repertoire and incorporating a variety of natural sweeteners in lieu of processed sugar. 

Phew. I know that seems like a lot. But her approach isn’t preachy, it’s just earnest. Besides, she advocates for cheese, it seems, which pretty much guarantees my vote.

Here’s what I’ve made recently, in an effort to “Explore a Wide Range of Grains”: Quinoa and Tallegio.

Quinoa is packed with protein. This recipe meal makes for a savory, textured and wholesome meal, with a very satisfying melty-cheesy bit now and then. Ms. Swanson’s recipe calls for Crescenza cheese, which I couldn’t get. But she also recommended Tallegio or Brie. And the addition of green beans is mine; it adds an extra crunch to textured grain.

Another quick note: The original recipe calls for you to cover the quinoa while it cooks. I forgot to do so until the last five minutes. It turned out perfectly that way.

Quinoa and Tallegio
Adapted from a recipe by Heidi Swanson, in Super Natural Foods
Serves 4 as a hefty lunch

6 tablespoons olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 small onion, chopped
2 cups quinoa, well-rinsed
1 cup white wine
A generous pinch of coarse salt
2 cups water
2 generous pinches of hot red pepper flakes (or to taste)
½ pound to 1 pound of mushrooms, cleaned with a paper towel and sliced
A handful of green beans, tails removed and chopped
A crank or two of pepper from the mill
4 oz Tellegio or Brie cheese, torn into bite-sized pieces

In a large saucepan, heat 3 tablespoons of the olive oil over medium heat. Sauté the garlic and onions until translucent and fragrant.  Now add the quinoa, the wine, and the salt. Bring to a good boil, stirring. When the liquid has reduced somewhat (a matter of a few minutes), add the water and lower the heat right down to a gentle simmer. Cook, stirring from time to time, for about twenty-five minutes, or until the grain is tender, but with a satisfying crunch still left in it. Towards the end of the cooking process, or if the water seems to evaporate too fast, put the lid on until it is cooked.

Meanwhile, heat the remaining olive oil in a frying pan over medium-high heat. Add the pepper flakes and sauté for a few seconds, and then add the mushrooms and green beans. Sauté until the mushrooms are just tender and glistening, and the beans still have a little bite.

To serve, stir the cheese into the hot quinoa, along with some pepper. Pile into bowls, and top with the mushroom mixture. Serve while piping hot.

This would be great with a lunchtime beer to offset the health effects of the quinoa.  

Just as an aside...

The season's first picnic:

No comments: