56: heidi swanson

heidi swanson

Writing a bio is always hard for me. I cook. I take pictures. I like to travel and write and share with people. I tend to work on long-term projects like cookbooks and my website. Somehow it all comes together into my day to day life. I live in San Francisco, but like to get out and see more of the world I live in as often as possible.




This is what I warmed up for lunch today. It’s a winter/spring adaptation, and distant cousin, of the Zucchini and Millet Risotto in the Rose Bakery cookbook.

Farro + Millet Risotto

3/4 cup / / 5 oz / 150 g  uncooked millet
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
fine grain sea salt
1/4 cup / 2 oz / 55 g unsalted butter
2 medium yellow onions, thinly sliced
1 garlic clove, smashed and chopped
2 cups / 14 oz / 400 g semi-pearled farro
roughly 7 cups / 1.6 l good-tasting vegetable broth
2 big handfuls of freshly grated Parmesan

Add-ins: a couple big handfuls of roasted vegetables, chopped up a bit — for example, I used roasted delicata squash this time around. I also used some chopped chives and a generous drizzle of curried brown butter.

It works best to cook the millet and farro separately here. Start by adding the millet to a small thick-bottomed saucepan over medium heat. Toast it, stirring constantly, until the millet is golden and fragrant — just a few minutes. Add 1 3/4 cup / 475 ml water, 1 tablespoon of the oil, and a couple generous pinches of salt. Stir, bring to a simmer, cover, and cook for about 20 minutes, or until the grains are cooked and free of liquid. Taste, and if they need more time, cook for a few minutes more, then remove from heat, and leave covered for another 5-10 minutes. Fluff with a fork, and set aside.

In the meantime, get the farro started in a separate large pot over medium-high heat. Stir in the remaining oil, butter, onions and a big pinch of salt. Cook until the onions are soft and translucent. Stir in
the garlic, and cook for a couple minutes more. Add the farro and cook for a couple minutes before adding 2 cups of the broth. Cook, stirring, until the farro has absorbed most of the liquid before adding another cup. Keep adding stock in increments like this until the farro is cooked through – it takes some time. Once it’s cooked, stir in half the millet. Add more broth if needed, the risotto should be loose. Decide whether or not you want to add the remaining millet — it’s a personal preference really. The millet makes the risotto take on a more porridge-like texture. Now stir in most of the Parmesan.
Taste, and adjust the seasoning. Add more broth if needed — again, you want the texture to be loose and creamy. A spoon should not be able to stand up straight in the risotto.

Serve hot, in bowls topped with the remaining Parmesan, and whatever else you like. In this instance I added some leftover roasted delicata squash, a drizzle of curried brown butter, and chopped chives. But
some toasted nut oil and chopped herbs might be a nice alternative, or even a swirl of harissa and toasted almonds….

Serves 6-8.




on the nightstand:

  • one all-white vintage table lamp with pottery base
  • one large framed photo I shot of a motel exterior in Puerto Penesco, Mexico


am loving:

  • my olivetti valentine
  • tartine sesame bread
  • brewing beer with my brother in law
  • sherbet-shaded ranunculus
  • unpollinated derrie dates-no pit!
  • homemade celery salt


how does spring inspire you?

I have a few favorite trees around and about San Francisco — a huge camellia hidden away in a grove, a young magnolia, and a number of huge plum and cherry blossom dotted about the parks. I wait patiently this time of year for them to explode into bloom. I love the color, and the subtle variation of color amongst the blooms on any one tree.


what’s one item in your spring wardrobe you can’t go without?

San Francisco is a fickle bird when it comes to weather. It’s one of those cities where you can get four seasons in four hours. Right now, looking out the window, the cars on the street are being pelted with hail and huge raindrops. But yesterday was sunny and 65. So, while I would love to say summer dresses and sandals, quite honestly this time of year I’m more likely to be wearing a favorite pair of wool tights and hand socks.


what’s your idea of the perfect homemade spring meal?

good soba noodles, fresh favas, herbs, broth — topped with a poached egg or tofu


what are four constants in your day?

  1. coffee
  2. cameras
  3. my co-pilot
  4. cooking


tell us about the inspiration behind these photos.

I keep an old SX-70 at my desk, or, on occasion I’ll toss it in my purse. I tend to use it to catch little moments, or textures, or details, or even just a color I’d like not to forget.

16 thoughts on “56: heidi swanson

  1. Great post! Heidi, I follow your website and haven’t seen you mention homemade celery salt before. I’d love to know how you make that. Thanks.

  2. Thanks for the great post!
    I love the light in Heidi’s photographs. Nothing says spring like noodles, fresh herbs, and a sundress…with a wool sweater just in case :)
    Thanks again!

  3. Thank you for the wonderful interview!

    I love Heidi and am so grateful to her for shaping my cooking. I use to see Heidi from time to time when I lived in SF and would always want to run up to her and tell her how she changed the way I cook, but never did. I still regret I never did tell her!

  4. Great interview, ladies! Thank you. I love cooking from Heidi’s first book (the Little Otsu or some version of it is a family staple for us now, and I still want to try the delicious-sounding popcorn).
    Can’t wait to look at the new book. It’s inspiring to see someone who so successfully combines two of my great loves: cooking and photography!

  5. thank you so much for sharing the lovely photos and interview. i am a religious 101cookbooks follower and have been so inspired by heidi. i can’t wait for her new book – and, will hopefully be able to get it signed in person when she’s in portland at the end of the month!

  6. i L O V E puerto penasco.
    in fact we love it so much, we named our dog after the place.
    lovely lovely lovely issue.

  7. Pingback: Super Natural Every Day: Published - 101 Cookbooks

  8. Heidi’s “Super Natural Cooking” is one of my most used cookbooks, not only are the recipes inspiring, but the photos make for an equally great read. Loved reading this interview!

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