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Forever Summer: First Course

July 2007 Cookbook of the Month: Forever Summer, by Nigella Lawson.

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  1. I totally forgot that it was the first of July and that the cookbook is now Forever Summer, and yet I made something from it today anyway! Of course, it was the famed Watermelon, Feta and Olive salad, which I've made many times since I first tried it last summer. This time it wasn't quite as good as in the past, and I'm pretty sure that that was because I skimped on the red onion (I only had a half of one), and part of the greatness of this salad is the slight bite that the red onion has (only slight because letting it sit in the lime juice tempers some of that bite). This is one of my favorite summer meals, and I'm excited that I have some leftover for dinner tonight.

    10 Replies
    1. re: JasmineG

      Hooray! I'm so delighted for Forever Summer with CH!

      I'm going to make the watermelon-feta-olive salad for the fourth of July. Is it best served immediately, or given a little chilling time for the flavors to blend? I can do either. Normally I would let it sit, but I'm not sure what marinating feta will look like on a warm afternoon.

      1. re: foxy fairy

        It's good either way -- definitely do the marinating the onions in lime juice step, though! I've had it right away and it's great, and I've had leftovers the next day and it's still good. On a hot day, it's a great cool treat straight from the fridge, I have to say.

        1. re: JasmineG

          I made this Saturday night as I had some French feta that I wanted to use up. I used about 1/2 of a 5 lb wedge of watermelon, 2-3 ounces of oil cured black olives, a little less than 1/2 a lb of the feta, 1/2 a small red onion, about 2.5 limes (they were quite dry) and parsley & mint as I saw fit! Delicious - my husband was quite wary of this combination, but loved it as well. Now I have 1/2 a watermelon wedge and no feta to make more!

          1. re: MMRuth

            I can't wait to try this! My husband is also wary...I'll report back!

        2. re: foxy fairy

          I'd suggest serve as soon as possible. Not just because of the feta, but watermelon gets a bit rubbery and loses its crunch as it sits. Like Jasmine says, though, you MUST marinate the onion in lime juice. Give that at least 20 minutes, more is fine.

          Having said that, it's perfectly easy to get the onion marinating, then fill your bowl with the olives, parsley, mint, and feta. That can sit for a while before you add the watermelon and dressing. Add those at the last minute and you should be ok.

        3. re: JasmineG

          A question for the many watermelon-feta-olive salad lovers: how integral is the mint? I'm just not a big fan of mint in any application besides gum and mint chocolate chip ice cream. Should I just leave it out or is there a good sub you can suggest? I'd love to try the salad, but the mint just turns me off.

          1. re: wawajb

            Try subbing with basil -- I love the mint in it, but I think basil would be tasty too.

            1. re: JasmineG

              I, too, think that basil would be a great sub. Maybe cilantro, as well.

            2. re: wawajb

              If you don't like mint, just leave it out. I think this is one of the easiest things I've ever made--assembled, really. I think the integral parts are the onions (or shallots, which I've also used) steeped in lime juice, a little bit of olive oil, and the watermelon and feta. I also think the watermelon should be quite cold, not room temperature.


            3. re: JasmineG

              I ended up making the watermelon salad for the Fourth of July, with Bulgarian feta (really firm with a divine flavor) that I added at the last possible minute. I think another alternative would be crumbling some of the feta into a small pretty bowl (rather than directly onto the salad), and passing it along with the salad, to avoid the disintegration of the cheese. My feta did stand up to the juiciness of the salad. I used a really excellent olive oil that I usually save for dipping homemade bread - and I was so glad, since the oil and the lime juice compose the dressing, just those two liquids, and of course the essence from the herbs. The salad tastes just like summer should taste! **

              This is a showstopper. I would love to post my gorgeous photos but I can't seem to do that - I think CH just changed that function?

            4. Grilled Eggpland with Feta, Mint and Chilli, page 7 - starters
              -this is so easy and really quick; just grill the eggplant slices and roll up with the filling of feta, mint, and chillies.
              Finger food, easy to eat, looks good and it's delicious.

