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Deb Perelman Transcript

Inside the Smitten Kitchen with Deb Perelman

Kerry Diamond: Hey everyone, welcome to Radio Cherry Bombe, the podcast about women, food and a whole lot more. I'm your host, Kerry Diamond. On today's show, I'm talking with Deb Perelman, who many of you know by her blog name, Smitten Kitchen. I'm such a big fan of Deb's and her cookbooks, as I know a lot of you are. Deb and I caught up to talk about how she's feeling and dealing, and what she's cooking these days with two kids at home, and, this will make a lot of you happy, a new cookbook in the works.

Before we get to our conversation, let's do a little housekeeping. Thank you to the Wines of Rioja and our newest sponsor, Red Clay Hot Sauce, for supporting our show. You folks are the Bombe. What else? Well, we gave our website a tiny make-over and just reopened the Cherry Bombe shop. Visit to check it out. If you're looking for back issues, our current issue with Alison Roman on the cover, or maybe you just want to check out our subscription cookbook deal, is the place to go.

Before we get to Smitten Kitchen, here's a word from the Wines of Rioja. Hi, Bombesquad, let's go on a trip to Rioja, the premier wine making region in Spain that's home to more than 600 wineries. Rioja produces an incredible range of styles: reds, whites, rosés and my favorite, sparkling wines. Tempranillo is Rioja's hallmark grape. Indigenous to Spain, Tempranillo is elegant and versatile, and can be found in every expression of Rioja. Rioja's food friendly wines pair beautifully with light bites, stand up to spice and compliment richer dishes.

What do I love most about Rioja? The wines are released when they are ready to drink. Every bottle of wine from Rioja is marked with a color coded seal indicating how long it has been aged according to Rioja's unique aging classification system. Cheers to that. For more, visit Now, here's my conversation with Deb Perelman.

How are you?

Deb Perelman: I'm good. I've been inside for about six weeks now. How about you?

Kerry Diamond: Well, I have been inside for a really long time. For someone who loves walking as much as I do, I have not been walking at all, and I think it's starting to get to me. I think I do need to maybe incorporate a daily walk into my routine. I don't know. Are you getting any exercise?

Deb Perelman: They say you can safely go outside for 30 to 60 minutes a day with the correct precaution, so I've been going for short runs three times a week, and it's been very good for my mental health. In fact, for me, the kind of good days are the ones where I got outside for even a short period of time, and the bad ones are the ones where I was just inside and I don't remember what day it is.

Kerry Diamond: I didn't know you're a runner.

Deb Perelman: I am like definitely not a runner. I'm a kind of trotter. Sometimes old ladies go past me walking. I'm an extremely slow runner. I usually just run on a treadmill a few times a week, but I have realized that I could run outside, and it's actually far more enjoyable because fresh air and sunlight, and if I make it over... I live in the Lower East Side, so if I make it over to the East River... Although it can be a little crowded over there, so I try to avoid it. During busy times, I can actually run under bridges, which is far more enjoyable.

Kerry Diamond: Wow, okay. I'm very impressed. Well-

Deb Perelman: I run like two miles on a good day, so-

Kerry Diamond: I'm just impressed you run, period. I've tried to be a runner a few times. I used to run track in... gosh, grammar school and a little bit in high school, but yeah, those days are behind me. But I'm going to get out and walk. You've inspired me to at least do that much today. So you have kids, which I know, because they've been on Radio Cherry Bombe.

Deb Perelman: Yeah, we were still... We were reminiscing fondly about the time that I took my son to lunch. He was off in school that day, I don't remember why. And then I said, "Okay, I'm going to go do a radio show. Do you need anything before we go on?" He's like, "No." And then five minutes and he was like, "I have to go to the bathroom right now." Which is what happens when you bring an eight year old into a recording studio. But I'll let him live it down eventually. I have two kids, I have a 10 year old and I have a four year old.

Kerry Diamond: How's the homeschooling going?

