I think I did a doubletake when I read the publication details of Heidi Swanson‘s Super Natural Cooking and Super Natural Every Day in the introduction of her latest book in this series: Super Natural Simple. 2007 and 2011, respectively. Really, has it been 14 years since the first book in the Super Natural series was published? When I flip through it again after reading this, it’s clear how timeless it is. And, isn’t this the mark of a great cookbook– one that transcends its era? I think that when a book focuses less on dietary or food “trends” then it has an infinite shelf life — such is the case with Swanson’s Super Natural series. And over the course of these books, Swanson aims to help home cooks focus less on using processed ingredients in favour of what can easily be made at home (and, in many cases, made better). And, by using a variety of both fresh ingredients as well as pantry staples, her recipes offer a way to connect to what we’re cooking and eating.
As she acknowledges, changes in our consumption habits don’t happen overnight, so what her approach offers is, in my mind, more sustainable and long-lasting because home cooks are on their “own path,” as Swanson explains in the introduction to Super Natural Simple. While I’m more familiar with the ingredients she uses and the equipment needed, she offers a detailed introduction on what a “super natural pantry” is stocked with and which kitchen tools and equipment are useful. I appreciate how she advocates a slower approach at equipping your kitchen by hunting out second-hand at thrift stores, antique malls, yards, sales, and the like to find affordable options. This is an approach that I love because it’s how I’ve found some of my most beloved kitchen items — while I own new cast iron pans, my most favourite one is a No. 6 Griswold I found while thrifting and that I was able to rehabilitate (as a side note, this method of hunting for affordable options can take time but it is totally worth it — in the immortal words of my friend Sharon: What you want will eventually come around at a price you’re willing to pay.)
Following in the same vein as the books in this series, the recipes are vegetarian-focused while vegan- and gluten-free options are not specifically given, there are many vegan or gluten-free suitable recipes within the book. Super Natural Simple is organized into 10 chapters: Make-Ahead Mornings, Snacks & Other Quick Bites, The Best Salads, Nourishing Soups & Stews, Weeknight Noodles, Single Skillets, Sheet-Pan Meals, Easy Grills, One-Bowl Bakes, and Easy-Drinking Refreshers. Ingredients are easy to source, and I found that I could buy what I needed from either my local supermarket or farmer’s market, and in many cases, what I needed was already in my pantry or fridge, which was great because we’re going through a third wave lockdown here in Nova Scotia which means less trips to shops.
All the recipes I’ve made from the book are delicious and easy to make — her recipe for Spicy, Creamy, Carroty Peanut Noodles is a family favourite. Peanuts and carrots are a great flavour combination and, I really think that the addition of ponzu (a citrus-based sauce used most often in Japanese cooking) makes the sauce tangier. While the sesame-chile oil added a bit of heat, garnishing with chopped cucumber was just the thing to cool the palate. Not many ingredients to this recipe but the ones included really make this dish mouth-watering (and in our lockdown situation, I was glad to already have them in my pantry and fridge).
I’ve found lots of recipes to add to our morning breakfast routine — from the Multigrain pancake/waffle mix and jars of the Oat Cereal for Days to the Lemon-Millet Soda Bread, there’s been something for everyone to enjoy. I appreciate how many variations Swanson offers with her pancake/waffle mix — as with other recipes in the book. Where variations are offered, the book has been printed with orange pages that are 3/4 of the size of the regular pages. On these inserts, the list of variations and their ingredients are given — a helpful, at-a-glace option for seeing other ways to make a recipe. Batch cooking is always a great idea, and having a big batch of mix is great on weekends when you don’t want to spend as much time getting breakfast made. The same could be said of the big jars of the oat cereal mix (full of oaty O’s cereal, puffed rice, oat bran, flax seeds, toasted nuts, and freeze-dried fruit) — I had a breakfast option all ready for my daughter before she began her daily online schooling. She likes hers with yogurt and fresh fruit, but you can also serve it with your choice of milk too.
In the chapter for One-Bowl Bakes, there’s a really great recipe for Big Raspberry-Rye Cookies. Since I didn’t have any freeze-dried raspberries on hand, I went ahead and baked up the Big Seed Rye Cookies variation, which was full of different kinds of seeds — sesame, chia, pepitas, hemp, etc. And, just for fun, I added some ruby chocolate chips into the batter. The resulting cookies were delicious! Nicely textured, they were perfect with an afternoon coffee — or, in my daughter’s case, a glass of milk.
In the third cookbook of her Super Natural series, Heidi Swanson continues to show home cooks how easy and wholesome cooking for yourself can be. Super Natural Simple is full of delicious vegetarian recipes that make excellent use of pantry staples, as well as beautiful seasonal produce. Swanson encourages people towards mindfulness in the kitchen from how we’re cooking to what we’re eating.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank Penguin Random House Canada / Ten Speed Press for providing me with a free, review copy of this book. I did not receive monetary compensation for my post, and all thoughts and opinions expressed are my own.