Sites We Love: Smitten Kitchen

Gorgeous photos? Check. Engaging writing? Check. Seriously inspiring recipes, tips, and culinary curiosity? Check, check, and check. The best food blogs all seem to have a lot in common — but what separates them out are the strong personalities behind them. In our Sites We Love series, we sit down with some of our favorite bloggers to find out how they do it — and why it's as much fun for them as it is for us.

SWL-Smitten-poptarts

Deb Perelman

This week's Site We Love is Smitten Kitchen, whose proprietor Deb Perelman has amassed an extraordinary following thanks to her ability to translate ambitious, sophisticated flavors into clean, easy-to-follow recipes. Sure, she's food blog royalty (and a winner in last year's Best Food Blog Awards!), but her approachable style and engaging writing means reading her blog is like checking in with a great friend. Here's what Deb has to say about her site:

**

SWL-Smitten-Portrait

Live since:** August 2006

Posting rate: Ideally, 2 to 3 [per week]. These days, it's 1 to 2. Sigh.

Geographic location: New York City

Why is the site called Smitten Kitchen? I've always loved the two-sidedness of the word smitten, "smiting" and, of course, being sweet on something.

What's been your most popular post? I never know how to measure this, so I asked Google. If you search for Smitten Kitchen, Homemade Pop Tarts is currently the first recipe result. I think the Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake I made from Sky High has the most comments.

What's your favorite post? The one where we announced that we'd baked a delicious baby boy .

What's something great that you've learned or that's happened to you since starting your blog? How to heat a pan and brown food. It sounds so simple, but I was doing it wrong and things stuck and I grumbled and blamed the fact that I'd only cooked on nonstick growing up for the fact that I didn't know better. Now, I'm methodic about heating the pan, heating the oil, laying down whatever I'm trying to brown and not moving it until it releases itself. I love to braise things, so this was an important step to get right.

What's the usual process for developing one of your posts? First, I either eat something that was so good that I obsess over it for days, awful enough that I know how I'd do it better or crave something I know nobody else will make the way I want it to be. (This is big part, because nobody really has to cook in New York City. So, the thing you want to make has got to be compelling enough to deal with your tiny, inadequate kitchen and The Lugging of the Groceries be worth it.) Then, I see if anyone else has made it. Sometimes, it's a relief if someone has — less work for me! Most of the time, nothing seems quite what I wanted so I start hacking recipes apart to give me a start in the kitchen — I always write a recipe before I start cooking. I may not follow it, but I need a guideline to follow, an idea of

SWL-Smitten-Cake

proportions and processes I think will work. I magnet it to the fridge and keep a pen on top of the fridge and add notes and adjustments as I cook. I keep the camera on a shelf right outside the kitchen, so I grab it if something catches my eye.

I make a huge mess. I am constitutionally incapable of cleaning as I go. Eventually, I get something in the oven and try to ignore the dishes until they go away. If the dish doesn't work out the way I was positive it was going to, I have a hissy. Well, maybe not a full-blown one but I get pouty and cranky and I do not handle these things with grace. Eventually I decide if there's enough potential to try again the next day, or I just couch the recipe for another time. Oh, and sometimes my husband comes home, tries it and goes ape over something I deemed a failure and then I have to question whether he could be right and I could be wrong, which is puzzling, to say the least.

What are your favorite ingredients and tools? Beans, potatoes, onions and leeks, nuts, eggs, pancetta, Spanish smoked paprika, Dijon mustard and butter. I seriously just got hungry typing that. I love my 12-inch cast iron skillet most of all and use it for everything from pancakes to roasted chicken. If I'm being honest, I like more OCD items that keep me sane when I'm writing a recipe — oven thermometer, instant-read thermometer, digital scale in grams and ounces and the ruler I keep in the kitchen. I realize this makes me sound insane, but surely you'll be happiest if the cookie I tell you will cook in 12 minutes at 350 and spread to 2 1/2 inches actually does.

SWL-Smitten-pasta

What are your favorite food and cooking resources? It changes all of the time, but seeing as I've been on a cookbook buying tear this month, these are my last 5: The Russian Heritage Handbook, The Many Little Meals of Rose Bakery, a used copy of The Cuisine of Hungary, The Balthazar Cookbook, mostly because we've recently fallen in love with the restaurant again, and The Breakfast Book, because I couldn't believe I didn't have it yet. If you're in New York City and you like to cook, I implore you to stop by Bonnie Slotnick on West 10th for an awesome selection of used cookbooks.

What photography equipment do you use? A Canon DSLR and a 50 mm lens.

Where else can we find your work? I don't have time to do any freelancing these days because I'm working on The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook, which you will hopefully see in 2012.

What food blogs do you follow? Many, many, many. But I always get excited when What Katie Ate, 101 Cookbooks, The Wednesday Chef, Orangette, or Sprouted Kitchen update.

All photos by Deb Perelman/SmittenKitchen.com

Do you know a blog or blogger who deserves to be featured in this space? Email a nomination — including a link to the site and a few sentences on why they're worthy of love — to siteswelove@saveur.com.