Deb Perelman: I love it. It's amazing.

Kerry Diamond: You do?

Deb Perelman: No, I don't. I'm sorry.

Kerry Diamond: You’re the first mom I know who’s said that.

Deb Perelman: No. Look, it could always be worse. My son is older, and he can largely manage on his own. My daughter is four and she's in pre-K, so I would say that her level of education that she's learning through the computer is somewhat limited and it's pretty easy to reinforce at home by just practicing writing numbers and letters and coloring and stuff. I don't love the extra screen time it requires them to have, because I feel like my kids get crabby when they're on the screens too long, as we all do. But we try to do it for a couple hours a morning and then we just let it go. That's me. Unless my son really wants to work on a specific assignment. I think his teachers are very reasonable in their expectations. I don't know if this is true of all schools, but I don't like it, obviously. But it could be worse.

Kerry Diamond: No, I feel like I saw you on Instagram Live maybe last week with your son? Did I see that or my imagining-

Deb Perelman: I have been. I was never trying to do like a busy mom cooking show, but it turns out that when you are in the same two bedroom apartment with your children at all times, you can't really not do a cooking show with them. So I've always tried to do Instagram Live demos whenever I can get it in the schedule or I have somebody around who can hold a camera, just a recipe demo usually from the archives on Friday afternoons. So the last few, I've had some sidekicks with me, and it's led to different levels of chaos. I get a lot of comments afterwards that are like, "You're so patient with your kids. Wow, I'm really impressed with how patient you are." As if there is another way to do it. "Get out of here. Stop licking the counter."

Kerry Diamond: So I'm curious, Deb, because you've had your blog, Smitten Kitchen, forever, you have your cookbooks, you have your Instagram. You have been cooking for ages, and now, all of a sudden, everybody's cooking. Has this changed what you're making at home?

Deb Perelman: I also am cooking a lot more at home. Although I love creating recipes and I love cooking, it's not like I wish to cook three meals a day for six weeks. That's just never been a dream of mine. I feel like all of that cooking really taps down on your creativity sometimes. So in some ways, I think my family is pretty lucky to be locked up with me, somebody who does enjoy cooking and has a wealth of recipes at her disposal, but I do find that I am thinking about basics in a way that I don't always. There's so much in cooking where we're looking for like the new this and the new that, and I feel like the COVID era cooking is kind of the opposite, where a lot of us are just looking to make a really great roast chicken or a perfect banana bread or a simple yeast bread, if you can find yeast and flour that we can make sandwiches on. So I feel like basics are really getting more time in the spotlight than they normally would in food media.

Kerry Diamond: Well, you actually had Rice Krispies treats on your Instagram account, I noticed, and it doesn't get more basic than that, especially if you have kids. That's a fun one to make with children. You put a twist on it though. Tell us.

Deb Perelman: There's a brown butter element in there that I think personally makes a huge difference. I had Rice Krispies treats growing up, but they weren't a passion of mine. But when I started using more butter and using brown butter and then I add some flaky sea salt, they are the first thing to go at a party. I barely remember what parties are. They're a very popular snack at home if you can do it safely, a fun treat, to distantly drop off with friends.

Kerry Diamond: Oh, that's a nice idea.

Deb Perelman: Do that.

Kerry Diamond: Absolutely. And then you have another post on Instagram that I saw that must be the most popular post you've ever written, it's about your pantry and your fridge and what you stock up on and how you store things.

Deb Perelman: I spent like 14 years going to, "Do I have to? Do I have to write a post about this?"

Kerry Diamond: You were like, "I've never shared my pantry." All the years you've been doing this, you've never shared a pantry article, which I found hard to believe, but you wrote that on your blog.

Deb Perelman: Well, I think a few things, one, I live in a big city, and I have grocery stores close by, and I have green markets, so I don't really need to shop in a way that a lot of people do who are further from things. I run out of vinegar, I walk out a couple blocks and I get more vinegar. So I don't need to buy extras of things and I don't need to plan that far ahead. On the flip side, my kitchen is really small, and I can't really fit a lot of extra stuff in it. I can't buy it three months of toilet paper. Okay, that's not a kitchen thing, we'll say paper towels. But either would have been helpful about now.

