Book Review: The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook by Deb Perelman
Reviewed by Karen Miles
Deb Perelman doesn't do ho hum in the kitchen. Just take a look at the names of some of her recipes: Vermouth Mussels with Tarragon Oven Fries, Emmentaler on Rye with Sweet and Sour Red Onions, Shaved Asparagus Pizza, Chocolate Hazelnut Crepe Cake.
Don't get the wrong impression, though. Deb's not a food snob. Working out of her 42-square-foot kitchen, she creates from-scratch recipes using down-to-earth ingredients. In her entry for Iceberg Stack with Blue Cheese and Radishes, she laments "iceberg's low place on the lettuce totem pole." And in her entry for Golden Sheet Cake with Berry Buttercream, she talks about cracking the code for a birthday cake to rival those produced by boxed cake mixes. Those who frequent her blog know that Deb is accessible, and her recipes are doable!
Self-described as a picky and obsessive cook, I have confidence that when I gather my ingredients and dig into one of Deb's recipes, the results will meet — or exceed — my expectations! But to tell the truth, I'd enjoy this cookbook even if I never made a single one of the recipes. If you love curling up with a good cookbook outside the kitchen (there are lots of us, right?), you'll want a copy just for reading. Deb talks us through her creations, anticipating our questions, providing interesting background info, amusing, teaching and tempting us all the way. Her pages include "do aheads" and "tips," but my favorites are her descriptions. In the midst of her description of Peach and Sour Cream Pancakes, for example, she tells us "The sugar in the peaches, it caramelizes in the butter and then melts into the pancake. . . " As if that weren't inspiring enough, the photos are remarkably luscious!
Sections include Breakfast; Sandwiches, Tarts, and Pizzas; Main Dish; Main Dish Vegetarian; Sweets; and Party Snacks and Drinks. A major find in the Sweets section for me is a red velvet cake that doesn't rely on red food coloring! (Look for Red Wine Velvet Cake with Whipped Mascarpone.) There's also a fun little section on How to Throw a Dinner Party (that you'll get to enjoy).
Here are three recipes for you to try from the smitten kitchen:
* Pancetta White Bean and Swiss Chard Pot Pies
* Plum Poppy Seed Muffins
* Tres Leches Rice Pudding
If the proof is, indeed, in the pudding, then my bet is that you'll order your copy after trying that last recipe!