              13 Replies
              1. re: Cynsa

                I made grilled eggplant w/ feta, mint and chile (and lemon juice) for a barbecue party, and it was a big hit. It's very, very good.
                It's very easy (good feta I think is key), except I couldn't get those fab grill marks as I tried to navigate the eggplant around the grill to both get cooked but not burnt.
                It's not quite finger food if you use a large eggplant (as I did).
                I love eggplant roulade, and this is a very nice summer version (of course it's entirely different, but it does satisfy this eggplant lover!)

                1. re: NYchowcook

                  I made the Pappardelle with courgettes, sultanas and pine nuts (pg32) for dinner last night. I used a combination of green striped zucchini and yellow pattypans. I was a bit lazy, so I didn't weigh everything. I used about 1 tbsp butter and 1 tbsp oil. I was not sure volume-wise, how 15g of butter translates. It was a nice, light summer dish. I wouldn't say that it was a knockout, but if I have lots of zucchini laying about, it is a nice way to use it up. I think that the best part of the dish was the sultanas and toasted pine nuts.

                  1. re: mightycheesehead

                    Chilled Pea and Mint Soup, p.24. This was flavorfull and bracing on a hot night. It was fun to steep the mint stalks in the vegetable stock. (I felt very ecological!). I used frozen petits pois and garlic scapes (thanks, CSA) instead of scallions. The immersion blender made it all come together in the end. Lovely to look at and perfectly delicious.


                    1. re: onefineleo

                      would you mind paraphrasing the recipe? And how pronounced is the mint flavor? I'm not a huge fan of mint.

                      1. re: eLizard

                        Pea Soup: serves 6 - 8. 6 c veg stock, stalks from a bunch of fresh mint, with the leaves saved, 1 T dried mint, 18 oz frozen baby peas, 2 T olive oil, 3 scallions and 11/4 c sour cream.

                        Steep the mint stalks and dried mint in hte stock for 20 minutes or so.
                        Heat oil in large saucepan. Add chopped scallions for a few minutes til softened. Add peas and cook til they have softened. Fish out the stalks from the stock and add to peas. Cook about 5 minutes. Once cool, blend (immersion blender worked great). Add sour cream and blend again.

                        I thought it was not in any way annoyingly minty. There were 8 of us and we all really loved it. I took a picture and will post later as soon as one of my kids comes home to show me how.

                        1. re: onefineleo

                          thanks so much. do you think chicken stock would be too much?

                          1. re: eLizard

                            I think chicken stock would be fine, as long as it is not too strongly flavored as to overwhelm the delicate taste of the peas. Maybe, forgive me, chicken broth? I

                            1. re: onefineleo

                              Thanks so much. Good to know that it's not overwhelmingly minty.

                              1. re: eLizard

                                I just tried the Chilled Pea and Mint soup the other night. I found that it was not minty at all. All I could taste was the peas, which were delicious, but the mint flavour was not discernable.
                                I actually found the recipe rather lacking. The only redeeming quality is the it is extremely easy to make.

                  2. re: NYchowcook

                    Mmm, this is on my to try list. I thought it sounded delicious (and easy to make!).

                    1. re: NYchowcook

                      I made a variation of the eggplant with feta, etc. tonight. I didn't think of making it until I'd already started getting other stuff ready and so sliced the eggplant, brushed with olive oil and put it on a low rack of the broiler. After it softened, I took it out and rolled it up with some sauteed onions, chiles and tomatoes and put spread that on the eggplant with the feta. Berkeley Bowl was out of mint and so I couldn't add that. My husband loved it and so did I.

                    2. re: Cynsa

                      I made this for the SF Chowhound picnic two years ago and it was a big hit.

                      1. re: Cynsa

                        Not much to add other than that it's a great way to use up eggplant. The flavors in the cheese intensifies the next day (delicious leftovers).

                      2. Greekish Lamb Pasta (pg. 44)

                        This was great in theory but it lacked something in actual execution. It was really easy to put together (unlike the last pasta dish I made from Sunday Suppers). But, the flavor didn't quite work for me. More specifically, the sauce was too runny and a bit too fatty for my taste.