So it's just not something I've ever thought of. At the same time, I realized it doesn't have to be like, this is what you need to keep in your kitchen. It could be like, here's a bunch of things I've noticed that happen when I buy whole wheat flour or oats or butter or olive oil that I've learned in my years of cooking that could be helpful to other people. So I tried to frame it that way. I don't think everybody needs to have six types of mustard in their fridge or keep sunflower seed butter instead of almond butter, but I can explain why I like them.

Kerry Diamond: So Deb, tell us some of the pantry items that you love that you wrote about.

Deb Perelman: I was thinking a lot of basics. Everyone's got their favorite... I have a favorite pasta and I have a favorite white cheddar I get at the grocery store, but I didn't want everyone to feel like they needed to run around for very specific things, but I wish somebody had told me that like whole wheat flour goes rancid a lot faster than white flour does because it's got more of the bran and the germinate, and those have a little more of an oil content. I don't think that I'm probably saying this correctly, don't listen to me. I'm not a food science person. But for various reasons, they go rancid a lot faster. So if you're going to buy a five pound bag of whole wheat flour but you're not going to use it in a month or two, then you should keep it in the freezer, or maybe buy a smaller bag.

Kerry Diamond: Oh, that's good advice to have. I didn't know that.

Deb Perelman: Quinoa is another one that I find that if I don't use it within a couple months, maybe three months, it starts to smell a little dusty. This is true of a lot of dried beans too, especially at a point right now where a lot of people are buying dried beans maybe for the first time or stocking up on them. They're really good for quite some time, but eventually, they're going to smell musty. But you could keep them in the freezer and they won't, or just try to buy only what you think you'll use in a few months.

Kerry Diamond: I've realized a lot of my spices have... I don't know if turned is the right word, but have just sort of lost their... what makes them special. Like I was cooking last... What did I make last night? Oh, I had some tinned fish, I had some tin sardines, and I just sautéed some garlic and shallots through the tinned sardines and the oil in there and then mixed it with some pasta and some pasta water, of course, and put some red pepper flakes in it, and I realized my red pepper flakes literally tasted like nothing.

Deb Perelman: Sad. Dump in the whole jar. Right?

Kerry Diamond: What's your advice with spices?

Deb Perelman: So I've bristled against the arbitrary articles that tell you have to throw away all of your spices every six months or a year, I'm like, who's paying for my spices? That's crazy. So I've always bristled against it. Basically, we do it the way you did, which is that I do the sniff test and I do the taste test like, Oh, time to get more red pepper flakes, versus arbitrarily tossing red pepper flakes when they might be working. Mine are a couple of years old and they're still pretty robust, but I definitely have other spices that I notice get weaker.

Deb Perelman: Mostly, spices don't very often go bad, they just get weaker, so you'll need more of them. When you find that it's not doing what you wanted to do, that's when I get a new jar. Or you could have a new jar and you keep it airtight sealed until you need it, if you think you're getting close to the point where you might.

Kerry Diamond: So we noticed that you transfer everything into glass jars.

Deb Perelman: But my theory is that there are people who don't keep stuff in airtight containers and then there are people who have possibly at some point in their life had something called pantry weevils. This happened to me once four kitchens and 12 years ago. Wow. I sound like I'm giving a speech here. Many years ago, it happened to me, and it got into everything, because I had everything in rolled up bags or I didn't have a good system or I would open up a box of something and then I would just put the box in the cabinet. They're very small, and it's just gross. You have to throw away all your dry goods, is basically what ends up happening. So-

Kerry Diamond: Oh my God, I didn't even know that was a thing.

