Deb Perelman may not be a household name but she’s likely on her way to becoming one.
Perelman is the witty cook behind the popular Smitten Kitchen blog. Her first cookbook, “The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook,” was the sixth best-selling cookbook in 2012. Beyond beating out “Weeknights with Giada,” by Food Network star Giada De Laurentiis, the success of Perelman’s book is remarkable because it wasn’t released until Oct. 30.
Perelman’s popularity also can be seen in the reaction to her book events in the Triangle. A chance to have lunch with Perelman Friday afternoon at Fearrington Village sold out quickly, and organizers even expanded the event from 35 to 95 seats. Fans need not worry: Perelman will sign copies of her cookbook at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Raleigh’s Quail Ridge bookstore.
Even Perelman, 36, is surprised by her success. During a phone interview last week, she said, “It’s definitely crazy.”
Perelman recounted how she started blogging in 2003, began focusing on a food blog in 2006 and by 2008 was working full time as a blogger. The New York Times reported last year that the advance for her book was close to $400,000.
“I thought the site would last six months. I’m not really a chef. I’m not really a photographer. I’m sort of an average writer. I didn’t think this would go anywhere. I didn’t see why (my blog) would be one that people would get attached to.”
But people have certainly become attached to Perelman’s blog: the tale of an obsessive home cook operating in the cramped kitchen of a tiny Manhattan apartment and always on a quest for the best recipe.
“I really just wanted a place where I could share recipes that I was really excited about, that worked every time, that exceeded expectations. Everybody knows how to make pancakes but here’s a great pancake recipe,” Perelman said. “Everybody is looking for a set of go-to recipes, and I wanted a place where I could organize the ones I was finding.”
Or her fans may love her self-deprecating humor. This is an excerpt from the headnote on the recipe for her whole-wheat raspberry ricotta scones: “On my first Mother’s Day, I decided I would host a brunch for my husband’s and my families. That morning, because I’m, well, me – someone who considers the constant monitoring of pantry staples exhausting, even though this always causes me trouble – I discovered that I was nearly out of the white flour I’d need for my scones. Also heavy cream. And, heck, even dried fruit.”
Perelman improvised with whole wheat flour, ricotta and fresh raspberries to create a good result. (To see that recipe, go to goo.gl/FIMxC.)
Perelman likes to work with everyday ingredients, which likely endears her to readers whose grocery store options are limited to Food Lion and not Dean & DeLuca.
“I think a good recipe should transcend its ingredients,” she said. “Julia Child cooked with onions and butter and carrots and it tastes like the heavens.”
To see a printable version of this recipe, click on the link below:
PLACE a rack in middle of the oven and preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Cut two 12-inch lengths of parchment paper, and trim each to fit the bottom of an 8-inch square baking pan. Press the first sheet into the bottom and up the sides of the pan in one direction, then use the second sheet to line the rest of the pan, running it perpendicular to the first sheet. Lightly butter exposed parts of parchment or coat them with a nonstick cooking spray. Set the pan aside.
BLEND flour, 1/3 cup sugar and 1/4 teaspoon salt together in the work bowl of the food processor. Add 1 stick butter and pulse until the mixture is powdery, but if firmly pinched, will hold the pinched shape. Turn the dough crumbs into the prepared baking pan and press dough evenly across the bottom and about 1/2 inch up the sides. Prick the dough all over with a fork and bake for 20 minutes, or until lightly browned. Should any parts bubble up, gently prick them again with a fork. Leave the oven on.
CUT lemon in half. If the white part of the skin is thicker than 1/4 inch, then remove the skin from one half of the lemon. If not, you are good to go. (The bitterness of a thick pith will overwhelm the bars.) Cut the lemon halves into thin rings and discard any seeds. Toss the lemon rounds – lemon flesh and peel – in the bowl of the food processor, add remaining 1 1/3 cups sugar, and run the machine until the lemon is thoroughly pureed, about 2 minutes. Add the remaining stick of butter and again run the machine until the mixture is smooth, scraping down the sides of the work bowl as needed. Add eggs, cornstarch and remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and pulse the machine in short bursts until the mixture is easily combined.
POUR lemon mixture over the crust and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the filling is set. Let pan cool completely on rack or in the fridge. Gently cut around the outside of the parchment paper to make sure no sides have stuck, then gently use the parchment “sling” to transfer the bars from pan to cutting board. Yield: 16 squares