Smitten Kitchen: Cooking Fearlessly from a Tiny Kitchen
In the beginning it was a lot of my favorite recipes … as time went on, I became more confident in the kitchen and the recipes reflected it.
When you're looking for comfort food with distinction, Smitten Kitchen won't disappoint. This beautiful, accessible and always fresh destination for food lovers is the brainchild of Deb Perelman - the founder, cook, writer, and photographer behind the whole operation. She's also proof that you don't have to have a huge kitchen to pull off great dishes – she calls her workshop a "42 square foot circa-1935 sort of half-galley kitchen with a 24 foot footprint, a single counter, tiny stove, checkered floor and a skylight." It doesn't matter, the results and recipes that emerge are heavenly.
We checked in with Deb about her about her readers' favorite recipes, what food writers inspire her – and a sneak peek of what to expect in the new Smitten Kitchen Cookbook due this October.
You've been creating Smitten Kitchen for over 5 years. How do you decide what makes it onto the site - how has that changed since you started? What I put on the site has shifted, but only a little. In the beginning it was a lot of my favorite recipes, or just something random I'd made for dinner the night before. It was mostly other people's recipes, barely adapted. As time went on, I became more confident in the kitchen and the recipes reflected it. At first they were lightly tweaked, then heavily, then completely rewritten and nowadays, most of the recipe ideas that nag at me until I get them made are things I haven't seen anyone else do, so I approach them from scratch.
How did you go from writing B2B articles to creating an amazing food site?! A better question is what I was doing writing B2B articles at all! I didn't exactly have a gift for it. But I needed a job where I could hone my writing skills and they took me in. I learned a lot but I don't think anyone ever mistook it for my passion.
You've got a book on the way (congrats!). How do you decide what makes it into the book vs. the blog? I decided on a book recipe list very, very early on (as soon as I started writing the proposal) so most ideas I've had since then have gone on the site. It's surprised me how little I wavered from the list; I hope it's a sign that they were the best recipes for it. The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook will be out in October and I really hope people are as excited about it as I am. I worked on it almost constantly for 2+ years, nearly driving myself crazy trying to create new recipes that would make me stop in my tracks in a bookstore and immediately want to take it home. I hope others will feel the same.
Cookbooks… what are you favorites? Which ones would you not want to live without? I am tremendously fond of Julia Child; even when I don't make her recipes to the letter, her knowledge of how to work with ingredients, even average ones, is timeless. Sunday Suppers at Lucques remains one of my favorite places to go for a stand-out dinner party meal. The Ottolenghi and Moro cookbooks make me constantly hungry and Tamar Adler's new book, An Everlasting Meal is so wonderful, it makes it impossible not to put it down and immediately start cooking.
What are your all-time most popular posts/recipes on Smitten Kitchen? Mostly sweet things. Probably the Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake, my Mom's Apple Cake, Strawberry Summer Cake and the Red Wine Chocolate Cake. Those have some of the highest comment counts. Among savory things, recipes with cheese seem to get passed around the most (Roast Tomato Soup with Broiled Cheddar, Whole Wheat Goldfish Crackers, etc.)
Lots of your readers love it that you're also a flexitarian. Where did the inspiration for that come from? I was actually a vegetarian for a long time (from the age of 13 to 27) and because of this, meat always seems like more of a side dish to me, or something for special occasions. I think I permanent skewed the centrality of meat in my diet, and I'm glad it did. I never have to feel bummed if we "only" have roasted brussels sprouts and a salad for dinner.
What are other independent food voices you love? Who's doing it right? There are too many to list. I really read almost everything I can get my hands on about cooking or food or the economics/politics/business of food and eating. Even if something is not interesting to me per se, it's interesting to me that other people find it interesting. I read op-eds, I read newspapers' food coverage and this weekend I read a whole bunch of food magazines published by college students, which were, as a whole, excellent. And, of course, blogs. If I see a new post from 101 Cookbooks or Wednesday Chef or Orangette or Sprouted Kitchen or Will Write for Food have something new up, I will almost always stop what I'm doing to read it.
What are your personal go-to dishes – things you make for yourself, your family and friends? I've been making a lot of pizza and big salads lately. The escarole salad in this post is still one of our absolute favorites and for pizza, I usually do a riff on a margarita with one vegetable, whatever I have around, be it brussels or kale (kale is ridiculously good on pizza) or peppers. I've also (finally) warmed to roast chicken and there are two recipes in my cookbook that we've been making a lot, both on the quick side. And wild rice and whole grains, which I've discovered, delightfully, my son seems to have a bottomless interest in, so I've been using it as an excuse to always keep some cooked ones around. I have a weird obsession with skinny green beans (haricot vert) and will buy them hopelessly out of season just so I can have them around to munch on.
Smitten Kitchen is a SAY Media partner. Follow Deb on Twitter @smittenkitchen.