Heidi Swanson of 101 Cookbooks

By Kelly Colchin
Heidi Swanson's Kitchen

Heidi Swanson's Kitchen

Heidi Swanson’s cookbooks are deeply rooted in a sense of place. Her personal anecdotes and signature, muted photographs paint a rich picture of her busy and interesting life in idyllic Northern California. Heidi has written two cookbooks and her highly anticipated third, Near & Far: Recipes Inspired by Home and Travel, is due out this September. She also keeps an online recipe journal, 101 Cookbooks and curates a beautiful (mostly online) culinary shop, QUITOKEETO, where she stocks a well-edited selection of culinary treasures ranging from vintage milkglass to Japanese knives. “I do quite a mix of things,” she says. “A typical day might be a wildly varied mix of tasks; sourcing a special knife from Japan, unloading a literal ton of enameled cast iron pots from the United Kingdom (then using a crow bar to take apart the crate), snapping a few shots of a chicory soup I made for lunch to post on 101 Cookbooks, reviewing sample materials for the cover of Near & Far, then tasting twenty California honeys, etc. Every day is dramatically different for me.”

Heidi’s love for cooking at home is evident in the way she lovingly photographs her kitchen and documents her daily routine. “Cooking/eating at home is such an important way to connect,” she says. “Not just with food and ingredients, but with the people you love as well. Coming together to help prepare and enjoy a meal (however simple or elaborate) is about so much more than just eating dinner. The connections between individuals, friends, and/or families need to be taken care of, and the ritual of coming together regularly for meals is incredibly important.” This sentiment comes across in her cookbooks. When working your way through a recipe you get the warm feeling of hanging out with an old friend. (An old friend that cooks amazingly delicious food.) Whether cooking for herself or for a group, Heidi prefers to shop as she goes. “I go to one or two farmers markets a week,” she says. “Usually the big CUESA farmers’ market at the San Francisco Ferry Building early on Saturdays, or I also love the Marin market on Sundays in the shadow of the Frank Lloyd Wright Civic Center. I might hit up another neighborhood farmer’s market later in the week, and Bi-Rite Market is just a couple blocks from my house. They have an incredibly knowledgeable staff, and source amazing things I often don’t see elsewhere.” Even if you can’t pop on over to the SF Ferry Building, you can still transplant yourself to Northern California by stocking some of these items Heidi always has on hand.

1. Soba noodles — Japanese buckwheat noodles are often my pasta of choice. I tend to collect various brands. They make for a good meal-in-a-jar situation when I’m packing lunch for a day at the studio.

2. Epices Roellinger Huile de Cumbavas — I picked up this incredible, intense lime oil when I was in Paris a couple of years back, and then went back again and packed my luggage with more (larger) bottles. It is fragrant and floral, and a few drops is the perfect finish for many curries. I also like it on a wide range of salads, or even on top of yogurt (sweet or savory). It’s like a squeeze of lime, but rounder and more complex.

3. Aedan Miso — I came across Mariko and her wonderful fermented Japanese pantry items at the San Francisco Ferry Building Farmers’ market (you can also find Aedan on GoodEggs). She makes her miso pastes in small batches based off of knowledge passed down through her family ­– her grandfather had a miso business, and her mother would make miso at home. Her products are wonderful – the country miso is a nutty, rustic, addition I use in soups, dressing, and to slather on all sorts of vegetables before roasting. Meeting people like Mariko is part of what keeps me so excited about cooking.

4. Vintage — I tend to be attracted to both old and new and you can see that in my kitchen. I was going to list vintage pans here (I love cooking and baking in ceramic, glass, and clay), but I realized it goes far beyond pans. There are the vintage cookbooks, tart pans, cookie cutters, knives, mortars… the list is long.

5. Rosé — The punctuation to many lunches around here. I tend to keep Domaine Tempier Bandol Rosé on hand, or the lovely Scribe Rosé of Pinot Noir.

6. House Industry Hibiscus Sunrise Kombucha — I don’t really crave soda or anything wildly sugary. This is what I tend to keep on hand when I want something a little tart, a little sweet, spritzy, and refreshing. Sometimes I spike freshly squeezed fruit juice with it, or use in vinaigrettes and the like.

7. Edible bouquets — I like to keep bouquets of things with edible blossoms on the counter and around the kitchen – herbs, flowers, etc. Right now I have rosemary sprigs covered with thousands of blue and purples blooms. I also love chive blossoms, thyme, and rose petals (which I dry for later use on cakes, salads, cookies, tarts, etc). It’s just an easy way to make ordinary things a bit special.

8. Hippie ingredients — I love cooking with all sorts of whole grains and natural foods, and my cupboards are packed with all sorts of nuts, and grains, and pulses – mung beans, lentils, barley, quinoa, millet, black rice – that’s just the middle shelf. They tend to freeze well, so I often will cook more than I need, allow any leftover to cool, and then double bag and freeze. It makes for quick weeknight cooking later on.

Heidi Swanson