I only have one food blog bookmarked on the entire world wide web: smittenkitchen.com.
I was lured in to Deb Perelman’s Smitten Kitchen by a link to her salted brown butter crispy treats (as in Rice Krispies treats). Then I scrolled down past photos of apple cider doughnuts, chocolate stout cake, and lasagna bolognese all shot against Perelman’s speckled, black kitchen counter. Something was happening, something more than food lust … something almost religious, something that I wanted to shout from the rooftops—if I could get on my roof and the neighbors wouldn’t threaten to call the police because some crazy lady is yelling about butter cakes. Instead I clicked “bookmark this page” with a trembling hand.
I am not alone in my Smitten Kitchen ardor. More than five million people a month visit this New York City, East Village, stay-at-home mom’s web site. On the wings of such popularity, Perelman was able to publish The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook in October, a lush and decadent collection of her culinary triumphs. For those of you who have sworn off the purchase of any more cookbooks due to buckling shelves—bad move. This is a cookbook worth collapsing your shelves for. It has the visual appeal of a coffee table book (almost every recipe has a full-page picture), the literary appeal of a collection of snappy personal essays and the promise of culinary joy.
For those unfamiliar with the Smitten Kitchen world: Perelman’s aim is pleasure, simplicity and perfection without snobbery.
Perelman herself, with her colorful, witty and chummy voice, is wonderfully accessible. Each recipe includes a story, often about the somewhat comic origin of a dish or an investigation of food preference idiosyncrasies. A sense of camaraderie prevails.
This is not a cookbook for health nuts—though Perelman includes a host of flavorful veggie dishes as well. One of my New Year’s resolutions was to drastically decrease my sugar consumption. Then I was gifted this cookbook. I spent yesterday afternoon baking buttered popcorn cookies. The Smitten Kitchen universe, in Perelman’s words, involves “a lot of comfort foods stepped up a bit.” What we have on our hands is deep dish bistro food for the next generation: sour cream pancakes with a slice of peach caramelized and baked into the batter, or tomato glazed meatloaf with brown butter mashed potatoes. We also see a lot of Russian/Jewish influence with her penchant for pickled things, bagels, blintzes and latkas.
You can see why my New Year’s resolution was blown to hell. A hell that looks suspiciously like heaven. A heaven paved with chocolate hazelnut crepe cakes and Deb Perelman’s comforting voice.