16 March 2013

Weekend Cooking: The Smitten Kitchen by Deb Perelman

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I wonder if I even need to introduce you Deb Perelman, who has lived the dream of having her personal cooking blog go viral and then be lucky enough to have been asked to author a cookbook. Her The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook, published last year, is the result of eight years of hard work.

If you've never visited smittenkitchen.com you should make a point of browsing the site. Perelman writes in an engaging style and is not shy about sharing the inspiration for her recipes, chatting about tips and tricks, and writing about her failures as well as her successes.

One of the prime reasons Perelman's blog is so popular is that she's a self-proclaimed obsesser when it comes to the details of a recipe. She takes notes and fusses over measuring, timing, and every little technique that goes into creating a dish. That way she can re-create her meals and share her recipes with others. This also helps guarantee that others will have great results when they follow her directions.

It's also good to know that Perelman cooks and bakes in a New York City apartment kitchen. You know, the kind of space never intended for anything but coffee, wine, and popcorn. Although I'm sure her appliances are top-notch, it's nice to know that we don't need a farmhouse kitchen to make her recipes. On the other hand, she lives in the city, and that means she has a world of ingredients at her fingertips or at least fairly close by. Whereas most of the recipes in The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook call for common ingredients, many of us will never see a fresh fig or decent clams in one of our local stores or markets.

I bet one of the big questions you have is, Why buy The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook when I can get the recipes for free on Perelman's blog? Putting aside the question of print versus e-sources, you want the book because it contains mostly brand new recipes. In addition, the recipes that look familiar have been tweaked, adapted, or varied, so that the book is both fresh and new.

However, I should point out that some of the text will look familiar to those of us who read the Smitten Kitchen blog. For example, although the braised short ribs in the book call for beer and the ones on the blog call for wine (there are other changes as well), Perelman's commentary for both is pretty much the same. I don't think this is a negative, but I thought I should mention it. By the way, the beer-braised short ribs in the book are outstanding, and I plan on making them again for friends.

Because there are so many fantastic recipes on Deb Perelman's blog and because the recipes in The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook reflect similar flavors and techniques, I'm not going to share a recipe here. Instead, I encourage anyone who is looking for a way to transform everyday dishes to extraordinary meals to buy the book and check out the Smitten Kitchen blog.

Buy The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook at an Indie or a bookstore near you. This link leads to an affiliate program.
Random House / Alfred A. Knopf, 2012
ISBN-13: 9780307595652
Rating: B+
Source: Bought (see review policy)


caite 3/16/13, 6:54 AM  

I am not familiar with this blog...I will have to check it out! being able to actually cook in a NYC apartment..that is a skill!

rhapsodyinbooks 3/16/13, 7:09 AM  

I definitely see the value of having a book even if you could get EVERY recipe off of a blog. First, you have to print them out to use them, and second, with a book you can pour over the recipes and pictures, and have a beautiful book to look at (which foodies appreciate), and anyway, why not help support someone who produces something you like and use?

rhapsodyinbooks 3/16/13, 7:12 AM  

p.s. re her latest recipe on biscuits, I use almost exactly the same recipe, but insist on King Arthur's flour which makes a HUGE difference in how they come out! And yes they are melt-in-your-mouth wonderful! (I usually add dried sweet cherries to the mix before baking)

Laurie C 3/16/13, 8:12 AM  

Yes! Love my copy of The Smitten Kitchen. BTW, I'm trying to cut back on the time I spend reading cooking blogs to leave enough time to visit book blogs and your Weekend Cooking event is the perfect compromise!

Unknown 3/16/13, 8:19 AM  

I love to see bloggers succeeding by getting publishing contracts. I like that the recipes are a bit different than the ones on the blog, to make it feel new to dedicated blog readers.

Beth F 3/16/13, 8:43 AM  

@ Laurie: Thanks so much. :))

jama 3/16/13, 8:44 AM  

Nice to hear your reactions to Deb's book. I've put it on my wish list and will continue to enjoy her wonderful blog :).

Beth S. 3/16/13, 8:57 AM  

I just picked this cookbook up and started reading it last night. So far I'm really enjoying her engaging, conversational style. I love that she gives such a thorough explanation of her inspiration for each recipe. Makes me feel like I'm cooking right alongside her.

(Diane) bookchickdi 3/16/13, 9:47 AM  

Every time I'm tempted to say "oh, but I have a tiny NYC apartment kitchen", I remember what Deb can do and I am humbled. My SIL loves The Smitten Kitten.

Esme 3/16/13, 10:03 AM  

I have seen this book an Anthropologie and browsed through it. I like precise cooks-it makes for a better dish.

Yvonne @ Fiction Books Reviews 3/16/13, 11:50 AM  

Hi Beth F,

Deb Perelman is not a name that I, nor any of the people I have spoken with today, have come across, here in the UK. Although being as I am not much of a cook, to those 'Brits' who are avid fans of cooking and the associated TV programmes, she might well be a household name!

I did cross over and check out Deb's website, which bears out what you say about her engaging writing style and of course I just had to drool over a few of the pictures whilst I was there ... Well! I didn't say that I didn't enjoy eating food, so long as someone else is making it!

I think that cookery books really need to be the real thing to add to the overall experience, a computer printed copy just won't do for some things! All those lovely pictures are just calling out to be looked at longingly (even if anything I were to attempt would never look quite the same) and handling the pages of the larger 'coffe table' books, just can't be beaten.

Thanks for hosting and enjoy your weekend,


Anonymous,  3/16/13, 3:19 PM  

I've used recipes from her blog and had good luck with them (her granola bars are to die for). I'm still waiting for the library to let me borrow her cookbook ... the waitlist is super-long!

bermudaonion 3/16/13, 3:48 PM  

I've heard a lot about this cookbook and intend to buy a copy even though I rarely cook these days.

Gilion at Rose City Reader 3/16/13, 5:27 PM  

Both book and blog sound terrific. I've visited the blog, but then it fell off my radar. Thanks for the reminder!

Anonymous,  3/16/13, 11:09 PM  

I love her blog so much, so I'm sure the cookbook is great!

Joanna Hennon 3/17/13, 6:08 AM  

It seems like everyone is talking about this book, I can't wait to get it!

JoAnn 3/17/13, 11:25 AM  

I definitely need a copy of my own ... no preview of a library book required!

Jackie McGuinness 3/17/13, 11:57 AM  

Thanks for dropping by and visiting!
I love The Smitten Kitchen and have followed her forever.

Yes, Beth, I have been on airlines where you can buy very decent sandwiches. Friends of ours, take on board smoked salmon and bagels and then buy a bottle of wine!

Leslie (Under My Apple Tree) 3/17/13, 4:31 PM  

I'm not familiar with this blog either so definitely going to take a look. I admire folks who can not only create a new dish but write down useable instructions so someone else can duplicate it. I'd love to share a lot of my recipes but.. well.. I don't always measure and I like to substitute!

Angela 3/17/13, 5:55 PM  

I recently saw her on the Today show. I can't believe how small her kitchen is!

Linda 3/18/13, 12:40 AM  

I do follow The Smitten Kitchen blog and picking the cookbook up is high on my list.

Robin M 3/20/13, 10:02 PM  

Checked out her blog and now I'm positively hungry and I just finished eating dinner. LOL!

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