Cookbook Review – Near & Far

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For the month of October I chose to cook from Heidi Swanson‘s new book ‘Near & Far‘. There had been a lot of media coverage of this book that peaked my curiosity. The book is a collection of recipes inspired by Heidi’s home base of San Francisco (Near), as well as her travels abroad to Morocco, Japan, Italy, France, and India (Far) and all with one common thread – they are vegetarian meals. Here are the items from this book we explored

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Leek Soup with coconut milk, cauliflower, brown rice, pasta, chives, dill, hazelnuts. This was the first item I cooked from the book and really wasn’t that excited about it until I put on the toppings. Was a bit too much white on white on white for my visual palate. Texturally interesting with both rice and pasta in there. Actually the recipe called for yuba skins (soy bean curd) but try as I might I could not source that ingredient and we have a pretty great Asian community with grocery stores to match. Heidi’s recipe did indicate pasta could be substituted but at the end of the day I’m thinking it was not necessary. The overall dish was a delicate blend of ingredients but I wish the leek flavor stood out more.

Next up was Popovers

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with black pepper & millet. These rose up beautifully, as popovers usually do, and the texture was perfect. I did think the black pepper was a bit overwhelming and though the millet seed provided an interesting texture, it didn’t really add to the flavor. Next time I would cut the amount of black pepper back by half and skip the millet seed.

Then there was the recipe featured on the cover

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Cold Soba noodles with radishes, shallot, brown rice, garlic honey, sesame seeds, coriander seeds, and paprika. This was quite good. For the green, the recipe called for chopped radish tops, but mine didn’t look that great so I went for Thai basil, which I thought added to all the great flavors going on in this dish. Really good and something I would make again.

Then there were the cookies

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Strong Ginger Snap cookies. I love, love, love ginger snaps and this recipe didn’t disappoint! Packed full of ginger flavor and once completely cooled, a slight snap when broken in two. Growing up, my dad & I were the only ones in the house who loved ginger snaps so whenever we bought a box from the store, we would sit together and enjoy a bowl full. Every time I eat ginger snaps, I think of him and our time together crunching away!

For a great side I went for new potatoes

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Aloo Bhaji with green chiles, fenugreek, sesame seeds, and cumin. I also added a bit of chopped fresh parsley. Quite delicious and would be a welcome side to any, dare I say it, meat entree! We had these with a couple of lovely steaks. So good.

I had been doing pretty good cooking through this book, but then I found myself without a kitchen. Brian decided we needed new cabinets, counter, and sink and it turned out the construction crew scheduled this work to begin right in the middle of October. So what to do? I really wanted to keep going but was super challenged with the no kitchen thing. But then I remembered my friend Jane Hamel. She and I met briefly at Shutter Sisters Oasis when she was still living in California. But a couple years ago she moved to Seattle. Though we have met a couple times over lunch, we hadn’t had a lot of time together. You see she has been busy restoring an over one hundred year old house. In fact she is still working on it. However, I remembered from an Instagram post that she recently completed her kitchen. I knew from our conversations that she loves to cook so I worked up the courage to ask if she would like to make a recipe from Heidi’s book with me in her kitchen… and she said yes!

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A friend of hers, Lynn pictured above, joined us for the first part of this preparation. Will you just look at the fabulous light streaming through that window! Oh, and the farmhouse sink, and the stone counter… all so, so lovely.

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Lynn was quite meticulous separating the cilantro leaves from the stems.

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and Jane did a perfect job of dicing the celery. She also measured out the other ingredients of our soup

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While the soup cooked, Jane & I talked and talked about, well, all kinds of things; food, family, community. Then, in no time at all, it was time to eat.

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Harira with chickpeas, lentils, cilantro, and warm spices and some chopped dates on top. Almost passed on the dates. Though I enjoy their sweetness, the look of them and their super-stickiness kind of creeps me out. Turns out Jane feels the same way! She helped with chopping them so we could get that task done quickly! The meal was delicious, but I have to say my favorite ingredient was Jane. We enjoyed this lunch in her new dining room over a bottle of wine and shared truths. I will hold this experience in my heart always. Hopefully we will have the chance to cook together again soon.

