Food blogger Jennifer Perillo can’t bring herself to make her late husband’s favorite creamy peanut butter pie.
Perillo, 39, already the author of the popular food blog, In Jennie’s Kitchen, sparked a Twitter movement two years ago when she asked her readers to make the pie in honor of her husband, Mikey. He had died suddenly on Aug. 7, 2011, while trying to teach their daughter how to ride a bike. He had an undiagnosed autoimmune disease called Goodpasture’s syndrome.
Two days later, she posted the recipe on her blog and wrote: “For those asking what they can do to help my healing process, make a peanut butter pie this Friday and share it with someone you love. Then hug them like there’s no tomorrow because today is the only guarantee we can count on.”
A Twitter hashtag #APieforMikey soon sent the request around the globe. Perillo would receive notes and photos from people in Italy, France and the Philippines who made the pie for friends, family and co-workers. Perillo’s request inspired a cafe owner in Brazil to make chocolate peanut butter cupcakes and donate the sale proceeds to a local charity in Mikey’s honor.
“It was literally the pie made around the world,” Perillo said last week during a stop in Raleigh to promote her first cookbook, “Homemade With Love.”
Over coffee, she shared the story of how she met her husband, decided to follow her culinary dreams and her hope that her cookbook will help others get in the kitchen.
Perillo and her two daughters, ages 9 and 4, live a few blocks from where she grew up in Brooklyn. She graduated from Brooklyn College with a broadcast journalism degree and met her husband, 15 years her senior, during an internship. One dinner date led to another and the couple spent the next 17 years together.
After college, Perillo worked for a boutique video production company, but a career in food was her secret ambition. She didn’t have the courage to try until she reconnected with her estranged father a few weeks before he died of pancreatic cancer. His death spurred Perillo to chase her dream and start a personal chef business and later work in restaurants with Mikey’s hearty support.
“Mikey made my dreams his,” she said. “He wanted to see me succeed.”
Once Perillo became a mom, she pursued a career as a food writer, eventually becoming the consulting food editor at Working Mother magazine. She launched her blog in 2006 to develop her own writing voice. She enjoyed sharing recipes to help people cook from scratch as much as possible. One of the recipes of which she’s most proud is an all-purpose baking mix that can be used to make pancakes, waffles and cupcakes.
“I wanted to make it as easy, fun and enjoyable for people to be in the kitchen,” Perillo said.
She hopes that her new cookbook will appeal to beginners wanting to learn made-from-scratch techniques and to experienced cooks looking for sophisticated flavors, like her carrot and fennel soup.
She said it was difficult to finish the cookbook project without Mikey, whom she described as her muse. “This cookbook was a big process of learning how to stand on my own.”
About making that peanut butter pie again, Perillo said, “I’ll get there. I’ll do it when I’m ready.”
COMBINE lentils, eggs, breadcrumbs, ricotta, Pecorino, parsley and salt and pepper to taste in a deep bowl. Mix very well, using your hands or a wooden spoon. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight.
WHEN ready to cook, shape the mixture into 1 1/2-inch balls.
ADD 1/2 inch of oil to a nonstick skillet. Heat over a medium flame until the oil is shimmering. Add the shaped meatballs to the pan in batches, making sure not to overcrowd the pan, and cook until they are browned all around, turning only once. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate and let the excess oil drain. Add cooked meatballs to simmering marinara sauce if serving immediately and simmer for an hour to soak up the sauce. (If pressed for time, a half-hour will do.) Store the cooked meatballs in a tightly covered container for up to 3 days.
Yield: 18 meatballs