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Jul 1, 2007 02:57 PM

Forever Summer: First Course

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

Please post your full-length reviews of recipes from the section on First Course items here. Please mention the name of the recipe you are reviewing as well as any modifications you made to the recipe.

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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.