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Jan 23 2012

Interview with Interesting Jews: Deb Perelman of Smitten Kitchen

By at 9:15 am
deb perelmanDeb Perelman runs the website Smitten Kitchen, a food blog with recipes and pictures that will literally make you drool like a little baby. In her own words, she is “the kind of person you might innocently ask what the difference is between summer and winter squash and she’ll go on for about twenty minutes before coming up for air to a cleared room and you soundly snoring.” We spoke with her about failure, toddlers in the “no” phase, and the future publication of her first cookbook.

If you decided to keep kosher, what food or particular dish would be the hardest to say goodbye to?

I confess that I’d probably miss marshmallows to make my salted brown butter crispy treats for parties the most. Kosher ones are so hard to find!

The recipes and photos on Smitten Kitchen always look and sound amazing, but those less culinarily-skilled as you beg to wonder, do you ever just totally bomb a dish?

At least once a month. It keeps me humble. Actually, I used to post about recipe disasters–there’s a whole category of them in the archives–but sometimes, people would make the recipe even though I’d warned it needed a lot of work, and wonder why I’d led them astray. I wanted to avoid that so nowadays, I only post recipes once I’m confident that they work, though if I had many rounds of failures getting the recipe to that place, I always tell people about them and how I’d dodged the bullet the next time.

Kids are picky! Are there any foods you love that your kids won’t touch? Any tips for helping kids get over certain food fears?

Ha! People assume that if you cook a lot that you must have some sainted toddler that never rejects food that they ate enthusiastically the week before or throws a hissy because they cannot have cake for dinner. I, in fact, have a real-life toddler that’s full of food “whims.” That said, my kid is in the “no!” phase where everything is a “no!” including “Would you like to go toy shopping and then eat ice cream?” so I try to not take too seriously whatever food he most recently rejected and still try it again at another time. We’ve noticed that he eats much better–and often foods we presumed he wouldn’t like–on the nights we can all sit down to eat together, so we aim to do that as many nights a week as possible.

deb perelman apple cake

The famed apple cake.

Do you have a favorite Jewish holiday, food-wise? A least favorite?

I love Rosh Hashanah. It always falls at one of my favorite times of year to cook, the overlap of late summer and early fall, when the markets are still overflowing with awesome produce but it’s just cold enough to enjoy eating long-cooked foods again. I think brisket with a side of roasted vegetables is one of the best foods on earth, second only to leftover brisket with noodles the next day. Also, my mother has an amazing recipe for apple cake and I think no high holiday table would be complete without it.

Your first cookbook is coming out later this year. What do you most look forward to about having your name and food in print?

There are a lot of people who prefer to get their recipes from cookbooks, not websites, and I hope that they’ll have a chance to cook (and hopefully enjoy!) the recipes. I hope that longtime readers will find it an excellent addition to their bookshelves, too, as 85 percent of the recipes will be ones they haven’t seen before. I am also hoping that if we do a book tour, I’ll finally get to meet some of the awesome people who have left wonderful comments over the years. I bet we’ll all get along famously.

Be sure to visit Deb’s website, Smitten Kitchen, for all of her wonderful recipes and stories.


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