Deb Perelman: The thing is, it's so common in stuff that it just makes sense to keep everything in their own container. It doesn't have to be glass. I prefer glass because I find it inexpensive and very easy to sanitize, and it's bright and clear and you can always see what you have left, and you could also see if you brought something home that was a little bit compromised, but I won't get into anything else. I hate to talk extensively about bugs, but it just... For me, it just makes a lot of sense to not have things in open bags and open top boxes.

Kerry Diamond: Oh wow. And here I am, Deb, thinking you were doing it for aesthetic purposes.

Deb Perelman: Wow. I've already used the word bristle, but I guess I've bristled against a lot of things, but one of the things I really don't like, performative organizing, definitely not me. When I see these perfect pantries and everything's rainbow sorted, I'm like, who lives here? Nobody lives here. This isn't how real people live. No, this is a real life overstuffed kitchen, and my tiny cabinets that don't fit my stuff fit a lot better when I use jars. I can see what's in there, it looks-

Kerry Diamond: You have to say that again. Performative organizing?

Deb Perelman: I really dislike performative organizing, it's just... Everyone's got their things that drive them crazy and for me, when I like a brightly organized, perfect pantry that doesn't look like somebody uses that... I'm not saying if you're just organized, that's a problem, that's great for you. But when it doesn't look like anyone has ever used it because like the pasta is like color sorted... which is actually less weird than the spices being color sorted. Anyway. It drives me crazy.

Deb Perelman: So when people saw that picture, they were like... They really think that I'm into everything looking cute, and it's not, it's just... It's masking tape, it's a Sharpie, it's various jars I've collected over the last 20 years. They're usually inexpensive jars, so if they break, which is going to happen, it's a $2 thing to replace them, not a $20 custom beautiful plastic bin for pantries.

Kerry Diamond: So funny. So just to be clear, Deb is not auditioning for Martha Stewart's job.

Deb Perelman: She could not, no. This is not. So I also tried to make a point to include pictures of my real fridge, like literally I posted this yesterday morning, and I took a picture of the fridge an hour before. It is at full groaning capacity trying to feed four people, and this is not a suburban sized fridge at all, and I took a picture of the freezer replete with utter chaos just to offset the top picture. I feel like it's very important to keep it real.

Kerry Diamond: That's funny. Well, Instagram is definitely overrun with performative organizing, so that should make everyone feel better. Do you hear what you just had to say? So Deb, I want to talk about a few more things I spotted on your Instagram, because they all made me very hungry. Carrot cake pancakes, which, I don't know, how did I miss that that's even a thing? I love carrot cake.

Deb Perelman: I think it's from Joy the Baker, Joy Wilson's first or second book. I think it might be from her first book, although her second book was an amazing breakfast book. I don't want to get in trouble. You should get all of her cookbooks, they're wonderful. She's wonderful.

Kerry Diamond: I think I have them, but I never saw that. I love Joy, so I need to look into this.

Deb Perelman: She's just the best person. So credit where credit is due. I love her idea for carrot cake pancakes, it's such a fun idea of taking what is normally dessert and making it breakfast. Why not put like two cups of grated carrots in your breakfast pancakes? It worked great with whole wheat flour too. She doesn't even make us skimp on the cream cheese topping. We make a little bit of softened cream cheese that's lightly sweetened, a little more breakfast-y, and that's what you doll up on top.

Kerry Diamond: What do you sweeten it with?

Deb Perelman: I think I just use a regular sugar, but you could use maple syrup honey. Really, breakfast recipes have a lot more flexibility in them.

Kerry Diamond: Got it. And then, this will make you laugh, but I saw those sweet potatoes that you had on Instagram, and I don't know why, but when I first looked at them I was like, "Did Deb put caviar on those sweet potatoes? That is so not a Smitten Kitchen ingredient." But no, they were blackened.

