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Nigella Lawson: Summer's Bounty, With Zest

At the height of summer, with vegetables bursting out of grocery store bins and farmers markets, a perfectly satisfying meal can be made with little more than vegetables.

British food writer Nigella Lawson spoke with Renee Montagne about how to make a full meal from the summer's bounty.

But first, one question had to be asked: Does British cooking really embrace vegetables?

Lawson confirmed that she comes from a culinary tradition that is not known for its vegetarianism.

"I am such a committed carnivore, it can hardly be exaggerated," she said.

Still, Lawson said, the summer heat and the abundance of vegetables at their peak makes it easy to leave meat out of a meal.

"I take the view that all food is wonderful to eat," she said. "So, I don't really see the point in having a hierarchy."

On her menu this summer is "Happiness Soup" — named for its yellow color, which is associated with happiness in many cultures, Lawson said.

Lawson also suggests a light pasta dish — one that's meat-free, but still savory. She uses mushrooms for texture, and lemon, garlic and thyme for zest and spice.

"The real revelation, I think, is the intense meatiness of the mushroom sauce," Lawson said. "I tend to use cremini mushrooms, but any that you can get at the farmers market or that you grow yourself are just about fine."

"It's phenomenal and very, very little effort," Lawson said.

And for people with a sweet tooth, there's even a dessert that incorporates vegetables. As you might expect, it's a cake with creamy icing — but instead of chocolate or vanilla, it's based on zucchini.

"It makes such sense when you think about it, but it sounds so odd to start off with," Lawson said.

The zucchinis keep the sponge-cake moist, she said.

With the cake rounding out a colorful meal full of greens and yellows, diners aren't likely to miss their ration of meat.

Besides, Lawson said, "There's something about the colorfulness of vegetables that always makes one feel cheered up."

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