Get Smitten With Deb Perelman's New Cookbook

BlogHer Original Post

Beloved veteran food blogger Deb Perelman of The Smitten Kitchen is known for her precise recipes and friendly, welcoming writing. That combination is coming to a bookstore near you tomorrow, when The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook is officially released. It's a solid collection of interesting and useful recipes—I turned to it for a breakfast casserole for a recent houseguest and was more than pleased at the results—and includes lots of great general cooking knowledge that even veteran home cooks will appreciate. I caught up with Deb about her cookbook, food blogging, and recipe writing recently. Read on to learn more about how she approached writing this book.

Smitten Kitchen Cookbook

Genie Gratto: In a crowded field of blog-inspired cookbooks, what is the unique quality you tried to capture with your book?

Deb Perelman: So, this probably sounds a little dorky, but my singular obsession when I was writing this cookbook was I wanted someone to be able to walk into a bookstore and not know me, my site, anything about food blogs or for any to even be in their landscape, but pick up my book, flip it open to any page, and find something there that they absolutely had to cook that day. There are enough cookbooks out there that you can buy because you already love the chef/restaurant/show, that you might buy just for the name on the cover. I really hoped that this would transcend that through approachable recipes with unfussy ingredients that might just become your new favorite things to cook.

GG: I really appreciated the precision of so many of your instructions. Why do you think that precision is so critical for home cooks trying to recreate your recipes?

DP: I don't think there are bad cooks, just bad recipes. I firmly believe that a well-written recipe, if followed carefully, could allow someone to totally nail it when they make roast chicken/birthday cake/cinnamon buns for the first time. Once you decide that, it's really just figuring out what needs to be in that recipe. Amazingly enough, this part has been supplied for me by readers, who over the years have asked me so many questions in comments and emails—what if I only have salted butter? do I sift, then measure, or vice-versa? how can I be absolutely certain the roast is done? etc.—that I find myself trying to answer them inside the recipe before they're asked. I don't always succeed, but I really try to write recipes that might anticipate the areas I know people struggle with—and me too! I can't tell you how many times I've been working with a really sticky dough and just wanted to know if it should be that way, and wished the recipe's writer had thrown up a warning flag. We all need a little reassurance when we cook.

Deb Perelman

GG: Was it difficult to maintain a regular blogging schedule while keeping up your cookbook-writing schedule?

DP: Yes. Very. I was not perfect at it; there are week-long (and longer) lapses throughout the last couple years. And, of course, the book that I thought I'd finish in six months in fact took nearly three years. This was my least favorite part because although many people see their sites as a launchpad to other things, for me, it's central. I'd be happy to keep the site up forever, or as long as I find it as inspiring as I do now, which means I was actually bummed (and still get that way) when I am too busy to slow down long enough to show up.

GG: Your cookbook includes a really high percentage of new recipes that have never appeared on your blog. How did you decide what recipes to put in the book versus what recipes to blog about while you were working on the project?

DP: Sometimes, it was very clear to me—there are things I want nownownow because they're so strongly associated with a week or two of the year that I don't even consider them other times. That's perfect site fodder. For the book, if I was torn between two versions of something—I made two fruit buckles around the same time and was torn over which should go where—I saved the one I imagined having more longevity, more out-of-season ingredient flexibility for the book. And when I still couldn't decide, I had an email chain with my editor and agent, and they loooved playing the "blog or book?" game with me.

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