UN­FUSSY FAVOURITES

Blog­ger’s recipes for real life

Ottawa Citizen - - FRONT PAGE -

“I of­ten call my style of cook­ing a lit­tle bit self­ish,” Deb Perel­man says. “As long as you’re be­ing fairly con­sid­er­ate of the other peo­ple at the ta­ble, why not just make some­thing that re­ally in­spires you?”

Perel­man is one of the orig­i­nal food blog­gers. Smitten Kitchen, which she launched from her tiny NYC kitchen more than a decade ago, is home to 1,200-plus recipes and an es­ti­mated quar­ter-to-half a mil­lion com­ments.

Her funny and hon­est take on home cook­ing has made her one of food blog­ging’s big­gest stars.

While she’s self-taught and “just wanted to cook,” many other first­wave food blog­gers were “su­per foodie,” Perel­man says.

She de­scribes her­self as be­ing driven by pick­i­ness, fas­ci­nated with cre­at­ing what she con­sid­ers to be the ul­ti­mate ex­pres­sion of a dish.

Whether it’s how to make the ul­ti­mate grandma-style chicken soup or a new way to turn a can of toma­toes into an ex­cep­tional sauce, she says these happy dis­cov­er­ies “have the power to com­pletely change the course of a day.”

It’s in this spirit that she ap­proached her sec­ond cook­book, Smitten Kitchen Ev­ery Day: Tri­umphant & Un­fussy New Fa­vorites.

As with her blog and first cook­book, The Smitten Kitchen Cook­book (2012), Perel­man shot and styled all the photos.

Of the 115 recipes, 101 are new — the re­main­ing 14 first ap­peared on her blog.

Over the past five years, Perel­man came to the re­al­iza­tion that go­ing through the “real-life grind” of feed­ing her fam­ily of four made cook­ing bet­ter.

She learned when to stream­line recipes if steps weren’t worth the added stress — for ex­am­ple, “no­body wants to juli­enne” — but also where a more elab­o­rate prepa­ra­tion or ex­tra in­gre­di­ent made all the dif­fer­ence in the fin­ished prod­uct.

“I didn’t want it to feel like drudgery. It’s so easy to get in this trap of, all right, let’s just make some chicken tonight. We lose the en­joy­ment of (cook­ing) when it be­comes some­thing that needs to be done,” Perel­man says.

“Our whole day is to-do lists and work and chores and er­rands. When cook­ing be­comes that, you’re just go­ing to do it as plainly and ef­fi­ciently as you can.

“But it doesn’t nec­es­sar­ily let you un­wind in the same way. So I wanted to chase the idea of be­ing ex­cited to cook in smaller, hope­fully more man­age­able ways.” Recipes ex­cerpted from Smitten Kitchen Ev­ery Day: Tri­umphant and Un­fussy New Fa­vorites, Ap­petite by Ran­dom House (a di­vi­sion of Pen­guin Ran­dom House Canada Lim­ited). 1. Heat the oven to 350 F (175 C). 2. If your Camem­bert comes in a lit­tle wooden crate, re­move the crate lid and any pack­ag­ing or wrap­pers around the cheese, and place it back inside the bas­ket. Yes, it is safe to bake it right in there for the short time that this recipe calls for. If you’re ner­vous about leak­age, you can wrap the Camem­bert in foil or line the bas­ket with parch­ment pa­per as a layer of pro­tec­tion. Place the cheese in the wooden crate on a bak­ing tray.

3. With a thin sharp knife, make grid­like cuts in the cheese, 3 or 4 in each di­rec­tion, about 1 inch (2.5 cm) apart and go­ing about 1 inch (2.5 cm) deep into the cheese but with­out cut­ting through the bot­tom rind. Use your knife tip to “open” each cut and your fin­gers to press a lit­tle sliver of gar­lic into each cut. Com­bine the olive oil with the thyme, rose­mary, salt, and pep­per in a small dish. Spread thickly on top of the cheese.

4. Bake for 15 to 20 min­utes, un­til the cheese is loose inside the rind. Serve im­me­di­ately with crack­ers.

PHOTOS: DEB PEREL­MAN

Food blog­ger Deb Perel­man’s chicken noo­dle soup is just like Grandma used to make.

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