Any great cook refers to love as the secret ingredient to good cooking - ??love for the ingredients, love for the people for whom she cooks. In her new cookbook, author Jennifer Perillo provides heaping portions of both.
Any great cook refers to love as the secret ingredient to good cooking - ??love for the ingredients, love for the people for whom she cooks.
In her new cookbook, author Jennifer Perillo provides heaping portions of both.
Homemade With Love, her first book, represents an extension of her popular blog, In Jennie's Kitchen.
Yet the book she hoped to publish went through a heart-wrenching turn in 2011 - when her husband, Mikey, died unexpectedly at age 51 of a rare and undiagnosed autoimmune disease called Goodpasture syndrome.
"This book took on a life of its own," said the 39-year-old, who lives in the Brooklyn borough of New York. "Each headnote is like a little memoir, a little part of my life."
Perillo had a following before she lost her husband, with her blog drawing about 50,000 page views a month.
After his collapse on a summer afternoon, she used her blog to express her grief and to ask, almost as an afterthought, that anyone who so desired take a day to make a creamy peanut-butter pie - his favorite - in honor of him.
"When I put that up, I thought 12 people would do it," she said. "It was really meant for people who couldn't come to the memorial in New York. They could be present without being present."
Her post went viral. And her simple request turned into A Pie for Mikey Day - picked up by CNN and Epicurious.com, the website for Bon Appetit magazine.
Thousands of people nationwide turned on their ovens in tribute to a man - a couple - they hadn't met.
Among them was Rachel Tayse Baillieul, 32, of the Clintonville neighborhood.
"It was the way she was expressing herself that was so admirable," said Baillieul, a cooking instructor and blogger at HarmoniousHomestead.com.
"Her writing technique was so compelling."
Publishers agreed: Her cookbook proposal - a four-year effort written with Mikey's help - was bought in November 2011 by Running Press.
"It was bittersweet," Perillo said.
She hopes, though, that the book conveys her joy of cooking, too.
"It helps him live on. It still reminds people about goodness and love. It's not about focusing on what we don't have; we have to focus on what we do have."
What she has are food and cooking.
"When everything is spinning out of control," she said, "the best way to recalibrate myself is to go in the kitchen."
She still cooks most nights for herself and her daughters, ages 4 and 9.
Her book details the secrets of "scratch" cooking - from building a pantry to planning a meal. It encourages cooks to make staples, including her versions of an all-purpose baking mix to be turned into waffles, pancakes and cupcakes; and a homemade vegetable bouillon to be used in soups.
She also gives acceptable shortcuts as well as permission for people to embrace their skill levels.
The book contains many straightforward recipes in all categories - such as Drop-Biscuit Chicken Potpie, Mediterranean Tuna Salad and Orange Balsamic Glazed Salmon.
Not in the book is the recipe for her husband's favorite pie.
"I haven't been able to go back to make it myself," she said. "I really had hoped I could. But I personally can't even taste chocolate and peanut butter together. My connection to chocolate and peanut butter - that's my husband.
"Every ingredient I look at, there's a memory attached to that."Recipes All-Purpose Baking Mix Vanilla Blueberry Waffles Drop-Biscuit Chicken Potpie Fluffy Drop Biscuits