Saturday, June 30, 2007

Nigella Can Do Healthy Too

Nigella Feasts with Nigella Lawson

Feel Good Food
Citrus Yogurt
Antioxidant Fruit Salad
Red Salad
Vietnamese Shrimp and Glass Noodle Salad
Baby Spinach, Avocado, and Pumpkin Seed Salad

To get the recipes:

Nigella explains that food is about pleasure and you should never sacrifice that, even if you're eating trying to eat healthier.

For the glass noodle salad, Nigella begins by “blanching” sugar snap peas and bean sprouts and then immersing them in cold water. This isn’t a true blanching, but rather she’s just pouring boiling water over and then dunking them in ice water. That’s ok, because these vegetables only need a quick cooking to be made more delicious. (Actually, the sprouts would be just fine raw.)

She moves on to make a dressing, which is “lean but packed with flavor." She grates 1 tablespoon of ginger - Nigella leaves the skin on, which I don't advise – and mixes it with 1 minced clove of garlic. She slices a long red chili in half lengthwise and removes most of seeds, wanting “warmth rather then heat.” She says that LONG red chilis are milder than the teeny ones. She chops it finely and adds it to her other ingredients.

A whole lot of other things go in: the juice of half a lime, fish sauce (or soy sauce with a little vinegar), water, a bit of sugar ( “balance is everything says our raven-haired host), a tiny amount of groundnut oil - 1½ teaspoons – and a splash of sesame oil. Everything gets stirred together to make a spicy and spirited dressing. Note: Groundnut oil is peanut oil. If you don’t want to blow your food budget for the week, just use a flavorless olive oil.

Nigella adds 1 cup of cooked tiny shrimp to the dressing. (I sure hope they didn’t come from China.) She tells us to take the time to chop a few “fat” scallions finely, leaving us with the impression that she normally just throws in enormous chunks and calls it a day. She chops “a huge handful of cilantro.”

The noodles for this dish are easily dealt with. Nigella just pours boiling water over the
cellophane noodles and leaves them for a few minutes before draining. She mixes all the various bits and pieces together and tops with more cilantro. She revels in the salad as she tastes it, saying she hates the term “life-enhancing”, but, darned, if that’s not exactly what this salad is. I hear ya, honey. It looks positively salubrious.

Next we see the virtuous stash in her larder and fridge. She retrieves beautiful green pumpkin seeds as she explains, “Of course (they’re) good for you. I feel better even looking at (them).”

She’s serving smoked salmon alongside an avocado and spinach salad. She loves the convenience of the smoked salmon, because it enables you to serve fish, without having to buy it fresh that day. She snips the salmon into pieces and strews it on the plate. Black pepper and lime juice go on top.

For the dressing, she juices a lime, loving its sharpness against the smoothness of the avocado. She adds salt, which is essential with the avo, Nigella believes. She adds just a bit of olive oil and mixes it well. She drops 4 cups of spinach leaves in a bowl. She takes 1 small avocado and “gouges out lumps of it with a teaspoon.” I’m don’t know why that’s preferable to a nice dice, but Nigella has decreed it so.

She sprinkles pumpkin seeds over and pours over the dressing in a Food As Porn moment. She makes it look totally tantalizing. The Domestic Goddess arranges it delicately on the plate. She adds “a final few teaspooned-out hillocks of avocado.” I’m not entirely what that means, but it sure sounds good.

Next Nigella pours a glass of healthful, of course, red wine. She’s on to “a virtuous version of syllabub.“ A real syllabub is light as a feather, rich as a Rockefeller and as boozy as witches' brew. This ersatz syllabub starts with 1 tablespoon honey, a tiny amount of the requisite wine and some orange zest. These get whisked together first and then ¾ cup of lowfat "bio yogurt" gets whisked in next with a pinch of cinnamon.

Nigella quarters several of the plumpest, ripest figs just bulging with sweet buxomness. (Who do I sound like? Ok, who am I TRYING to sound like?) She places each in its own special vessel – that’s Nigella-speak for a bowl – and pours over the creamy syllabub. (FAP) She sprinkles over pistachios and next we see her enjoying the meal with a friend. It is interesting, the salad and the smoked salmon are being enjoyed by both ladies from the same plate. I think that’s rather touching and intimate…and highly unsanitary.

Next scene is Nigella food shopping. She picks up peppers and brazil nuts, oh and some herbal tea. And why not? She goes home (well, if that WERE her home) and brews herself a cup.

For a fruit combo salad, that takes full advantage of the anti-oxidant properties of the fruits. She shows us how she deals with a mango. I have NEVER seen anyone do to a mango what Nigella did. I tried it myself and I must say I wasn’t woman enough to handle it. She scores the skin of the mango and then REMOVES JUST THE SKIN. I thought I was seeing things. Then she cuts “down to the bone”, as she calls it, making a crosshatching design as she goes. She cuts right against the pit, freeing the fruit. THAT is unique. She squeezes all the good juiciness left on the pit into the bowl.

The usual way of dealing with an mango is to first cut against the pit and remove the entire half, with the skin still on. Turn the fruit over and do the same on the other side of the pit. You score the FRUIT in a crosshatch pattern and then cut it away from the skin.

Next Nigella whacks a pomegranate half with a rolling pin. I’ve seen her use a wooden spoon, which always seemed a bit ineffectual. The rolling pin does the job beautifully. She also squeezes the pomegranate over the bowl. In goes the juice of half a lime and she mixes gently. She serves herself some in a lovely lime green bowl. Gosh, that looks good.

As usual, the omega of this week’s visit with Nigella is her raiding the fridge. But for what? Some salutary morsel that she’s prepared this week? Yes, but she accompanies her snack with some dark chocolate. Only for its
health benefits, of course.


Franci said...

Sue I found your blog only recently and and I must say that I am enjoying your detailed commentary, the dry humor and the helpful tips.
Nigella is one of my favourite food commentators- her use of language is luscious.
I actually am from the Caribbean and the way she handled the mango is exactly how we would do it... for dicing - that is cut the top off, peel, slice off the cheeks then slice or cubve the flesh, or score in a cross hatched pattern down to seed, then slice off the cubes.
If one wanted to eat the mango - peel and eat the flesh off directly down to the seed. For a big fleshy mango or if you are sharing then the "faces" or cheekes of the mango are cut off and the skin acts a a cup from which the flesh is eaten; then arfue over who gets the seed.

Sue said...

Hi Franci,
Welcome!!! Thank you for the nice words.

That's interesting about the mango. I love that you referred to the seed-less pieces as the cheeks. That's very descriptive. I must try peeling it that way again.