Two bloggers I correspond with recently sent me their cookbooks, and while I have a stack of books sent by various publishers and three pressing projects on my desk, I have to mention them because I’m anti-cookbook.  There are too many of them.  They’re redundant.  Nothing is new.  They give me a headache.  Who really cares about the next new ingredient? I don’t know why the cookbook business continues to thrive. Honestly.
    That said, I’m delighted each time I pick up and peruse Heidi Swanson’s Super Natural Cooking and David Lebovitz’s The Perfect Scoop (will address the latter in the next day or so).  First, Heidi’s blog is the best looking food blog around that I know of; it’s also well focused and her voice is appealing and clear. And the book is the same way.  A soft cover and rich page stock with Heidi’s lush photography, the book feels like her blog.  The all-veggie, hyper co-op, whole grain Birkenstock recipes make sense and are simple.  I, an all but rabid carnivore, love this book BECAUSE it’s vegetarian.  For someone who views a day without pork belly as a missed opportunity, this covers a spectrum of ingredients I wouldn’t ordinarily concern myself with, hearty takes on grains, vegetables, soups, salads with good informed descriptions of items like millet.  Millet, for godsake.  Heidi could actually get me to eat millet.
    I made her wheat berries recipe and now I’ve got a  fetish for them.  I don’t know if you could get me to make her toasted wheat germ soup—ugh!—but I’ll be trying more of her ideas using beefy grains and cereals.
    I went to Prune last week one of my favorites in nyc (roasted marrow bones, the signature handkerchief, braised rabbit, some pork shoulder, some fried artichoke, sooo good) with two friends and Sarah, a fine novelist and avid cook, said she’d bought Heidi’s book and loved it.  She’d done the wheat berries too! Bought three pounds! (Very nicely pared with an orange vinaigette, recipe below). What is it about wheat berries?  They’re like meat.  Here’s what Sarah had to say about the book, which she knew about because she’s a fan of the blog:

I bought it because I thought it would be a good way to sort of slowly start getting healthier food into our diet, and I liked the way she organized it, and all the educational and basic information combined with simple yet sophisticated recipes. Other than those encyclopedic health food cookbooks, this one sort of leads you through and gives you a way to start thinking about changing things.  I also like it because it’s not too radical and it’s not too scary….meaning, she doesn’t say things to make you hate yourself if you eat meat or don’t always buy organic vegetables. It’s more of an expanding of your options, and I can see that if you do that, of course you eat less of the other stuff.

Here are those wheat berries, click below for the recipe._mg_7049_wheatberries_tiny

Wheatberry Salad with Citrus, Pine Nuts, Feta, and Spinach
Serves 4 to 6

Plump wheat berries shimmering with an orange-flecked citrus dressing makes this a lively winter salad, but don’t hesitate to alter it to accommodate the changing seasons. For autumn, try a cranberry vinaigrette and toasted walnuts. Basil dressing with fresh heirloom tomatoes and corn would be well suited to summer. In spring, toss the wheat berries with a bit of lemon juice and olive oil, blanched asparagus segments, favas, and shelled peas. Play off the shape of the wheat berries with different serving ideas: On top of crostini or crackers, you have a twist on caviar; or wrap some up in a leaf of lettuce and you’ve got a new take on the spring roll.

2 cups soft wheat berries, rinsed
6 cups water
2 teaspoons fine-grain sea salt, plus more as needed


Grated zest and juice of 1 orange
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoon minced shallot
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Fine-grain sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

3 generous handfuls spinach leaves, stemmed and well rinsed
1 cup toasted pine nuts
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese

Combine the wheat berries, water, and 2 teaspoons salt in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer, covered, until plump and chewy, about an hour or so. The berries should stay al dente, and the only way to be sure they’re done is to taste a few. Drain and season to taste with more salt.

To make the dressing, combine the orange zest and juice, lemon juice, and shallot. Whisk in the olive oil and season with a few pinches of salt and a few grinds of pepper.

Toss the hot wheat berries with the spinach, pine nuts, citrus dressing, then top with the feta. Taste for seasoning and sprinkle with a bit more salt if needed.


23 Wonderful responses to “Heidi Swanson’s New Book”

  • radish

    oddly enough, i went to this morning and while ordering a book for my book club, also purchased heidi’s AND david’s books as well. and now I get to read how these are the ones you will review!! I cannot wait for either cookbook to arrive!

  • david

    Just reading that recipe makes me want to try it.

    Now – where to go to find the wheatberrys.

  • French Laundry at Home

    I love Heidi’s new book — it makes me cook the things I’d always scoffed at in our local food co-op. I like her approach and her voice. It’s a really well done book and blog.

  • cheeks

    The wheatberry recipe is great. But also check out the dingleberry recipe. It’s to die for!


  • Jennie/Tikka

    Note to self: Purchase before next doctor’s appointment – have on hand to present like shield to fend off cholesterol level inquiries and hopefully delay blood test until the cream and red meat are out of my system (again).

    P.S. Use up rendered duck fat in the fridge well before appt.

    P.P.S. Ascertain whether or not deep frying the wheat berries in duck fat is bad? Cancel out factor at work?

  • Hank

    The Italians do similar salads with farro, essentially an older variety of wheat berry. Try this recipe with farro, it’ll be chewier, meatier and IMHO yummier. BUT, farro is harder to find…another veggie cookbook I really like is the Vegetarian Epicure (2nd edition), which is the fist veggie cookbook I’d seen done by someone who knows their stuff. Really nice recipes in there — and I too am a nearly-rabid carnivore.

