In Praise Of A 'Fetastic' Summer: Nigella Lawson

Nigella Lawson recommends combining feta and fresh vegetables for a light summer treat. i i

hide captionNigella Lawson recommends combining feta and fresh vegetables for a light summer treat.

Dave Hogan/Getty Images
Nigella Lawson recommends combining feta and fresh vegetables for a light summer treat.

Nigella Lawson recommends combining feta and fresh vegetables for a light summer treat.

Dave Hogan/Getty Images

Food writer Nigella Lawson doesn't much care for shopping in the summer. "[It] is really so much worse than cooking," she says.

Her solution? Feta cheese. The aged, salty, grainy cheese keeps well for long periods of time in the fridge and goes nicely with a variety of summer vegetables. But Lawson sees another benefit of feta.

"I dare say that when it's hot, you lose liquid and salt through sweating," she tells NPR's Steve Inskeep. "Therefore, it's quite natural to want a salty cheese."

Natural, indeed. "Do you want to just keep talking for a minute, because I'm going to take another bite here," Inskeep says between samples of Lawson's grilled eggplant with feta, mint and chili.

The dish is simple: Grilled slices of eggplant are brushed with oil and then rolled with a stuffing of crumbled feta, red chili, a little lemon juice and some fresh mint.

"I go mad for mint in summer," Lawson says. "I think it's very undervalued."

Mint is also featured prominently in her zucchini fritters. But these fritters aren't the heavy, deep-fried things that might come to mind. They're "absolutely 'fetastic,' " Lawson says.

Instead of milk or cream, she uses feta. Add a pound or two of grated zucchini, eggs, a little flour, seasoning — and of course, the mint — fry them up like pancakes and sprinkle with lime juice.

More From Nigella Lawson

Served at room temperature, the zucchini brings out a surprisingly sweet taste, she says. "It's a bit like little cakes of herb-y, zucchini-y scrambled eggs."

And with zucchini, eggplant and summer squash overflowing in many produce aisles, Lawson says, "Why not make them the star of the meal rather than having them just as a side dish?"

For dessert, she suggests ice cream topped with hot blackberry sauce. But instead of cooking the berries in sugar, Lawson uses balsamic vinegar.

"It just brings out the taste enormously," she says.

And that, of course, is the whole point.

Zucchini Fritters

Fresh herbs and lime help keep these fritters light enough to enjoy as a summer's lunch. i i

hide captionFresh herbs and lime help keep these fritters light enough to enjoy as a summer's lunch.

Petrina Tinslay
Fresh herbs and lime help keep these fritters light enough to enjoy as a summer's lunch.

Fresh herbs and lime help keep these fritters light enough to enjoy as a summer's lunch.

Petrina Tinslay

I know the word fritter conjures up a complex world of deep-frying and dense eating, but these are light, simple babies — just grated zucchini, mixed with feta, herbs and scallions, stirred up with flour and eggs and dolloped into a frying pan to make little vegetable pancakes which, unlike most fried food, are best eaten not straight out of the pan, but left to cool to room temperature. This takes any slaving over a hot stove element out of the equation: you just spoon serenely away over your pan before anyone's around.

I like these best as a starter — or just as they are, along with a green salad, for a meat-free, summer's lunch.

  • 4 zucchini (approx. 1 pounds)
  • 5-6 scallions, finely chopped
  • 9 ounces feta cheese
  • small bunch fresh parsley, chopped
  • small bunch fresh mint, chopped, plus extra to sprinkle over at the end
  • 1 tablespoon dried mint
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • scant 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • salt and pepper
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • olive oil for frying
  • 3-4 limes

Coarsely grate the zucchini with either the grating blade in the food processor or by hand. Spread the little shards out on a tea towel and leave for about 20 minutes to get rid of any excess wetness.

Put the chopped scallions in a bowl and crumble in the feta. Stir in the chopped parsley and mint, along with the dried mint and paprika. Add the flour and season well with salt and pepper. Gradually add the beaten egg and mix thoroughly before stirring in the drained, grated zucchini. Don't be alarmed by the unflowing straggly lumpiness of this batter; it's meant to be this way.

This recipe has not been tested by NPR.

Heat a few tablespoons of oil in a large frying pan and drop heaped dessertspoons of the moisture into the hot oil, flattening the little cakes down the back of the spoon as you go. Cook these little patties for about 2 minutes each side until golden, and then transfer to a couple of waiting plates.

Chop up the limes and tumble them about the edges of the plates. Sprinkle over a little more chopped mint and eat them just as they are, spritzed with lime juice as you go.

Makes about 25.

Reprinted from Forever Summer by Nigella Lawson. Published by Hyperion Books.

White Chocolate Ice Cream With Hot Blackberry Sauce

This recipe has not been tested by NPR.

London's Ivy restaurant has a star dessert on its menu that is plateful of frozen berries with hot chocolate sauce poured over them. It's immodest to say it, I know, but I prefer my version: the iced part is the white chocolate; the hot sauce, a tart, beaded river of blackberries. Scoop the ice cream into knickerbocker glory glasses, if you've got them, and pour the molten bramble sauce over. Even if you think you don't like white chocolate, you'll like this.

For the sauce:

  • About 5 ounces blackberries
  • 4 scant tablespoons granulated sugar
  • juice of half a lemon
  • 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon arrowroot, mixed to a paste with a little cold water

Put the berries, sugar, lemon juice, balsamic vinegar and cup water in a saucepan and bring to the boil, turn down heat and cook for a few minutes. Take the pan off the heat and stir in the arrowroot paste. Pour into a wide-mouthed pitcher or bowl with a ladle and take to the table with the ice cream.

Serves 6.

Reprinted from Forever Summer by Nigella Lawson. Published by Hyperion Books.

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Books Featured In This Story

Forever Summer
Forever Summer

by Nigella Lawson and Petrina Tinslay

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