The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook By Deb Perelman, Knopf, 2012. Hardcover. $35; 322 pagesThis book version of Perelman’s wildly popular blog feels like chipper conversations with a close friend about what to cook for dinner. Lucky for us, that close friend just happens to be a self-taught cook obsessed with creating and sharing the most delicious, fuss-free versions of recipes possible. She will test a recipe multiple times in her tiny New York City kitchen, seeing if, for example, you can get away with mixing everything in one bowl for the cake instead of messing up three. She photographs all her recipes herself. She is innovative, creative, and effortlessly funny. You almost want to hate her.
But you don’t, and here’s why: Her food is that good. Buttered Popcorn Cookies are simply fabulous—popped corn folded into brown sugar dough. “In some bites,” Perelman writes, “it provides a little extra buttery crunch, and in others, a soft cloud to break up the crispness of the cookie.” In the section on party foods, she explains, “The thing is, when I go to a party, I rarely want to bite into some really funky Brie … it would make guests smell mostly like a cave all night. … I want the very best foods I know how to make made portable and I want them to go well with wine.” So she turned a favorite food, French onion soup, into easily toted French Onion Toasts—crisped baguette rounds topped with cognac-splashed caramelized onions. You’ll find yourself flagging many more recipes, such as Whole Lemon Bars, made with—yes—whole lemons, no need to squeeze juice or grate the rind; or Cheddar Swirl Breakfast Buns, a savory cheesy-herbed version of sticky buns.
GIVE THIS TO: Practical cooks with a sense of fun. —Deb Wise