Book Review: “Near and Far: Recipes Inspired by Home and Travel”

Heidi Swanson is the luminous author of the blog 101 Cookbooks.  She’s been writing for years (years!) and is literally almost a goddess in the food blogging community.  I came across her blog while reading Will Write for Food, one of the best books out there about food writing.  Swanson’s site is mentioned in Will Write for Food as an example of what to do when starting a blog.  I immediately checked her website out and was amazed.  There are hundreds (probably thousands) of posts, each carefully and lovingly perfected, with gorgeous photography.  The recipes are detailed and easy to follow.  But aside from that, I just love Heidi Swanson’s voice.  You get the feeling that she’s talking to you like you’re her friend.  She teaches without being overbearing, encourages without making you feel incapable.
Near and Far

I jumped at the chance to review her new cookbook because it’s vegetarian!  And we all know how I feel about vegan and vegetarian cookbooks (hint: GOOD).  I cracked it open and barely got through the first pages before having to stop and make food.  The very first recipe – Cucumber Salad – was divine.  Swanson states in the heading of the Cucumber Salad that she hopes this recipe will set the tone for the book, and it does.  It was simple – I had every ingredient except lemongrass already in my pantry – but sophisticated.  The dressing also didn’t use any oil, which I very much appreciated, since I usually have to substitute oil.  I then only made it to the next page before making the Fennel Stew, and then the Red Lentil Hummus.  I would have never thought to make something like her Mashed Yellow Split Peas, but I’m terribly glad I did.

The book is split into two main sections, Near and Far.  Near includes recipes inspired by her life in California.  Far includes recipes from Morocco, Japan, Italy, France, and India.  From Harira in Morocco to Baby Artichoke Salad in France, the recipes span cultures, ingredients, and tastes.  I personally found myself staying in the “Near” section of the book more.  I’m not sure if that’s because I liked the recipes more, or if I’m just more comfortable and familiar with those ingredients.

There is no way I can top the gorgeous photography in Swanson’s book, so I’ve included a few photos from her website below so you can see the mouthwatering recipes for yourself.  As a note for vegans, many of her recipes include dairy and eggs.  Some of them are easily substituted for vegan versions or left out, but I wish a larger percentage of the total were completely vegan.  Still, the simplicity and deliciousness of the meals as a whole makes it worth it to me.

Photo Credit: 101 Cookbooks
Photo Credit: 101 Cookbooks
Photo Credit: 101 Cookbooks

Swanson’s book Near & Far: Recipes Inspired by Home and Travel can be found on Amazon, or where any vegetarian/vegan cookbooks are sold.

I received a courtesy copy of this book from Blogging for Books for this review.  Reviews and opinions expressed are my own, and I will never provide a good review if I don’t believe in, or like, the product/book.

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