Unfussy food for real cooks
When your day is full of errands, who has time to julienne? Laura Brehaut ponders ...
“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.”