Deb Perelman: My husband is Ukrainian and would absolutely love it if we could put caviar on sweet potatoes, but I just try to keep it budget here. No, it's such a cool technique. Where's the restaurant? Okay. I'm just going to be quiet. There's a wonderful restaurant, and I just... I'm blanking on it, I went to in Brooklyn a couple years ago, and I don't know... Anyway, they cooked everything on an open fire. They had these dessert sweet potatoes that were so roasted. I came home and I just realized that what I wanted to do was take the regular sweet potato that you might roast up as a vegetable or aside, as a vegetable main or aside and try that technique with them.

I don't know if I used it exactly, but you basically cook it for them two to three hours at a low temperature and then you finish it onto the broiler. All I put on it is olive oil, salt and pepper, but it's just... They almost candy themselves inside. Prior to being at home for the last five to six weeks, I didn't make them that often because it's a three hour project to make sweet potatoes, which is a little crazy. Now, we can put it in after breakfast and have this amazing baked sweet potato for lunch, and it just... it makes a lot of sense for right now; it's inexpensive, it's nutritious, and it tastes amazing.

Kerry Diamond: Well, I love sweet potatoes, and I'd never thought about slow roasting them. What temp do you put them in at?

Deb Perelman: 275. Look, if you do it at 300, nothing bad is going to happen. But if you've got the time and you want to go for that max, almost like... It always reminds me of a sweet potato casserole inside, but you haven't added anything to it. I find that the smallest path of salted butter is all it needs. So we do it at 275 and it's two and a half hours, which I know is crazy talk, and then you just want to run it under the broiler till it gets a little bit charred outside.

Kerry Diamond: Oh my gosh. Okay. I'm absolutely doing this. That sounds amazing.

Deb Perelman: It's just amazing. It's so fun to be able to eat a potato that tastes that good. I roll it in a good amount of salt. I don't think too much, but it's enough that you might find you don't need extra when you cut into it, that the inside can just be sweet because the outside is so salty and crispy.

Kerry Diamond: Oh, so wait, you roll it in salt. How do you get the salt to stick?

Deb Perelman: One teaspoon of olive oil, I just rub it on and then I just sprinkle about maybe half a teaspoon of kosher salt per potato.

Kerry Diamond: Okay. I'm so doing this. I did a pretty good grocery shop about, I don't know, like four weeks ago, and I haven't had to grocery shop since. I've been working. I worked through all the stuff in the fridge first and now I'm working through the freezer and then the pantry. So when I do my next grocery shop, I'm adding sweet potatoes to the list. We'll be right back with Deb after this quick message.

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Back to my chat with Deb Perelman of Smitten Kitchen.

Deb, I have a lot of canned tomatoes, and I saw you had... it looked like a lentil soup that you made with tomatoes.

Deb Perelman: So great. This is an old recipe from Gina DePalma, and I came through... Adam Roberts used to have a blog called the Amateur Gourmet, although he still writes about cooking and has a wonderful cookbook. He cooks along with certain chefs, and this was one. She was a pastry chef.

Kerry Diamond: Right, she passed away a few years ago-

Deb Perelman: She did.

Kerry Diamond: ... sadly.

Deb Perelman: She's so famous for her baked goods, but this is just her family's lentil soup, and it's just... it's like this amazing meal in one pot. It's garlic and it's lentils and it's sausage, which you cook it crisp and then you add a whole bundle of Swiss chard, of course you can use kale too, and you cook it with canned tomatoes. There's celery, there's carrots. It's like everything in one pot. And then you can finish it with pecorino cheese. I really like to make this sizzling garlic oil, where you just... at the end, it's a pretty easy soup, you just sizzle some garlic and pepper flakes more or less to taste and have a skillet, and you just pour about a teaspoon or two over each bowl of soup, and it really adds a whole extra fresh depth to it. It's such a great soup. You should definitely make it.

Kerry Diamond: Oh, it sounds great. I have a few things I can substitute. I have some kale in the freezer. I started, like a lot of people, growing my celery from the base of my celery. Have you seen that?

Deb Perelman: Yeah, I tried. I had to throw mine away after it didn't grow for three weeks. I was like, "I think she's dead."

