For as long as I’ve known Heidi, she’s been tinkering on creative projects that make me ooh and ah. Her latest and greatest is Cook 1.0, a vegetarian cookbook available in stores now. The last time I visited San Francisco; I got to sample several of Heidi’s delectable dishes from her new cookbook. I’m telling you, as a New Yorker, that her pizzas are scrumptious! Heidi’s found the recipe for turning passion into a profession. She popped in to tell us what’s cooking.
How many careers have you had? What is your current title?
I've had a lot of different job roles and titles over the past 10 years -- I've done everything from writing, creative direction, and web development to events and magazine production…a sample of past titles would include: founder, ChickClick.com; co-producer, TED Conference; and cookbook author/photographer.
What project will you be working on next?
Another cookbook, more photography, also keeping my recipe journal current: 101cookbooks.com.
Your house is burning down. What one possession (aside from human/animal life) would you grab on the way out?
I have a big box that holds all my negatives and creative journals. I would grab that.
When and how did we meet?
I met you about eight years ago -- I think one of the first times together we went out with a big group of people to Cafe Claude in San Francisco, I couldn't figure out why everyone seemed to have a different name or nickname for you!
Well, in my mind it was more of a switch from publishing (projects that always happened to have a strong tech component) to cookbooks...another type of publishing. And I've always liked to cook...After I left ChickClick, I was home more and enjoyed trying out new recipes and learning all sorts of new techniques in the kitchen. Exploring new ingredients and flavors was exciting…so as I was cooking a lot more, I started to think about how I would organize my own cookbook. I wanted something a little different - more in tune with the way I was approaching the kitchen.
For some people, eating vegetarian means a weak salad. What is the secret to making tasty vegetarian dishes?
The secret: good ingredients. I also like a lot of flavor in my cooking so play around with different seasonings, spices, and that sort of thing. Also, people need to really ‘salt to taste’. A lot of times all a dish needs to make the difference between just so-so and outstanding is more salt. I mean, I'm not a saltaholic or anything, it’s just that a lot of times people under season.
It's funny that you say salt I say pepper!
Yeah I like pepper too.
What three kitchen tools can't you live without?
Microplane grater...My big knife, and I love my Le Creuset pots. I also can't believe I've gone this long without an immersion blender. That is number one on my Christmas list this year.
What’s an immersion blender (I asked Heidi this question without even realizing that I had one in my own kitchen)?
It looks like a big wand, and you can use it to blend and puree -- its great for soups and that sort of thing, you just stick the wand in the pot and the propeller on the end blends everything.
I need a good knife so tell me, who makes your big knife?
I finally surrendered my Ikea knife set for a few Henckels.
What advice/tip do you have for new chefs just getting started?
For new cooks I would say to try out new recipes regularly. Look for ones that aren't too intimidating for starters -- like with manageable ingredients lists, and ones that don't take forever to make. Also, ask people for recipes -- friends are a great source. For example, if you have something tasty at a party or a dinner, ask whoever made [the dish] for the recipe. You aren't going to become a great cook overnight, like anything else it takes practice. But keeping track of your favorite recipes really helps, because then you start gaining confidence and you can really start expanding your repertoire with confidence, and rely on favorite stand-bys.
What is your favorite recipe in Cook 1.0? Can you share it?
Oooh. That is tough, I have a few. My very favorite recipes from the book are:
Brie, Apple, Cranberry + Fake Bacon Panini,
Red Pepper + Lemon Kabobs,
Pumpkin, Mint + Ricotta Pizza,
the table of roasted vegetables,
White Sangria with Drunken Peaches
…and I love the Banana Macadamia Pancakes.
I like the Brie, Apple, Cranberry + Fake Bacon Panini a lot.
What new Heidi Swanson experiences and culinary treats can fans expect in the near future?
That’s a hard question. Well, hopefully I will still be lucky enough to be able to combine my interests into projects I am excited about...I have such a long list of projects I would love to work on. A project like this was great for me because I was able to combine all these things I really love: cooking, design, photography. Hopefully I will be able to do more things like this in the future.
Cook 1.0: A Fresh Approach to the Vegetarian Kitchen is in stores now. Heidi’s graciously shared her Banana Macadamia Pancake recipe to Hustler of Culture readers. Enjoy and thanks Heidi!