Near & Far: Recipes Inspired by Home and Travel is the latest cookbook from Heidi Swanson, a native of San Francisco, who regales us once again with a book brimming with whole, natural and locally-procured ingredients. She is inspired as always by the pursuit of what she terms “food rooted in place.“
“Near” captures the recipes influenced by her life in San Francisco and Northern California: “My cooking here is defined by a combination of the weather, the spectrum of produce, the range of textures and flavors and colors dictated by the season at hand,” she writes. “Far” explores five deeply-rooted culinary cultures: Morocco, France, India, Italy and Japan, destinations she has traveled to extensively over the years.
Swanson connects these two explorations through “En Route“, an assemblage of preparations featuring her favorite travel-friendly provisions. Those who already know Swanson’s work will find a continuity of spirit in her celebration of cuisines and cooking that abound in natural foods. “Seek out food and ingredients that are healthy, powerful, and full of beauty and vitality – the sort of food that lifts the spirit and sustains the body.”
Throughout her journeys, she’s been influenced by the vessels and spices she encounters. She likes to cook with hand-pounded cast-iron woks and earthenware, and is fond of seasoning with regional spices, such as shichimi togarashi, a Japanese seven spice mixture.
Aiming to respect “a sense of place” Swanson describes her culinary process as originating from immersing herself in the shops, markets, restaurants, stalls, and various establishments of the places she visits, to experience first-hand, and then distill, the essence of the cooking techniques deployed in food that is “rooted in place.” As she describes her culinary process, she unveils various details around how she arrived at selecting the recipes for this book. In line with her philosophy, Swanson cooks with a “regional palette of ingredients” and refrains from mixing them cross-culturally.
As a result, she won’t serve tagine alongside saag panner nor miso soup next to harira.
Paging through this book invites you to accompany Swanson on a enticing culinary voyage. From a Quinoa Blini (San Francisco), to Beghrir (Morocco), Root Donburi (Japan), Vin de Pamplemousse (France) and Vaghareli Maki (India), all without leaving our kitchens.
The book is organized as one might encounter foods throughout the day, starting with lunch and then continuing on to dinner, drinks and treats. “I tend to think of the next day’s breakfast as the end of the day, so those close out the chapters”, she explains. Within each chapter, Swanson begins by listing her “pantry” of favorite ingredients traditionally used in the cuisine of the place.
I found myself quickly bookmarking dozens of pages in this book. Ultimately, among all the gems, I picked a timeless dessert, Sabayon, which Swanson makes with Sauternes, to share with you. The recipe follows below; it’s mouthwatering.
Swanson’s latest culinary offering is a local and global expedition, and a sound lesson on how to procure, prepare, and serve whole and natural food cooked at home and abroad. The recipes in this book will fill your pantry with new and natural ingredients, the photography will delight your eyes, and the recipes will satisfy all of your senses.
I have received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.
- 2 cups | 480 ml water
- 4 egg yolks
- 3 tablespoons natural cane sugar
- Scant ¼ teaspoon fine-grain sea salt
- Zest of ½ lemon, finely chopped
- Scant ½ cup | 100 ml plus 2 tablespoons Sauternes
- 1 cup | 240 ml heavy whipping cream
- Place the water in a saucepan over medium heat and bring to a simmer. In the meantime, whisk the egg yolks, sugar, and salt together in a stainless steel bowl until just combined. Whisk i the lemon zest and scant ½ cup |100 ml of Sauternes and set the bowl over the simmering pot- be sure the bottom of the bowl is not touching the water. Whisk constantly until the mixture thickens into a rich, pudding like custard.
- Cover and refrigerate until cooled. Whip the heavy cream to the point it can hold big floppy peaks, and the remaining 2 tablespoons Sauternes, and beat a bit more. Spoon the chilled sabayon mixture over the whipped cream and gently fold together until uniform in cool. Serve in small individual glasses or as a side to a tart or a fruit or cookie plate.
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