Kerry Diamond: Wait, I had the opposite problem. Mine grew beautifully, but it tastes disgusting. Isn’t that weird?

Deb Perelman: Does it need sunlight to get better flavor?

Kerry Diamond: It has all the sunlight in the world, because I'm lucky I have big windows in my apartment and no building right where the windows are. I'm trying to think what... It just tasted so bitter, and I love celery leaves. I love that flavor that celery leaves bring, and I don't throw them away. I'll chop them up and use them like an herb. So I was so excited to have this in the apartment, but it was bitter as anything. So I was like, "Okay, that experiment went wrong." So if there's anyone out there who is an expert at a growing vegetables on your window sill in water, let me know either... I don't know what I could have done wrong, but maybe there's a reason farmers grow celery in dirt, not in water on windowsills.

Deb Perelman: Trying though. I always have scallions, I always have leeks, so I feel like I'm definitely going to try it again.

Kerry Diamond: Yeah, I'd like to try the scallion part cause I do love scallions and tend to use a lot of scallions, at least back in the day when I grocery shopped on a regular basis. I have not started with sourdough yet. I do not have a sourdough starter. Have you done that?

Deb Perelman: I feel like I thought I was the only person who was going to make it through this pandemic having not tried sourdough. I will admit, though, that I'm weakening. I keep thinking, maybe, and then I just think of how you have to... If you want to really make it regularly, you have to discard. I feel like I'm going to get a lot of angry sourdough people now by saying this, but you have to discard and add flour to it every day, and if you're not using that discard, it feels a little bit wasteful with flour at a time when most people don't have enough flour.

Kerry Diamond: 100%. You know who's come up with some good things to do with it is Caroline Schiff, she's Pastry Schiff on Instagram. She's fantastic. She was just about to be the pastry chef at Gage & Tollner, which was set to open on March 15th, but they obviously postponed the opening. But she's a brilliant pastry chef and has come up with some really fun ways to use the discard, which I decided I could not stand the word discard. Our friend Angela Raynor from Nantucket, who's a very enthusiastic baker, came up with a great name, and she calls it the daughter, since you know the starter is the mother, the discard is the daughter. And I was like, "Oh, that's a much... I like that term much, much better."

Deb Perelman: Can you imagine ‘daughter’ pancakes?

Kerry Diamond: Exactly. So people have been doing all different things. So if you check out what Caroline is up to, you'll see all these ideas. I think Sarah Owens, also, who's another phenomenal baker-

Deb Perelman: Hasn’t she won some James Beard Awards for this or am I just – her books are just –

Kerry Diamond: No doubt. Yes. She has some brilliant cookbooks, and I think she's been doing a lot on the discards/daughter as well, because right now, people are like, it makes absolutely no sense to throw away. Well, it never did, but sadly this has woken us all up to it. It never made sense to throw out things that you could otherwise eat.

Deb Perelman: I know I'm going to cave. I love bread, I love taste of sourdough, and I do love a cooking project. I've just always felt like I already have two kids to feed and I don't need another thing to keep alive. This is very stressful. But I'm about to break through. I don't think I'm going to make it this whole pandemic without getting at least some starter. I also know that you can chill and even freeze your starter. I know people can dehydrate their starters and they dry them out and then ground into powder and then they just wake it back up when they want to use it again. So I know that you don't have to fully commit to making bread and having a collection of daughter each day.

Kerry Diamond: So many children.

Deb Perelman: No more mouths to feed please. My fridge is at capacity.

Kerry Diamond: Sarah was on the radio show a few months ago, and she... When she has to travel, she has this whole technique for preserving her starter. She transforms it into this thing... I can't even say it with a straight face. She transforms it into this thing, she calls it stiffy. That's a whole process that I cannot remember or repeat, but if you have her cookbooks or follow her online, I'm sure if you just search Sarah Owens and stiffy, you will find the whole process.

