Last fall, I wrote about my new dinner plan: I challenged myself to try one new recipe each week by “unpacking” one cookbook in my library for a month.

It’s time for me to report back on this month’s selection . . .

If you have tried even one recipe from Deb Perelman of Smitten Kitchen fame, you probably can guess just where this post is heading. Because Deb? She knows what she’s doing when it comes to putting together tasty recipes that are also a snap to recreate in your own kitchen. And if you haven’t had a chance to try Deb’s recipes yet, well, let me encourage you to visit her website, subscribe to her newsletter, follow along on Instagram, or check out one of her cookbooks!

I consider Deb Perelman to be one of my “go-tos” whenever I want to cook or bake something . . . for dinner, for holidays, for any impromptu gathering. Her style is easy-breezy, her approach is unintimidating and completely accessible, and the resutls? Always fabulous!

So. As a fan, I was eager to check out her third cookbook (published earlier this year) . . . Smitten Kitchen Keepers, and – true to the book’s tagline – I found everything I made to be, indeed, a “new classic for my forever files.

So. What did I cook?


I started off my Smitten Kitchen Keepers adventure with the Slumped Parmesan Frittata (p. 15). As I recall, it was a snowy (sigh) day at the end of April when I first opened this cookbook, looking for a recipe to try . . . and breakfast-for-dinner sounded like a comforting option. (Besides, a friendhi, Pam! – had mentioned making this recipe with great results.) Turns out it was the perfect place to start! This simple, basic recipe was excellent. I made it just as directed. The dressing for the salad (which tops the frittata) seemed a bit on the oily side when I whipped it up, but . . . it was perfect. (And it looked really pretty, too!) I served the frittata with some muffins (from another favorite recipe; different cookbook, though) and we enjoyed a great dinner.


Next, I made Chicken With Rice, Chorizo, and Tomatoes (p. 177). (If you’re paying attention to these cookbook posts, you may have noticed that I have a particular fondness for chorizo. I will try almost anything with chorizo. I am a total sucker for chorizo. Just sayin.) This. Was. Awesome. Tom gave this dinner his personal 5-star rating and said it was the best thing he’d had in a long time (even though he says that all the time, y’know?). This dinner was super, super good – and not tricky to make either. I did make a few modifications to the recipe — but nothing major. (I added red pepper flakes, doubled the cumin, and . . . well. I doubled the chorizo, too.) (Told you.) Next time I make this recipe, I will attempt to get the rice a bit more crispy, but that wasn’t a deal-breaker on this winner of a recipe.


Then, I made pizza(s) — The Angry Grandma (Pizza) (p.171) — and ohmygod . . . who needs an Ooni? This recipe does take a bit of lead time (because you do need to make a simple – very simple – yeast dough for the crust), but . . . it is easy and delicious — and hands down the best pizza I’ve ever made at home. The crust is perfection, and there were plenty of leftovers. (The recipe makes two 9×13″ pizzas.) It was very chill, very doable. Super tasty. We loved it!


Next, I decided to recreate the recipe shown on the cover of the cookbook, Green Angel Hair With Garlic Butter (p. 125). (I mean . . . that bright green pasta? How could I resist?) It was . . . pretty amazing — and it looked just like the cover photo . . . but, as my note to myself in the cookbook says, “Whoa! It’s a very busy and hectic last 5 minutes or so.” Yes. A bit of fuss right there at the end. So the next time I make this (and there will be a next time, for sure), I’ll work on my roasted garlic technique (which was the source of my particular brand of “busy and hectic”). While this dish is a stand-alone, main dish kind of recipe, it would also be great as a side dish with . . . something from the grill. Plenty of leftovers, too.


And for my final “trick,” I made the Crispy Oven Pulled Pork (p. 199) with great success. I decided to try this for one of my “Sunday dinners” (we host my dad for dinner every Sunday afternoon), and it was a big hit for all eaters. It does take advance planning — because you prep the roast with a rub the night before, and then cook the pork for 5 hours the day you want to serve it. But that advance planning/work is totally worth it . . . because this is simply fabulous pulled pork! And it’s simple to make, too. I used a slightly bigger pork roast than is called for in the recipe, but otherwise made it just as described. The slaw is fabulous, too — and perfect in combination with the pulled pork. I’ll definitely be making this again! (Leftovers for days.)

That’s five recipes . . . and five “keepers.” I’m not surprised, actually. Because I’ve never been disappointed in a Deb Perelman/Smitten Kitchen concoction before. I’ll continue working away at other recipes in this cookbook, because there are so many others I have “earmarked” to try. For this challenge, I stuck pretty much to the dinner section of recipes — but there are salads and breakfasts and desserts that I can’t wait to try, too. High praise all around.

What’s next?
Well . . . things are going to slow down for the next few months in the cookbook-unpacking department. In the summer, our entire approach to making dinner changes quite a bit. We’re much more . . . spontaneous . . . about our eating in the summer. We eat lighter. And later. We make things up. We’re much more likely to throw together a “fancy salad” from whatever we’ve got available. Or just throw something on the grill. Plus . . . when we’re up north, we don’t spend a lot of time cooking, and although we do have a full kitchen up there, I never cook from a recipe. So the entire cookbook challenge is taking a bit of a summer hiatus.

Sort of.

I do plan to make explore this cookbook during the summer months . . .

I’ll report back . . . next fall? Or maybe as the spirit moves me this summer? Don’t hold your breath. Because all bets are off in the summer. But I WILL report back . . . eventually. And I plan to pick up my cookbook challenge on a monthly basis again next fall.

In the meantime . . . have you tried any good recipes lately? And do your dinnertime habits change with the seasons?


Past cookbooks I’ve unpacked:

Love Real Food (Kathryne Taylor) — April 2023

I Dream of Dinner (so you don’t have to) (Ali Slagle) – March 2023

Dinner in One (Melissa Clark) – February 2023

Bittman Bread (Mark Bittman and Kerri Conan) – January 2023

Go-To Dinners (Ina Garten) – December 2022

How to Cook Everything Vegetarian (Mark Bittman) – November 2022