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Forever Summer    by Nigella Lawson order for
Forever Summer
by Nigella Lawson
Order:  USA  Can
Hyperion, 2003 (2003)
* * *   Reviewed by Mary Ann Smyth

Nigella Lawson, who claims to shop as she eats - with greedy opportunism - has done it again! Another really nice cookbook. Nigella quotes Australian food writer Maggie Beer, 'Cooking is all about osmosis - a mental note made about a flavour combination or a technique, a memory of a dish.'

In her own words, 'Cooking is not just about applying heat, procedure, method, but about transformation of a more intimate kind; none of us cooks without bringing our own character to bear on the food in front of us. Just as the recipes that follow have been toyed with, changed, fiddled with to become my food, so I expect them to become remodeled in your own kitchen.'

The author advocates taking what we consider summer food and cooking it any time of the year to conjure up the sun, the blue skies, flowers, birdcalls and the lazy feeling of having all the wide-skyed time in the world to sit back and eat warmly with friends. She believes that the 'kitchen is not a place you escape from, but a place you escape to.' And she tells us to never trust the sort of cooking that draws attention to the cook rather than to the food.

Let's move on to the mouthwatering recipes. I was taken with 'Spaghettini Al Sugo Crudo', and with advice to NEVER keep tomatoes in the refrigerator. I first ate 'Linguini with Mussels' in a restaurant along the quay in Porto Ercole in a seaside resort north of Rome. Wonderful - and redolent with memories of sun and warm breezes. Nigella suggests 'Soba Noodles with Sesame seeds'. Heaven. One of my favorite flavors. One can't go wrong with a dish like 'Old-Fashioned Tomato Salad with English Salad Cream'. I would love to try 'Carrot and Peanut Salad'. What a great combination. Speaking of combinations - how about 'Watermelon, Feta and Black Olive Salad'? That's what I said. But, hey. Don't knock it 'til you've tried it. Intriguing at least.

Comments before each recipe reflect Lawson's premise that you can put your own stamp on each dish by using what you've got, such as Parmesan in crumbs for breading. Experimentation seems to be her byword. Take what she gives you and run with it. I'm entranced with the idea of 'Hasselback Potatoes' as well as 'Baked Ricotta with Broiled Radicchio'. And I needn't imagine how it looks. Wonderful photographs highlight the recipes, such as one of 'Ricotta Hotcakes' - with strawberries on the plate and a fork at the ready, the image perked up my taste buds immediately.

I would almost kill for 'Carmelized Pineapple with Hot Chocolate Sauce'. I've loved English Trifle, since I discovered it years ago on a trip to London, and 'Anglo-Italian Trifle' looks like a real winner to me. But the topper as far as I'm concerned (in the dessert section of this summer cookbook) is 'Chocolate Raspberry Pavlova'! Wow! The explanations that precede each recipe are tantalizing, making the reader want to fix everything in this marvelous book, starting with the first recipe and working all the way through. Lawson loves the colors of food as much as taste, happily so. Her descriptions of the treats she prepares come from the heart. And her liberal use of lemon juice heartily meets with my approval.

It's obvious on every page that Nigella loves food and its preparation, working with it to create new and interesting combinations that enhance the end result. The sights, sounds and balmy breezes of the season resonate throughout Forever Summer as Lawson conjures up lazy days and evenings with good friends and wonderful food.

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