Refusing to let herself be airbrushed into a waif for her newest culinary competition, ABC’s “The Taste” with Anthony Bourdain, Ludo Lefebvre and Brian Malarkey, Nigella Lawson likes to show that she appreciates good food.
” I don’t equate thinness with healthiness as other people do,” says the London-based Lawson whose mother, husband and sister all died of cancer before she turned 40. “Because I’ve only ever seen people get thin and then died”
Not to worry, the voluptuous and beautiful Lawson looks like she enjoys her time in the kitchen and at the table. A Food Network star as well as host of “Forever Summer with Nigella,” her popular cooking/lifestyle series that ran on Style, and “Nigella Bites” which aired on E! Entertainment Television and Style, Lawson is the author of award winning cookbooks that have sold more than 6 million copies worldwide.
Her latest, Nigellissima: Easy Italian-Inspired Recipes (Clarkson Potter 201; $35), was inspired by the time she spent in Italy as a 19 year old after dreaming of living in that country for years. It wasn’t easy.
“My school friend and I went everywhere asking for work,” she says noting that she had a onetime swore to take any job but one that involved cleaning toilets. “Consequently I got a job as a chambermaid in this little place on a road that leads from the Duomo to the Piazza della Signoria where, of course, my job was to clean restrooms.”
But being poor taught her how to be inventive in the kitchen and gave her the foundation she needed to turn out great and inexpensive Italian food.
The lush cookbook with its 100 plus recipes and great color photos also has the signature Nigella offers insight into her recipes, giving us anecdotes and history as well as easy to prepare foods.
“For someone who started off as a tiramisu scorner, I have turned out to be its most slavish proponent, finding any excuse to whip up a new one,” she writes about her tiramisu recipe. “Some say, challenging more generally accepted ideas about the provenance, that it was invented in a casa chiusa --a house of ill repute -- to give the working girls a pick-me-up, as the name tira-mi-su suggests. Unlike the big, trifle-style tiramisu, these tiramisini—think coffee-soaked Savoiardi cookies, topped with the familiar, whipped Marsala-spiked mascarpone in small-portioned martini glasses—don’t even need to sit overnight before being ready to eat.”
What: Talk and Book Signing
When: Wednesday, February 20th at 5:30pm
Where: Chicago Union League Club, 65 W Jackson Blvd, Chicago
FYI: 312) 427-7800
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for greasing
1 small onion, peeled and chopped
1 teaspoon kosher salt or
1⁄2 teaspoon table salt,
Or to taste
1 pound ground beef
1⁄4 cup red wine or vermouth
1 quart tomato sauce, plus 1 quart water
8 ounces fresh mozzarella (not buffalo)
1 1⁄4 pounds lasagna sheets (dried not fresh)
12 ounces cooked ham, thinly sliced
1⁄4 cup grated Parmesan
Preheat the oven to 400°F. Put the whole eggs into a saucepan of water, bring to a boil and let it boil for 7 minutes, then pour off the water and sit the pan under an abundantly flowing cold tap; turn it off and leave the pan filled with cold water in the sink until the eggs are cool enough to peel.
Warm the oil in a large, heavy-based saucepan (that comes with a lid), then add the onion, sprinkle with salt, and let it cook for a few minutes, until it begins to soften.
Add the meat and turn it in the pan just long enough for the raw red color to turn brown.
Add the wine or vermouth, then the tomato sauce, pouring the water into the empty can or carton and swilling it out into the pan. Bring to a bubble, then put the lid on the pan and cook at a robust simmer for 5 minutes.
Peel and thinly slice the eggs (which will crumble into a mess), and thinly slice the mozzarella; then put a deep, greased lasagna dish, measuring approx. 9 x 13 x 2 inches, onto a baking sheet and get ready for the grand assembly.
First, put a ladleful or so of very runny meat sauce into the bottom of the lasagna dish, to line the base, then arrange a layer of lasagna sheets—using about a quarter of them—on top, to cover the sauce—don’t worry about a bit of overlapping.
Add another ladleful of sauce, just to wet the sheets, then add a layer of ham slices, using up a third of them, before dotting with a third of the egg and of the mozzarella slices.
Now add a second layer of lasagna sheets, then a couple of ladlefuls of sauce, followed again by a third of the ham, then egg, then mozzarella slices.
Repeat with a further layer of lasagna sheets, another 2 ladlefuls of meat sauce, then the remaining ham, egg, and mozzarella slices, before topping with a final layer of lasagna sheets.
Pour the remaining sauce over the top, sprinkle with the Parmesan and cover with aluminum foil—making sure the edges are sealed—and put in the oven still on the baking sheet, for 1 hour.
When the hour is up, remove the foil and push a knife point through the lasagna to check it is soft—if not, re-cover it and return to the oven for about 10 minutes—then let it stand uncovered, out of the oven, for 15–20 minutes before slicing into hearty slabs and serving.
7 tablespoons espresso or strong instant coffee
2 tablespoons coffee liqueur
4 Savoiardi cookies (ladyfingers)
2 egg whites
1 cup mascarpone
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons Marsala
Approximately 1 teaspoon good-quality unsweetened cocoa powder
4 small (approx. 1⁄2 cup) martini glasses
Make your espresso and pour it into a heatproof pitcher, adding the coffee liqueur, then leave it to cool. I find 10 minutes outside the window on a cool day does it!
Break each Savoiardi cookie into about 4 and drop the pieces into the martini glasses, then pour the cooled espresso mixture over them. Tamp down gently, making sure the biscuits are soaked all over.
Using an electric hand mixer for ease, beat the egg whites until they form soft peaks, and set aside for a moment.
Scrape the mascarpone into another bowl, adding the honey; I love the way its mellow sweetness marries with the Marsala, though sugar would be fine too. Beat with the electric hand mixer (no need to clean it first) and, when smooth, slowly beat in the Marsala.
Fold in the egg whites, a third at a time, then dollop this mixture over the soused Savoiardi in each glass, using a spoon to whirl it into a swirly peak at the top. Let these stand in the refrigerator for at least 20 minutes and up to 24 hours, then dust with cocoa, pushing it through a fine-mesh strainer, just before serving.