                        Saute minced onions, garlic, mushrooms and oregano in a large saute pan until softened. Push the cooked veggies to the side and add the ground lamb (recipe calls for 18 oz, I used less than a pound) and stir until the lamb isn't raw. Add wine, canned tomatoes, tomato puree with milk, oregano, sugar, salt and pepper. Let this simmer for at least half an hour (Mine simmered for at almost 3 hours) and toss with pasta and feta cheese.

                        I think this recipe could be improved by having something thicken the sauce up, more tomatoes and defatted lamb. The lamb and feta cheese with the tomatoes was an excellent combination but it could definitely be better.

                        This made a lot of sauce. I didn't use the whole amount for my lb of spaghetti. I have about 2 cups in the freezer.

                        Not the most attractive looking of dishes:


                        1. Ultimate Greek Salad (pg. 62)

                          This was great. An extra bonus because I used lettuce and fennel from my CSA share. I only made half the recipe which was more than enough for 2.

                          The thing that really made this recipe excellent were the onions. Thinly sliced red onions were marinated with oregano and olive oil and steeped for over 2 hours. This tempered the sharpness of the onions and really made a difference.

                          The tomatoes also were prepped and sprinkled with salt and sugar prior to assembly.

                          The sliced fennel really gave the salad a pleasing crunch. And of course, the brine of the olives and feta contrasted the tomatoes and the onions.

                          What amused me about this recipe was the specificity in how you layered the salad.

                          1. Torn lettuce in bowl.

                          2. Add sliced fennel, then olives then feta.

                          3. Add tomatoes then red onion dressing and lemon juice.

                          4. Toss carefully.

                          This is only half the recipe. This is the same bowl that I used to make the greekish lamb pasta to give you an idea as to how big this salad was.


                          1. Made the Rainbow Room's Carrot and Peanut Salad (p. 58) last night to go with the Coconut and Chilli Salmon Kebabs. The salad was a huge hit, much better than the sum of its parts. I grated the carrots (why am I so loathe to have to clean my cuisinart???) which was time consuming, but worth it.

                            1. Watermelon, Feta and Black Olive Salad

                              This salad is delicious, but only if you use the recipe as a rough guide. I started off with the amount of watermelon she suggested, but that was overwhelmed by 9 ounces of feta, so I doubled up on the watermelon. A whole bunch of parsley (Is there a standard size "bunch"?) would have been entirely too much -- I used about 1/4 of a bunch, and the same quantity of mint. If you wish to attain the beauty of the finished product featured in the photo, totally disregard the instruction to "toss the salad very gently" with your hands. No matter how gentle you are, the feta is going to start crumbling and breaking down in the dressing, leaving you with an unpleasantly milky- looking coating on everything (trust me -- I know). Despite its unappetizing appearance, the salad was delicious, so I'll make it again, this time sprinkling the feta chunks on top of the salad right before serving.

                              I really find it unhelpful when recipes are accompanied by photos that have been created by a food stylist through means totally at odds with recipe instructions.

                              9 Replies
                              1. re: pikawicca

                                I had the same question ("is there a standard size "bunch"?) when making the coconut chile salmon kebabs yesterday - how much cilantro is in her idea of a bunch? So I put in half of what I had, then ended up putting it all in. But I think the instructions are fairly amorphous, which isn't so helpful.

                                1. re: LulusMom

                                  I agree in general, and this can create some issues with baking. But I have a bunch of Nigella cookbooks, and I think her philosophy is that (particularly for things like salads) the recipes are fairly malleable -- a bunch means "a bunch, or, as much as you want to put in."

                                2. re: pikawicca

                                  I actually think that this depends on what kind of feta that you have. If you have a moister feta, it will break down as you said, but I made the salad with a firm French feta, and tossing it gently makes it look just like the picture, and the feta was firm even through the next day.

                                  1. re: JasmineG

                                    I used a really excellent Greek feta (Dodoni), and the result looked liked crap. Maybe a mass-produced plasticy feta would hold up, but the real deal certainly won't. Feta IS a moist cheese (that's why it's packed in water).

