Nigella's Summer Snacks To Stay Cool And 'Fresh'

Temperatures in much of America this summer have been hovering between inferno and sticky mess. Food writer Nigella Lawson offers cool and refreshing dishes to please the palate and cool the body.

Lawson recommends what she calls Cloudy Lemonade For A Sunny Day, from her latest book, Nigella Fresh. As she tells NPR's Steve Inskeep, the cooling drink's cloudiness comes from using the entire fruit, peel and all.

The recipe is straightforward: Put lemons, club soda and superfine sugar in a blender with ice, "and just blitz," Lawson says.

"I love a note of slight sourness and bitterness," she says, "because actually, something that is oversweet is not thirst-quenching."

Lawson's next suggestion often draws suspicion, she says: a watermelon and feta salad, with black olives. For inspiration, Lawson looked to the eastern Mediterranean, where coping with high temperatures is a way of life. It's common to see cooling watermelon paired with feta in Israel, Lawson says — and her dish matches the sweetness of watermelon with the cheese's sharp saltiness.

"In life, balance is very important — and it's something that I always feel evades us, mostly, in life," she says. So you may as well get it in the kitchen."

And instead of relying on Americans' usual sugar-heavy lineup of summer treats — popsicles, pies and ice cream — Lawson recommends using sour flavors, as well.

"What it does, is it makes a taste round, rather than one-dimensional," she says.

Lawson's other suggestions from her new book include Chilled Caramelized Oranges with Yogurt — also known as arancia alla principessa; Red Currant Slush Sorbet; and Mint and Lime Cool Aid.

Cloudy Lemonade For A Summer Day

I am thinking that carrying a pitcher of lemonade out into the yard or garden counts as portable food, and since I am always, always in a hurry I am no doubt on the run. You could, of course, pour this gloriously simple, old-fashioned lemonade into a thermos flask and take it on your way.

If the mood takes you, you could consider adding a handful of raspberries to the blended jar to create pink lemonade.

Ingredients:

4 cups chilled club soda or other carbonated water

2 whole unwaxed lemons, cut into eighths

1/4 cup superfine sugar, or to taste

Ice cubes

Instructions:

-Put the water, lemons, and sugar into a blender in two batches, and blitz until the lemon it pureed.

-Sieve the lemonade into a pitcher, pressing down into the sieve, and then pour into tumblers filled with ice.

Serves 4-6.

Excerpted from Nigella Fresh by Nigella Lawson. Copyright 2010 by Nigella Lawson. Published in the U.S. by Hyperion. All Rights Reserved. Available wherever books are sold.

Watermelon, Feta And Black Olive Salad

As improbable as it might sound, this combination is utterly fantastic, both savory and refreshing at the same time. You can pare it down to the essential contrast, and serve no more than a plate of chunked watermelon, sprinkled with feta and mint and spritzed with lime, but this full-length version is hardly troublesome to make and once made will, I assure you, become a regular feature of your summer table.

Ingredients

1 small red onion

2-4 limes, depending on juiciness

3 1/2 pounds sweet, ripe watermelon

9 ounces feta cheese

Bunch fresh flat-leaf parsley

Bunch fresh mint, chopped

3-4 tablespoons, extra-virgin olive oil

4 ounces (1/2 cup) pitted black olives

Black pepper

Instructions:

Peel and halve the red onion and cut into very fine half-moons and put in a small bowl to steep with the lime juice, to bring out the transparent pinkness in the onions and diminish their rasp. Two limes' worth should do it, but you can find the fruits disappointingly dried up and barren when you cut them in half, in which case add more.

Remove the rind and seeds from the watermelon, and cut into approximately 1 3/4-inch triangular chunks, if that makes sense (math is not my strong point). Cut the feta into similar sized pieces and put them both into a large, wide shallow bowl. Tear off sprigs of parsley so that it is used like a salad leaf, rather than a garnish, and add to the bowl along with the chopped mint.

Tip the now glowingly puce onions, along with their pink juices, over the salad in the bowl, add the oil and olives, then using your hands toss the salad very gently so that the feta and melon don't lose their shape. Add a good grinding of black pepper and taste to see whether the dressing needs more lime. Hava Negila! The taste of Tel Aviv sunshine!

Serves 8.

Excerpted from Nigella Fresh by Nigella Lawson. Copyright 2010 by Nigella Lawson. Published in the U.S. by Hyperion. All Rights Reserved. Available wherever books are sold.

Red Currant Slush Sorbet

Just as with ice cream, the glorious thing about homemade sorbet is that you can make flavors you could never buy. And the texture is so much better, too: smoother, richer, without all that icy brittleness. This sorbet is intentionally slushier still: a sluicing with Cointreau adds an orangey depth and keeps it all from freezing solid.

If you're not using an ice cream maker, then just pour the sugary fruit puree into a plastic container and whip it out of the freezer and mush it up in a processor a couple of times while it freezes.

Ingredients:

1 1/2 pints red currants

1 1/2 cups granulated sugar

Zest and juice of 1 orange

1/3 cup Cointreau

Instructions:

-Preheat the oven to 350 F.

-Put the red currants, stalks and all, into an ovenproof dish and add the sugar and zest and juice of the orange.

-Cover with foil and put in the oven for about 45 minutes, by which time the fruit will have become soft and pulpy.

-Let the fruit cool before pushing the mixture through a mouli or other food mill, or puree it in a blender or food processor. The advantage of a food mill, though, is that it purees and sieves at the same time. A blended or blitzed mixture will have to be pushed through a sieve to remove all the seedy stalky bits. Either way, make sure you use all the syrupy juice the red currants have made as well, and then stir in the Cointreau.

-Put the sorbet mixture into an ice cream maker to freeze and then decant this vivid puce slush into an airtight container and keep in the freezer until the actual point of serving.

Serves 6.

Excerpted from Nigella Fresh by Nigella Lawson. Copyright 2010 by Nigella Lawson. Published in the U.S. by Hyperion. All Rights Reserved. Available wherever books are sold.

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Delicious Flavors on Your Plate All Year Round

by Nigella Lawson and Petrina Tinslay

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