Deb Perelman: I actually think I met her at a Cherry Bombe. She's just incredibly, incredibly talented baker. I've always just been in awe of what she does.

Kerry Diamond: She really is. I was thinking of you, because we did a virtual version of Jubilee a few weeks ago. We had to postpone the actual Jubilee that we do. I was going through photos and I saw the one of the panel that we did, and that was so much fun. It was you and Joy the Baker and Grandbaby Cakes-

Deb Perelman: Daphne Oz and-

Kerry Diamond: And Daphne Oz moderated. Right. Oh and Molly Yeh, and Lyndsay Sung, Coco Cake Land. I just remember it was so exciting having the five of you together, because at the time you were bloggers, people didn't really know who the person was behind these blogs and these social media accounts, so it was really fun getting to see all of you live and in person.

Deb Perelman: Sorry I couldn't... I was supposed to take my son on a summer sleep away camp tour that day, so I was going to miss Cherry Bombe this year. But I otherwise never miss it. I enjoyed myself so much that year, I think I bought tickets for the next two.

Kerry Diamond: Aww.

Deb Perelman: I'm not a conference person, just Cherry Bombe. I'm just loyal to Cherry Bombe.

Kerry Diamond: Aww. Thanks Deb. Well, I hope that the day comes back soon that we can have live conferences. It's always been such a nice day getting to see everybody in person and really celebrate all the talents in Bombesquad. Speaking of talented Bombesquad members, are you working on another cookbook?

Deb Perelman: Right before this whole thing started, I had gotten my contract and re-negotiated the terms. I'm very slow at cookbooks. I know there are people who crank them out every two years and I'm in awe of that level of productivity. I have managed to crank one out every five years, so... I don't know if it's actually called cranking. Maybe we'd be creaking them out every five years. I swear I'm really good at marketing, by the way, for my cookbooks. This would put me on that same schedule. It's definitely not coming out this year, and it's probably not coming out next. So it's going to be a slow process. But I did want to announce that I started it, because it has been building itself in its own way over the last couple of years that I've not officially been working on it, where I have a recipe and I love it and I really want to stock it away for this book that I was not writing, but now I'm writing it. So some of them are finding a good home there.

Kerry Diamond: Oh well, that's exciting news, so I'm happy to hear that.

Deb Perelman: I always want to tell people about the last thing that I cooked that I was excited about, and the idea of having to wait two to three years to do that is always torture for me. But I'm going to work on that.

Kerry Diamond: Well, thank goodness you have your blog. So Deb, in some non-food news, what are you doing when you're not cooking or homeschooling your children? What are you streaming?

Deb Perelman: I think the background of this is probably true for a lot of people. When we put our kids to bed at night, we have this moment where like, "We're free," and then we open up our phones and we start checking Twitter and we start seeing the news for the day. And then what I call that feeling of staring into the abyss comes back, which the noise and busyness of having kids at home all day has managed to help us avoid. So we started feeling a little bit low at those times, and so we decided to just try to pivot into like a movie watching project, because I feel like movies could be a little more engaging, although I'm always... There are some TV shows I will stop to binge on. So this is completely random, but at the very beginning of this, Vulture published the 100 best movies on Netflix right now, and they're alphabetized, and I think we just made it like midway into the B's. Like, that's our project.

Kerry Diamond: Oh, that's a good project.

Deb Perelman: So we've watched... I like it because we're watching movies we might not otherwise, and then some of them are like just... I don't need to see that again.

Kerry Diamond: Anything you loved?

Deb Perelman: I really liked this movie called Atlantics. It's Atlantic with an S at the end, and it is actually from 2019. It's a West African movie, and it's about... it's like a love story, but it has a little bit of this futuristic... it has a little bit of haunting and people who come back from the dead. It's a really beautiful movie, and I felt like it dropped me right into a world where I had never been and I didn't know much about it, and those to me are my favorite kind of movies, where I'm someplace that I'm not used to being.

