Deb Perelman is proof that size doesn’t matter. She’s got a tiny Manhattan apartment kitchen, but you’d never know that by looking at the incredible food she turns out of it and features on Smitten Kitchen. Deb’s fantastic recipes, warm personality, and practical advice have earned her a passionately devoted fanbase of readers who want more than just pretty pictures. The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook: Recipes and Wisdom from an Obsessive Home Cook is Deb’s very first foray into print, and it was officially released last week! This was the perfect time to sit down to talk with one of our favorite bloggers…
What’s your personal cooking philosophy behind Smitten Kitchen?
I don’t think there are bad cooks, just bad recipes. I am convinced that an excellent, well-written recipe can allow someone who has never cooked before to make anything they want — towering cakes, perfect homemade noodles, etc. I don’t always pull it off but when I write a recipe, this is what I’m thinking about.
Congrats on your first book! What has the process been of writing and publishing this thing been like?
Thank you. The process has been very long and pretty exciting. I never thought I’d get bitten by the cookbook writing bug, and even once I did, I still didn’t think that I’d ever find it as fun as just working on the Smitten Kitchen site. But, I’ve been so surprised. This IS a lot of fun and I cannot wait to get on the road and finally get to meet the people who have been on the other side of the computer all of these years.
What’s your most beloved kitchen tool?
I might just be thinking this way because it’s fall, but I’ve been cooking a lot lately with apples and pears and I love using a melon baller to remove their cores (once they’re halved). I love finding new uses for otherwise not-very-useful gadgets and they take the most adorable, perfect scoop out of the fruit bellies. Okay, now I just sound weird.
What are two cardinal rules for successful home cooking?
1.”Clear the decks.” Get all that clutter off your counters so you can have a little elbow room when you get into your recipe. I have found that even the biggest kitchens have so much stuff on the counter, you’re only getting to use 25% of the available space.
2. You’ll really enjoy the process more (and find it easier) if you do all your chopping and prepping before you get to the heat-cookery part. You don’t need fancy prep bowls; I use juice glasses all of the time.
Looking back, is there a particular post, recipe, or project on Smitten Kitchen that you’re each particularly proud of?
I’d say making a wedding cake for friends, triumphing over Lasagna Bolognese, and finding a way to make really incredible from-scratch chicken noodle soup in just an hour are at the top. But I also have a soft spot for the birthday cakes I’ve made for my son so far: a chocolate-banana “Monkey Cake” for his first, a graham cracker and toasted marshmallow “S’More Cake” for his second (it’s in the new cookbook), and a subway-themed Roasted Apple Spice Sheet Cake for his big third birthday party.
What one ingredient you could never live without?
For most of my life, I thought I didn’t like mustard. Once I realized that I was completely, utterly wrong, I went over the top. Now I have no less than four varieties (smooth! coarse! whole-grain! horseradish!) on hand at any time. It’s a little out of control.
You can see updates from Smitten Kitchen on Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, and Instagram. Deb’s first cookbook, The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook: Recipes and Wisdom from an Obsessive Home Cook, is now available in bookstores everywhere!