Jennifer Perillo is the food editor at Working Mother magazine, contributes to the Food Network blog, and worked in notable New York restaurants Gramercy Tavern and Alain Ducasse at the Essex House. Her recipes have appeared in Parenting, Kiwi, and Relish magazines, and she publishes In Jennie’s Kitchen, a food and lifestyle blog dedicated to from-scratch cooking, one recipe at a time. She lives with her two daughters in Brooklyn, New York.
Q&A with Jennifer Perillo1. What was your inspiration for this book?I wrote Homemade with Love to show that there’s a great cook inside all of us. Too often, people tell me that they’re not a good in the kitchen. The first question I ask them is what do they mean by “good”. Usually they respond by saying they cook the same few meals all the time. I then ask them if they’re friends and family like what they cook, to which the answer is almost always “yes.”
So, really, they’re doing a great job, they just need help learning new techniques to expand their comfort zone in the kitchen. That’s where Homemade with Love comes in—it’s all about sharing easy to understand techniques that everyone can use to cook from scratch with minimal fuss and maximum flavor.2. Every recipe in this book has a special story behind it. Can you share some of your favorite recipes and the stories that inspired you to create them.Every recipe in the book is a favorite; they were included for a reason. The ones I am most proud of, though, are the All-Purpose Baking MixandWhole-Grain Baking Mix. You can make everything from pancakes to cupcakes with them! Baking is intimidating for many home cooks, so they rely on store-bought mixes to get the job done. Reading those labels can be scary—they need ingredients you can’t pronounce to make them last in warehouses and on supermarket shelves. My All-Purpose Baking Mix comes together with five simple ingredients—flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. I bet you were able to pronounce all of them, too. Recipes that use Jennie’s homemade baking mixes include: Vanilla Blueberry waffles, Orange-Scented Waffles, Fluffy Buttermilk Pancakes, Greek Yogurt Pancakes, Lemon Blueberry Muffins, Clementine & Pistachio Crumb Muffins, Chocolate Tres Leches Cake, and Deep Chocolate Cupcakes. 3. The recipes in the book seem a bit intimidating as if they came from a top restaurant - is it really that easy to re-create these dishes at home?Let’s look closer at one of the easiest recipes in the book, as an example. Whole Roasted Branzino sounds complicated, right? I mean, most home cooks are used to filets. Once you read the recipe, you realize it only needs seven ingredients. Most of the complicated work, cleaning and scaling the fish, is done by the fish market. Once you get it home, all you need to do is stuff it with some garlic, lemon and parsley. Add a drizzle of olive oil, some salt & pepper, and you’ll be ready to sit down to a fine dining quality meal in 25 minutes.
4. You've managed to involve your daughters in the cooking process too - what are some great recipes that parents can do with their kids?Kids love baking, and mine are no different. The muffin and scone recipes in Homemade with Love are especially fun because you don’t need any special tools. In fact, this is one of those times when kids get to play with their food, as they use their fingers to rub the butter into the flour mixture to make the dough. The All-Purpose Baking Mix (I told you I really love this one) also makes it super quick and easy for kids to make breakfast—all by themselves! That’s a big plus, with Mother’s Day right around the corner.
5. You have an extremely popular food blog, In Jennie's Kitchen -- how did that first come about and how have your readers supported you over the years.My blog has always been about the stories, and how food fits into my life. That’s why I started In Jennie’s Kitchen—to find my voice outside of writing for magazines. I love baking, but I don’t sugar coat things, especially during this last year and half. Life is messy and complicated, but it’s also extremely fulfilling and rewarding if you work at finding inspiration in the big and small moments. My readers have been an incredible source of inspiration and encouragement, especially just after my husband died. I posted a recipe for Peanut Butter Pie a few days before his memorial in August of 2011. The intention was really to give friends who couldn’t attend a way to be there in spirit, to honor the life and love of someone very special to me. After I shared the recipe, the most incredible act of kindness then happened. It is literally the pie made around the world—Buenos Aires, France, Italy, Amsterdam and people in many more places opened their hearts and kitchens to celebrate love and his life, by making A Pie for Mikey.6. What chefs or home cooks have inspired you the most and why?The everyday folks like myself, juggling a career, family and trying to retain some sense of a personal life—those are the cooks that inspire me. It may sound generic, but it’s true. They are the reason I love creating recipes, to offer a helping hand and make their lives in the kitchen easier, and most importantly enjoyable.7. What are some must have ingredients any home chef should have in their kitchen?I get this question a lot, and really that all depends on what you like to cook. Do you love making mostly savory dishes? Is baking your passion? Or do you love both? It matters when you approach the best way to stock up on both tools and ingredients. I included my essentials in the Build a Better Pantry chapter. As for tools, there are three I always pack when going away for a long trip: my chef’s knife, a set of tongs and a cutting board.8. Where can you find Homemade with Love?It’s available at bookstores nationwide, and online at Amazon (in the U.S. and Canada), Barnes & Noble, Indie Bound and The Book Depository (free international shipping). For more new and original recipes, in addition to what you’ll find in Homemade with Love, visit me online at InJenniesKitchen.com