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Nigella Lawson: Simple, Not Plain, Summer Fare

Now that summer is here, food lovers will be gathering outdoors for all sorts of celebrations. And while most people will keep it casual, food writer and cook Nigella Lawson says there's room for a little bit of elegance, too.

Lawson talks with host Renee Montagne about how to keep summer parties simple — while adding just a touch of sophistication.

Speaking from London, Lawson says that when preparing for an outdoor meal, "you can go one of two ways, really. You can make a virtue of the picnic-type qualities — not have a proper table cloth, have everything just piled around.

"Or you can accentuate a beautiful setting and a warm day by using a pink tablecloth so the green looks greener, [putting] little roses in sugar bowls, so they're just small and sweet."

For instance, Lawson says, French picnickers have a way of "being charming about the sunshine and yet at the same time, not making a big thing of it."

"You can be formal, as long as you're not, in a way, doing with the food or the table linens, the equivalent of going out into harsh sunlight in a tight black cocktail dress," Lawson says. "That somehow looks contrived."

Lawson's advice: Cut back on the food you offer, but be sure that what you make "is simple and delicious, but it isn't fancy."

And for those looking for advice about wine, Lawson remains a strong advocate of a grape that was once the subject of sneering snobbery.

"For me, summer is rose wine. And I love it. It's the taste of summer. I tend to prefer it with a bit of club soda in it, and ice. Which probably is even more shocking for wine drinkers."

To improve the drink further, Lawson says, bring along a vegetable peeler and add a bit of orange zest.

"That," Lawson says, "is fantastic."

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