Kerry Diamond: So what's for dinner tonight?

Deb Perelman: I am debating between tapping into this huge supply of... My mother-in-law got us a bunch of groceries from the Russian stores. We have a lot of frozen pelmeni to use and I just need to make some space in the freezer, so I might just do it. That's the quick Ukrainian home cooked meal. They're like pierogis, but I don't know, I like them better.

Kerry Diamond: I love pierogis. How are they different from pierogis?

Deb Perelman: This is not true for all. Pelmeni are usually filled with meat and they're more like a large tortellini size, really nicely seasoned. I'm sorry. Even though I'm very bad at marketing, I have to say that I have a recipe for a Siberian pelmeni in my second cookbook, Smitten Kitchen Every Day, and I have a recipe for potato vareniki. Vareniki are usually half moon shaped, and they're often filled with potatoes and sometimes with other vegetables too, like you might see potato and cabbage and potato and mushrooms. I find them overall smaller and more delicate and more bite sized than pierogis, although I'm sure there are pierogis that are not like that. But just generally speaking, they're more like small dumpling sized. I find them a lot more... They're very light for what is basically carbs stuffed in carbs.

Kerry Diamond: How do you serve them?

Deb Perelman: The meat ones are usually boiled and they're served with vinegar and black pepper and salt, and the potato ones are usually served with fried onions or caramelized onions and sour cream, and they're both usually tossed with a little bit of butter before they're served.

Kerry Diamond: You’re making me nostalgic for Veselka which is still one of my favorite restaurants.

Deb Perelman: Oh, I was so sad they had to close. I live very close to them, but they think might be doing a little bit of takeout right now, but I'm not positive. I actually made potato vareniki on my... The recipe is... I thought it was from this year, but it's from almost 10 year ago. Bonnie from Kachka in Portland, Bonnie Frumkin Morales, she came over to my tiny kitchen, and she made potato vareniki with me. She showed me how she makes them at the restaurant, and it was just... it was such a fun project. So I have her recipe on the site, which I've simplified a little bit for people not cooking for a fancy restaurant. It was such a wonderful experience. However, I do think I want to play around with a new kind of broccoli pasta. I still have another hour to decide what direction I want to go in for dinner.

Kerry Diamond: When you say broccoli pasta, what do you mean by that?

Deb Perelman: Playing around with one of those long cooking time broccoli recipes that you sometimes see in Italian cookbooks, where you cook it with anchovies and garlic and pepper flakes, and you cook it for quite... with a good amount of olive oil for a while until it collapses a bit. It's not our usual way of eating broccoli, but I'm craving it for some reason, and we'll finish it with a good sharp pecorino cheese.

Kerry Diamond: You're into the slow and low cooking of vegetables, huh?

Deb Perelman: That's the moment I'm in. I think we've been running from cooking times, they're getting shorter and shorter. We don't even cook our asparagus anymore. I'm feeling this pull in the opposite direction with more time on my hands.

Kerry Diamond: That's it for today's show. Thank you to Deb Perelman for taking the time to chat with me. If you want to support Deb, check out and order one, or if you can, both of her cookbooks from your favorite local bookstore. There's the original Smitten Kitchen and Smitten Kitchen Every Day, triumphant and unfussy new favorites. Tell me, what is better than triumphant and unfussy? Thank you to Red Clay Hot Sauce and the Wines of Rioja for supporting the show. This episode of Radio Cherry Bombe was edited by Kat Garelli. Our theme song is All Fired Up by the band, Tralala. Hang in there everybody, and thank you for listening. You are the Bombe.

When Harry Met Sally Clip: I'll have what she's having.

Sam Spoll: Hi, my name is Sam Spoll and I'm a vegan chef in Chicago. Do you want to know who I think is the Bombe? The founder of Healthy Hood Chicago, Tanya Lozano. In response to the pandemic, she established the, We Got Us Initiative, and they have been successfully delivering food and supplies to people in the underserved communities on the West side of the city.