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. Her latest book is Nigella Fresh.
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Nigella's Summer Snacks To Stay Cool And 'Fresh'

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

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

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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It is, of course, the middle of summer. And in many parts of the country, the temperature has been hovering uncomfortably between sticky mess and inferno. And when we think of extreme heat, we naturally think of Nigella Lawson, who's a regular guest on this program and a food writer. Nigella, welcome back to MORNING EDITION.

Ms. NIGELLA LAWSON (Food Writer): Thank you very much. That's some intro.

INSKEEP: Well, I do what I can, I do what I can. You have sent along, though, a list of recipe suggestions that will actually help to cool us down here in the summer, and you begin with some lemonade.

Ms. LAWSON: I do indeed. I call it cloudy lemonade for a sunny day, because it's a kind of lemonade that we make in England and...

INSKEEP: Do you have sunny days in England?

Ms. LAWSON: A girl can dream, OK?

INSKEEP: OK. Please, go on.

Ms. LAWSON: No, we do sometimes. We do, we do, we do. Our summers are very, very beautiful. They're not necessarily as hot as this, but there are some advantages to not feeling like you've got an army training hair dryers on you as you walk down the street. So it's not so bad.

INSKEEP: Anyway, you've got this lemonade.

Ms. LAWSON: Yes.

INSKEEP: What makes it cloudy?

Ms. LAWSON: Well, really because you're leaving every part of the lemon inside the lemonade. Better to use, you know, unwaxed lemon or organic lemon, simply because you are using the peel. And I put them in a blender with some club soda, some superfine sugar and some ice cubes - and just blitz.

INSKEEP: How does the taste change when you include the peel?

Ms. LAWSON: Well, sour is not the right word, but it's got an edge. It's really -the peel is good. I mean, obviously, the pith is what creates its bitterness. I love a note of slight sourness and bitterness because actually, something that is oversweet is not thirst-quenching.

INSKEEP: Well, while we're sipping some lemonade, it looks like we can toss a salad here. You've got something called watermelon and feta and black olive salad.

Ms. LAWSON: Yes, it's a salad that when I tell people what it is, they say - you know - you're kidding me. But actually, it's the most divine salad. And I always think that in times of heat, one should look to the cuisines of really very hot countries for inspiration. And in the eastern Mediterranean and certainly Israel, they use watermelon with feta.

Now, if you think about it, you've got that intense, grainy sweetness of the watermelon - but the salt of feta is fantastic. And when it's hot, you need to put a lot of salt in your body for reasons that are perhaps not altogether palatable, and I won't mention them. And in the same, you get the same bit of saltiness from the black olives.

Now, it helps that on top of that, you have some red onion, which I sit in lime juice, and the lime juice takes all that acrid burn away from raw onion. And then I do this - along with the parsley, I put some mint, which is cooling.

INSKEEP: I'm looking at a photo of it here in your new cookbook, "Nigella Fresh." So colorful - and it looks very simple as well.

Ms. LAWSON: It's very simple, and as I say, it does sound like an odd flavor combination. But it's only odd for us whereas there's a whole part of the world when - it's considered quite normal and for a good reason, and it really works. I've never made this for people who haven't gone on to make it themselves.

INSKEEP: As we look through this list of recipes that you've sent us here, they're not only cool dishes, they seem to be dishes that keep you away from the oven.

Ms. LAWSON: Well, yes. I mean, in a sense, when the sky is an oven, you don't really want to be, you know, adding extra heat. Now, sometimes you have to turn the stove on. But I certainly think it makes sense not to make yourself any more uncomfortable than you need be. And if you're in a small kitchen and the oven's on and it's 90 degrees outside, you're going to regret cooking, aren't you?

INSKEEP: I'm trying to remember that saying: If you can't stand the heat, make chilled, caramelized oranges with yogurt.

(Soundbite of laughter)

INSKEEP: What are those?

Ms. LAWSON: Yes. Well, that is - when I was a child, before Italian restaurants were, you know - had that kind of pared-down chic, and they had those carts, dessert carts, that you chose from, there was something called aranci a la principesa - you know, oranges for the princess. And...

INSKEEP: That was you, I guess.

Ms. LAWSON: I certainly don't mind being that if I get to eat these. And so really, I mean, you're doing a bit of cooking because you're making a caramel. And you've zested your oranges, and then you use the juice of the oranges goes into the caramel, and almost turns it into something quite hard, a bit like -you call them candy apples; we call them toffee apples.

So they're kind of candy oranges, 'cause as you pour the caramelized orange juice - is what, in effect, it is - over the oranges, some of it goes - set, like little bits of caramel glass. And then I like it with yogurt. I mean, normally speaking, you know, someone wants to offer me a quart of cream, I'm not going to say no.

But I think there's something wrong - I think the acid of the orange would probably make the cream curdle a teeny bit. But again, I'm going back a bit to saying I like the tang and the bitterness in the lemonade; the same way is, I want the tang of yogurt with these oranges, and that's more refreshing.

And I suppose if you were to find an orange sorbet at a local store, now, that would be terrific with it. Or now, I'm warming to my theme - it wouldn't look pretty on the plate, but a good chocolate ice cream with the caramelized oranges couldn't be a bad way to go.

INSKEEP: Well, there you go.

Ms. LAWSON: See, you shouldn't let me talk. I've whipped myself up into hysteria.

(Soundbite of laughter)

INSKEEP: I think I see a new recipe on the way. This is great. This is great. And you mention sorbet. You have also sent us the - just saying the name of this sorbet you have named here makes you feel - I don't know, very relaxed or something: red currant slush sorbet.

Ms. LAWSON: Oh yes. It's only because, you know, this is a sorbet that isn't set solid. It's not quite like those little, slushy drinks you have, and it certainly has - I don't know how to be polite about this - it certainly doesn't have as many suspect ingredients. Yes, it's got a lot of sugar - sorbet can't be made without sugar - but again, I'm going for a fruit that's sour.

So I take a pint and a half of red currants, a cup and a half sugar and really -it's just really a question of, you know, adding orange, the juice and zest, and cooking it all in the oven, and then putting it through a food mill, freezing it, adding some Cointreau. You know, red currants are not fruits you would eat a lot of alone without any sugar, but I do eat them.

But you know, you could just as easily use raspberries here, but then I think I would possibly think of making them slightly fewer.

INSKEEP: This is the second time you've used the word sour in a basically positive way.

Ms. LAWSON: Yes. Well, what I think is, is that, you know, without wishing to go, you know, into a kind of - too New Age, is that in life, balance is very important. And it's something that I always feel evades us, mostly, in life. So you may as well get it in the kitchen.

INSKEEP: Well, we're certainly going to get - as Americans, we're certainly going to get our share of sugar; you can hardly avoid it. So why not go a little bit the other way?

Ms. LAWSON: Yes. And, of course, what it does is give you, it makes a taste round rather than one-dimensional.

INSKEEP: Well, Nigella Lawson, I feel cooler already. Thank you very much.

Ms. LAWSON: Thank you.

INSKEEP: Her most recent cookbook is called "Nigella Fresh."

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