On Tuesday night, my sister and I met our cooking idol, Nigella Lawson.
A few weeks ago, I noticed that Nigella’s book tour was heading for Chicago, so Kathleen and I locked down the date and began to eagerly await her arrival. We own two of her books, her latest Nigellissima and the earlier Nigella Bites, so on the big night, we brought both with us in the hope that we’d get a signature in each. We got so much more than that!
The event itself was lovely. First, we were served a gorgeous feast, all of dishes from Nigellissima; my favorites of the night were a luscious pea and pancetta orzotto, a light green bean dish with pistachios, and totally over-the-top-good hazelnut cheesecakes. As soon as Nigella came in, Kathleen and I grabbed our books and went together up to the table where she sat; there were about 3 people ahead of us and we waited eagerly to say hello to our food heroine (she looked gorgeous, by the way, and we loved her outfit!).
When it was our turn to step up to the table, Nigella was absolutely as sweet as can be! As she signed our books, she joked that, with our “K” names, we were “just like the Kardashians.” And when I mentioned that my copy of Nigellissima, having been purchased on my trip to Scotland, contained all metric measurements, she offered to give me an off-the-cuff translation to standard, noting that she was “bilingual.” We were totally charmed, of course.
Next, Nigella gave a talk to our little group and spoke about her food-life philosophy, her experiences on her new show The Taste, and her history as a cook. To hear someone so articulate and even eloquent, and yet so down-to-earth, was really special for Kathleen and I; when you only have exposure to a person through such a potentially-false medium as TV, you never know what you’ll get from them in real life. We felt like we saw the same elegant, unpretentious Nigella we’ve come to know through her shows.
After her talk, she hung around a little while and took some pictures with fans; Kathleen and I were lucky enough to snag one just before she headed out the door. She mentioned that she was off to Milwaukee in the morning, and I told her to make sure to eat some sausages, to which Nigella replied, “You don’t have to tell me twice!” A wise woman, indeed.
Kathleen and I went home that night with huge smiles on our faces, reassured to know that our admiration of such a cool lady was not misplaced. We both said that if we didn’t love Nigella enough before, we certainly love her now! And we can’t wait to see what she does next. Until then, we’ll keep making her recipes and enjoying her cooking shows, cherishing her classic Nigella-isms. I think my favorite is, “Don’t worry if bits of eggshell get into the bowl. It proves it’s homemade.”
Anyway, I present to you: Rosemary Lemon Roasted Brussels Sprouts a la Nigellissima!
1 lemon, zested to taste (I go light on lemon zest but Nigella’s recipe calls for the zest of a whole lemon)
1 clove garlic, grated or finely minced
1 sprig rosemary
100 g brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved
1 tbsp parmesan cheese
salt and pepper
Just the Recipe Link: Rosemary Lemon Roasted Brussels Sprouts
Preheat oven to 425 F.
Drizzle olive oil on the bottom of a pan. I used a cast-iron skillet. Grate the garlic and lemons zest into the pan and, tearing the rosemary leaves apart roughly, strew them about the pan. You can leave them large enough to remove at the end if you like. Add the Brussels sprouts and toss to coat.
Bake for about 20 minutes, until tender but not soft – you still want a little bit of bite in them. Drizzle with lemon juice and sprinkle with parmesan and salt and pepper.
Pull out the rosemary leaves and serve ’em up! These make a fantastic side dish to an herby roasted chicken, but we ate almost all of them straight out with our fingers. Yeah, they’re that good!