                                    1. re: pikawicca

                                      Not all feta is moist -- not just mass produced feta is hard, good quality feta comes in a number of different textures. Sample a number of the real ones at a cheese shop sometime, you'll see the ones that are good to use in this salad.

                                      1. re: JasmineG

                                        Yes, I agree. I've had very good Bulgarian and French fetas, in addition to Greek. They've ranged from soft to semi-firm to firm depending on how long they're cured in the brine, whether they're sheep and/or goat fetas, if they've been barrel-aged or in tin, etc....

                                  2. re: pikawicca

                                    here, here! I want to hear reports from folks who've been able to both cook and not burn the eggplant for the feta stuffed eggplant rolls that have the perfect grill marks of the photo!

                                    1. re: NYchowcook

                                      Well, I made the eggplant stuffed feta rolls tonight, and they were excellent, however I have to admit that I broiled the eggplant instead of grilling it.

                                    2. re: pikawicca

                                      I also used the recipe as a rough guide, but I did like the combination. My kids also really liked this...onions and all.

                                    3. Thai crumbled beef in lettuce wraps

                                      This has really become a "go-to" recipe for me as a light dinner -- I find the recipe makes enough for a dinner for two. Sometimes I use ground turkey instead of ground beef, and sometimes I use butter lettuce instead of iceberg. I think generally the flavor could be amped up some (and perhaps this has something to do with the turkey instead of beef substitution) -- I rarely measure exactly the fish sauce or the lime juice, instead just adding them to taste, and sometimes I add a bit of sriracha to pump up the heat (I usually use jalapenos - it's hotter if you use hotter chilies (obviously)).

                                      This is far from authentic Thai food, but I like that it's less sweet than a lot of Thaiish recipes are.

                                      6 Replies
                                      1. re: Amuse Bouches

                                        I think I'll try this for dinner tomorrow, using ground venison. And if that doesn't make further from real Thai food, I don't what would! If it doesn't work, I won't blame Nigella.

                                        1. re: pikawicca

                                          We did have this for dinner last night, and it was excellent. Used more fish sauce than she called for. Nice bright, summery flavors.

                                          1. re: pikawicca

                                            Glad you found a recipe that worked for you!

                                        2. re: Amuse Bouches

                                          I made this last week and it was really great. Quick and easy. Instead of lettuce wraps, I just served it with white rice and other stir fried veggies. I used one habenero and it still could have used a bit more bite though. I also used more fish sauce then called for and enjoyed it greatly.


                                          1. re: Amuse Bouches

                                            Thanks, all, for pointing me toward this. I hadn't even seen it the first couple of times I went through the book. Not only is it easy and very tasty, it's totally South Beach friendly--something not that many of the recipes in the book are. I used three Japone peppers, seeds and all, and it was just the right amount of heat. For me at least; I like spicy food. And, based on your comments, I used a bit more fish sauce than called for. Seemed perfect. Didn't have any cilantro on hand and now that I've tasted it I'm really sorry I didn't go out and get some. I'm sure the citrusy tang of the cilantro adds a welcome extra dimension. Guess I'll just have to make it again. Soon. :-)

                                            1. re: Amuse Bouches

                                              Made this last night with ground turkey, and added more of the hot peppers, fish sauce and lime as suggested (thanks for the heads up about that). We loved it. So much flavor. Has anyone tried this over flat asian noodles? I served it with the iceberg, but thought noodles might be nice. I served it as a main for two and just served a soup along side it (the pumpkin soup from Hot, Sour, Salty, Sweet - a good match).

                                            2. Made the Raw Beet, Dill and Mustard Seed Salad to accompany the Seared Mustard-Coated Salmon and was underwhelmed. It's just julienned raw beets, quite a bit of dill, lemon juice, EVOO, and toasted mustard seeds. I love beets; I guess I just don't love them raw. It certainly looked pretty, but it just didn't have any "zing" to it. I have too many beet recipes I'm really fond of to start messing around with this one to try to get the zing factor into it.

