For those who wouldn’t know a spatula from a whisk, New York-based author, photographer and former art therapist-turned-home cook Deb Perelman started her food blog, Smitten Kitchen, 16 years ago, with an emphasis on pretty simple, everyday eats that the average person can whip up without a lot of pomp and circumstance. That led to two cookbooks and months spent on the New York Times best-seller list.
Perelman’s approach as a self-taught cook reflects the personality that comes across via her blog and public appearances: warm, funny and down-to-earth (she still works from the same tiny, East Village kitchen). No doubt that accounts for her avid fan base: she has over 1 million Instagram followers and she communicates with them regularly online, adjusting her recipes when she receives feedback from her captive audience. In her latest drool-worthy title, Smitten Kitchen Keepers, readers will find stunningly-photographed dishes (taken by Perelman) accompanying classic recipes that she hopes you’ll want to use always.
Perelman was raised Reform in New Jersey (where she had a Bat Mitzvah) and the influence of her upbringing is felt in a number of recipes, like her Slow-Roasted Chicken With Schmaltzy Croutons. There’s also the Tomatoes With Cottage Cheese And Bagel Seeds for her late grandmother Helen: every morning Helen had a scooped-out bagel with cottage cheese and tomato. The photo looks so gorgeous it could make a convert out of this lifetime hater of curds and whey!
Arguably the biggest inspiration for her book is her father, Michael Rothberg, to whom the book is dedicated. She writes in her introduction that Rothberg, who passed away four years ago, was someone “who couldn’t keep an opinion to himself.” Similarly, Perelman wasn’t content with crafting a recipe just for her edification or loved ones. “The thought of a friend making a mediocre lemon cake bothers me more than anything should.” Her dedication, obsessiveness, and desire to share her well-earned cooking knowledge (after testing her recipes repeatedly) are Perelman’s gift to you.
Perelman is speaking at Temple Israel on Jan. 5, 2023, rescheduled from November 28. For more details, check the event website.