  • Connor

    I’ve been hearing great things about this cookbook and the new Lorna Sass one, Whole Grains Every Day, Every Way. And as Hank pointed out, the wheat berry salad would be great with farro. I love the farro salads in the Zuni Cafe cookbook — especially the variation with anchovies in the balsamic dressing with basil and sweet 100 tomatoes.

    Anxious to read your review of The Perfect Scoop. I’ve only tried one recipe — the roasted banana ice cream — and found it kind of lacking in the flavor and creaminess departments, probably b/c there are no eggs or cream (I was hoping I wouldn’t miss them!). But I hold faith that some of the other recipes are delicious.

  • gb500

    The wheatberries look as though they have the same texture as quinoa — do they? Could it be used instead? Looks yummy.

  • Kevin

    “I don’t know why the cookbook business continues to thrive.”

    Is it thriving? You probably know better than I do, but when the computer book business got this overloaded (a smaller market, admittedly, but I’m allowing for that) it crashed. I watched the fall from the back of the beast. I suspect the cookbook biz is teetering on the verge.

    I was tempted to make a snide remark about Charcuterie being a waste of pulp, but I love that book (and really need to find more time for it). I haven’t seen David’s book and ice cream doesn’t excite me, but David has a rare gift of gab — he chatters delightfully. I just reviewed the 25th Anniversary Edition of The Silver Palate Cookbook. I was disappointed that it was still mostly the same book I had, but “Damn” that was a good book filled with great ideas, interesting tid-bits, and thoughtful asides. I was happy to rediscover it.

    There’s nothing wrong with more cookbooks. In fact, the more the better — just so long as the more are better. The last thing we need to do is to kill trees so Rachel Ray can copy another set of instructions off the back of a pasta package.

  • Chris Hennes

    My problem with there being so many cookbooks is that it is nearly impossible to just walk into a bookstore on the spur of the moment and pick one up — it’s impossible to tell from just glancing through them whether they are any good, and since publishers seem willing to put just about anything in print, you have to hit web review sites to figure out what to buy!

    Off topic, sorta, but I would love to see Michael add a small discussion area to this site where we can talk about his recipes in Charcuterie. For example, I am making some bacon right now and I am a bit unclear on what texture constitutes “firm” enough to stop the curing process. Or, I made the Italian Sausage last week, and it came out a bit dry in mouthfeel – is this the result of having too-warm ingredients, or is it just the way that recipe comes out? Etc.

  • ruhlman

    gb500: you can use quinoa, but its completely different in texture and will be more absorbent. wheat berries are almost tough, chewy, which is the pleasure of them

    kevin: thriving in that more and more books are published each year. i like your point about more being fine as long as more’s better.

    Chris: i hope soon to have a place for charcuterie discussion. Firmness in the bacon, don’t stress about it. a lot depends on the meat. you simply want to give the salt and pink salt time to penetrate to the center, which happens fairly quickly with something think like belly.

    sausage should never be dry. you either didn’t use enough fat or cooked it too long (or both) or more likely, your meat and fat wasn’t cold enough when you mixed it–what you describe sounds like a broken forcemeat. now you know! freeze your meat and fat for a half hour or hour before mixing next time.

  • cathelou

    Hank, I love the Vegetarian Epicure too. Here’s my favorite part from the 1974 version, where the author talks about a “two-hours later course” she usually ends up serving after a dinner party:

    “This two-hours later course is especially recommended if grass is smoked socially at your house. If you have passed a joint around before dinner to sharpen gustatory perceptions, you most likely will pass another one after dinner, and everyone knows what that will do–the blind munchies can strike at any time.”

    I have a feeling this part got deleted in the newest edition.

  • NTSC

    I would like a place to discuss Charcuterie and his other books. I’ve made a fair bit of sausage from that book since my wife gave it to me.

    I also tried the dry cured ham instructions, as I told him in an e-mail, it took five months but I’ve 10 lbs net of dry cured ham that isn’t too bad. Good enough for a first try that I will use decent pork next time rather than Shoprite’s cheapest.

  • del Grosso

    Kevin you wrote:

    “The last thing we need to do is to kill trees so Rachel Ray can copy another set of instructions off the back of a pasta package.”

    And I convulsed in laughter. Thanks for the yuck.

  • fiat lux

    Better Rachel than Sandra Lee


    I like to think that good cookbooks will always find a market, and that if the cookbook market is overloaded, then the fallout will just wash out the weaker entries.

    I may be over-optimistic, there, but we’ll see.

  • Shannon

    Aww, come on. I’d pay money for the Sandra Lee Semi Homemade Cocktail Cookbook if it came with a free bottle of hooch.

    Another great veg cookbook I bought recently in Oberlin: Vegetarian Supercook by Rose Elliot. Good stuff, lots of good ideas even if you’re not veg (which I haven’t been for years).

  • Don Luis

    I have only a few cookbooks, but I just ordered “Charcuterie” after ruining a 10 pound pork sholder with a sausage recipe I got from the Internet. I’m hoping “Charcuterie” is much more than a book of recipes.

  • NTSC

    I’m very happy with it.

    There is more there than recipes. Just the cover picture is mouth watering.

    Last Thanksgiving one of the appetizers was a sausage plate including both the Hunter and Thuringer sausage from this book. There was at least one other sausage from the book, but I’m not certain what, I think Andouille (please excuse spelling, I can’t). I’ve also done at least two other sausages from this and some more than once. Between this book and the CIA book with sausage and pate (Garde Mange ?) we don’t buy sausage anymore, just meat, casing and spices.

  • Deborah Dowd

    Heidi’s blog is the type of site we small-town bloggers would like to grow up to be… beautiful, literate and delicious. But we blog and read blogs for different reasons, so I hope there continues to be room and readers out there for all of us…