I did cook one last item from the book. It only required a couple of table top burners so I whipped this up on my dining room table, which has been my make-shift food prep area during the remodel.

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Brown Butter Tortelli with butter, balsamic vinegar, lemon zest and arugula. I’m a sucker for fresh pasta so to me this was the ultimate comfort food. The only thing I forgot to add was some parmesan cheese on top. It was called for in the recipe, but I totally spaced on it. Chalk it up to being off my game without a real kitchen. However, this dish was so flavorful that I really didn’t miss the cheese. This will be a go to meal for us in the future. Super quick and easy, it makes the perfect weeknight meal.

So, there you have it, Near & Far by Heidi Swanson. This cookbook would make a lovely gift for someone who is exploring more vegetarian-based meals and has an adventurous spirit.

I am glad to have been introduced to this book. Actually my repertoire of meatless meals has expanded quite a bit this year as this is the 3rd vegetarian-based book I’ve worked from. I’ve been introduced to ingredients I’ve never worked with before and preparations that are new to me as well. Many people I know are vegetarian so am grateful to have this knowledge to help me offer those I love food that I know they will enjoy. As Brian & I continue to reduce the amount of meat we consume, this knowledge also expands our options for meals that accomplishes that goal in a flavorful way.

That being said, the next book is not focused on vegetarian cuisine. Just fabulous sounding and beautiful food from a couple living in France, Marilou & Alexandre Champagne. The book is called ‘3 Times a Day‘, inspired by their blog of the same name ‘Trois Fois Par Jour‘.

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I discovered them through Kim Klassen, who mentioned their book on one of her Instagram posts. The blog is entirely in French, but if you haven’t checked it out, I would encourage you to do so. Their videos are entertaining and though I don’t speak French so don’t know what they are saying, I find them charming! Marilou does the recipe development and food styling, Alexandre does the photography. The whole book is stunning and I’m looking forward to diving in. My kitchen should be up to the task soon as well. November 9th is supposedly the last day for the crew who will be installing final trim, hardware, and putting the appliances back. Fingers crossed we stay on schedule as there is also Thanksgiving dinner around the corner and we are wanting to host in celebration of the ‘new’ kitchen! Wish us luck!

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About Carol

Thank you in advance for respecting my art. All the images and text posted to this blog are owned my me and protected by copyright law. Copying any of the content here without permission is against the law and you know, not cool. Many thanks again.
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7 Responses to Cookbook Review – Near & Far

  1. barbara says:

    Love your review Carol, so fun to see the pictures to finish the story. You are the best.. I always learn from you. Can not wait to see your Kitchen.

  2. I have been wondering how you are doing with work and the remodel. Looks like you kept up with your challenge of cooking through these books. The Leek Soup sounds interesting with the hazelnuts and oh my those potatoes look just awesome. Also looks like a fun day out cooking with friends.

  3. jamie jamison says:

    Carol, I LOVE reading your posts and seeing your amazing food photographs. So much inspiration. I have so many cookbooks that I hardly cook from them–you really inspire me to open them and get going. Thank you, thank you for doing this. This really seems to be your niche!!! xoxoJamie

  4. Kelly says:

    I think you could seriously shoot food professionally Carol- this post is just delicious all in itself-hope Seattle is my new home…

  5. Kelly says:

    Ohhhhh-can’t wait to see the new kitchen!!

  6. seabluelee says:

    Looking forward to seeing your new kitchen! It sounds like it will be finished in good time for Thanksgiving. I enjoyed reading about your cooking adventure with your friend. She makes a lovely model, too!

  7. Carol, you are absolutely the most adventurous cook I “know”. I so enjoy your posts of your cookbook reviews. Beautiful photography and fun to read. Thanks for sharing!!

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