Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Nigella 4-Eva

The first time I saw Nigella Lawson, she was deep-frying a Twinkie on Oprah. I was appalled and awe-stricken in the same way you might be in the waiting area of an ER or perhaps a Chicago police precinct on a Saturday morning (oh like you never did it). But then a few minutes into the segment, I felt myself succumbing to her loquacious charm, perfectly pink, pouty lips and old soul banter about needing to play to your strengths in life. And I nodded in unison with Oprah, 'So true, Nigella, so true.'

A few years later this January, I went on a Nigella spree while stuck home with a cold, watching hours of Express segments on YouTube and ordering up the cookbook on Amazon. Like any courtship, I need to live with a cookbook for a while before I decide if we're meant to be. I might fall hard in the beginning. But then it's trial by fire, baby, and you better bring your A-game. And let me just say that after two months, Nigella Express has passed the gauntlet with flying apron strings. She's my girl. Knock her at your own risk. I will cut you.

Some observations:

Linguine with Lemon, Garlic, Thyme and Mushrooms - Sweet Jesus, the brilliance of this sums up the genius of the entire book. Here's a combo of familiar ingredients that you can literally throw together while all cranked out and exhausted after work. And not only is it simply delish, it requires no more actual cooking than boiling water. Magic.

Ginger Passon Fruit Trifle - How is it that we don't have more cookbook authors advocating for the free-form, non-bake, high wow-factor dessert orgasm that is the trifle? How? 'Gella even encourages us to skip the work by acquiring our "sponge" at the store. Her version of dessert perfection calls for none of the patience, all of the pleasure. And it's gorgeous. Yes. Please.

Moonblush Tomatoes - I love three things about this: 1) It's an old idea dusted off, and a damned good one at that -- roasting tomatoes by shutting off a hot oven and leaving them to gradually reduce overnight. 2) She understands that for those of us who are brain dead after a typical workday, "easy" takes different forms. You can't get much lower effort than walking away from the kitchen and going to bed. 3) The results are bloody great. I mixed them into the mushroom pasta above, and a choir of Italian ancestors appeared in my living room to hum sweetly as my husband and I snarfed it down like starved wolves.

Cheddar Cheese Risotto - Imagine what would happen if creamy Arborio rice had sex with mac n' cheese. Now imagine it some more. Keep imagining....I'm not going to tell you it's wrong.

Caramel Croissant Pudding - Are we back to dessert already? Imagine that. Forget food porn, just reading the name of this thing put me in a tailspin. After all those years of turning my nose up at the notion of English puddings, I realized that I'm a big dumb dork. I now have a new outlook: I don't trust people who don't like dogs, or this pudding. Because who wouldn't adore being handed a bowl of this? No one I can hang out with long, I assure you.

And as for the fried Twinkie, I'm defending it as a genius publicity stunt. Got her on Oprah. Beat that.

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