                                              1. Happiness Soup

                                                I love this soup, it has become a standard in our kitchen. Very easy to make, wonderful flavor, and there is something about a big bowl of lemony yellowness that makes me happy. I generally use brown rice instead, and cook it a bit longer. Highly recommended.

                                                3 Replies
                                                1. re: addiegirl

                                                  Thanks for the post. I have this bookmarked and only have brown rice in the house. Do you think wild rice would work too?

                                                  1. re: addiegirl

                                                    Happiness Soup (p. 28) is SO delicious. The first taste was great, and then it really began to grow on me. I can see why it is a standard in addiegirl's kitchen. Nice use of the yellow squash that was part of this week's CSA delivery. There is a pleasantly pronounced taste of lemon. Turmeric lends a kind of orange ginger flavor. Not too strong, and very interesting. I used basmati rice. I think I might half the amount next time, since it soaked up a lot of the wonderful broth. Not a taste problem, but maybe a presentation one if I were to serve it to company. I'm looking forward to making this many more times this summer.

                                                    1. re: onefineleo

                                                      Maybe I am just not a Nigella person. I didn't love the Happiness Soup - found it too bland, but I spiced it up with some extra hot curry powder and some coconut milk (just a little, not definitely not a predominate flavor). I had some fresh corn I had to use, so I put that in there. My kids LOVED it.

                                                  2. Soba Noodles with Sesame Seeds
                                                    It was quite serendipitous that this recipe was in the book as my soba noodles have been languishing in the pantry for some time. The preparation for this recipe was very easy. I decreased the amount of sesame oil to 1 tsp and added 1 tsp grapeseed oil, as I find the flavour of toasted sesame oil to be overwhelming.
                                                    Preparation was extremely easy, and because it is served cold, I made it at night, before I went to bed, and served it for dinner the next day. I added cold BBQ chicken to the noodles and made it into a main. This is a great weeknight meal. Simple, quick and tasty. Healthy too. I will definately make this recipe again.

                                                    1. Puy lentil salad with chevre and mint

                                                      I wasn't thrilled with this one. Way too bland for me, so i had to spice it up with pomogranate mollasses, a bit more acid, some yogurt and I also added chard, because we had some to use from the CSA. I used feta instead of chevre. The chili oil in the water is not worth it, doesn't impart much flavor.

                                                      1. Squid Salad with Lime, Cilantro, Mint and Mizuna (pg. 19)

                                                        I really liked this recipe. The dressing was especially tasty and I see myself making the dressing for other salads.

                                                        Dressing - take a combination of mint and cilantro leaves and toss in the food processor with garlic, fish sauce, sugar, a hot pepper and a whole but peeled lime. Give it a whirl until it is smooth and with the motor running, add olive oil until it emulsifies. It's a really pretty green.


                                                        Salad - Place the mizuna (or whatever greens you are using) and place thinly sliced red onions on top.


                                                        Squid - Fry the cut up squid in a little oil. These directions are a bit vague so I just did a quick stir fry. I think it would taste even better if they whole body and tentacles were grilled first for a smokey flavor.


                                                        Toss the squid with the dressing and place on top of the greens. I also tossed the greens with a bit of dressing prior to placing the squid in the salad.


                                                        1. Rice Paper Rolls, p. 13

                                                          This is her variation of the classic Vietnamese goi cuon. I used rice sticks softened in hot water, and then drained. I usually toss with nuoc cham, but followed her recipe of soy sauce, fish sauce, and rice vinegar. I really didn't like the soy - not only did it turn the noodles an unappetizing brown, but I didn't like the flavor either and wish I had left it out. Changes I made: Instead of mixing the rice noodles with the other ingredients, I layered them. I didn't have cucumber so left that out, added sprigs of cilantro, used purple basil instead of Thai, and I also added some Chinese roast duck; so I made them with noodles, duck, scallions, cilantro, mint, and purple basil..

                                                          This made a nice light dinner tonight. What's not to love about summer rolls with the chewy texture of rice paper and all those fresh herbs, especially with tasty dipping sauces. I served it with two different kinds - spicy nuoc cham, and the peanut sauce from this Chow recipe (substituting fish sauce for the soy sauce as recommended by one of the posters) :