on my cookbook shelf: the smitten kitchen cookbook (and a giveaway!)

My introduction into the world of food blogging came several years ago when I discovered a beautiful site called Smitten Kitchen, written by Deb Perelman. I was initially drawn to the aesthetic of the site — it was, and still is, simple and clean, without distracting elements on the pages. The food photography is consistent and nearly prop-free, with the focus where it should be — on the food. Deb’s posts are witty and engaging, and even before I met her last year, her conversational writing style made it feel as though I knew her already.

When Deb announced her cookbook a couple of years ago or so, I wasn’t surprised. If anyone deserved to have a published cookbook, if anyone should write a cookbook, it was Deb Perelman. And when she announced that her book was available for advance orders, I bought it. Immediately. In April.

The wait was awful, I must tell you.

However, the several month-long wait was worth it. The book arrived on my doorstep at the end of October, and the 322-page, hardback beauty is all it’s cracked up to be.

Each recipe is accompanied by an extensive headnote explaining the backstory of the recipe with tips on preparation, and the headnotes are written in the clever and humorous style that Deb’s blog posts are known for. She’s taken all the photos herself, and they do each recipe justice.

The best part of the Smitten Kitchen recipes is that they’re well-tested in a home kitchen. I always know her recipes will work for me. And they’ll work for you too.

One of the first recipes from the cookbook on my list to make was for a flourless chocolate cake, the “tiny but intense chocolate cake” in the Sweets section.

Following Deb’s advice, I bought a 6-inch cake pan, but not the springform cake pan she used. Instead, I used this Fat Daddio cheesecake pan, with a removable bottom. Instead of having to deal with the latch on the springform outer band, I just had to push the cake right out of the pan. Easy, peasy, chicken-squeezy, as my children would say.

(I have since bought more of those Fat Daddio pans — they’re brilliant.)

I prepared and baked this cake in under an hour and with only the aid of a hand mixer, not the stand mixer. Now, I love my stand mixer, but I’m not always thrilled with having to clean it up after. Cleaning up the beaters of a hand mixer? Easy.

The cake was dense, almost like a brownie, and with the right amount of sweetness. I find that many flourless chocolate cakes are too bitter, but Deb’s recipe calls for semi-sweet chocolate and just the right amount of sugar. The cake was indeed tiny but intense, but not overly intense.

I can’t share the recipe with you, but you can find it on page 250 of The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook. See? There’s one sweet reason to go buy this book.

For those of you who can’t wait until the holidays, buy this as a gift for yourself now. You’ll love it. If you have patience, unlike me, ask for it for the holidays this year. Or if you’re feeling generous, which I know you are, buy it for someone you love.

You can buy The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook through Amazon or at  your local independent bookseller.

~ Wait! There’s a Giveaway! ~

The good folks at the Alfred A. Knopf publishing company were gracious enough to allow me to give a copy of Deb’s book to one of my readers, so here’s your chance to get a copy of The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook for free.

to enter:

It’s very simple to enter — no hoops to jump through.  Just leave me a comment below – tell me something you’ve been smitten with lately. A new book? A song? A great nail polish? A favorite slow cooker recipe? Do tell!

the fine print:

I’ll close comments on Wednesday, November 21 at 12 noon EST, and I’ll randomly select a winner from the comments. Please, only one comment per person, and you must live in the US or Canada to win the giveaway.

 ** update! **

Here’s the winner!

Congratulations, Nicole! You’re going to love this book so much.

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24 Responses to “review & giveaway: spoon fed by kim severson”

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    Liz the Chef — February 27, 2011 @ 8:08 pm

    Lucky you! I have read Kim’s book twice and also devoured it! LOL re your daughter’s tantrum – and I feel certain Kim totally understood. What a thrill for you – so pleased – isn’t blogging fun?!

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    Brian @ A Thought For Food — February 27, 2011 @ 8:22 pm

    What a fantastic story and a great giveaway! An easy answer would be my mother… and as corny as it sounds, it’s the truth. She taught me everything I know and continues to be a huge inspiration. What is truly incredibly about my mom is the fact that, due to a number of health issues, she’s unable to most of the food she makes. But almost every one of the dishes she’s made have been so flavorful… it really is a miraculous feat.

    Of course, there are professional chefs that inspire me… but I’m sticking with my mother.

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    Donna — February 27, 2011 @ 8:25 pm

    I love memoirs and I love cooking so any book that combines real life stories and cooking is a treat for me. (I have a blog where I write about life, faith, and food and I’m working on a memoir/cookbook.) One collection of stories and recipes that left an impression on me is Being Dead Is No Excuse (The Official Southern Ladies Guide to Hosting a Funeral) by Gayden Metcalfe and Charlotte Hayes. It’s hilarious and it has a great collection of funeral food recipes–coconut cakes and chicken salad and several pimento cheese recipes. It was such a fun read!

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    Tenley — February 27, 2011 @ 8:50 pm

    I have to say my aunt introduced me to a love of gourmet food publications, sites and most of all, recipes that dared to test my ability and really provided a challenge and ultimate sense of accomplishment and pride. She taught me the basics of cooking and introduced me to the next level as well. Now, my family boasts many wonderful cooks and much of our time together is spent cooking and talking about food.

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    Michelle Murphy — February 27, 2011 @ 9:14 pm

    Kim’s book sounds like a wonderful, delicious read … I’d love the chance to devour it, ha ha! When I think about cooks who’ve made an impression on me, one of the first who springs to mind is my dear friend Eileen. We met 20 years ago, when our first children were just a year old and we were navigating the new world of motherhood/home-keeping. Though neither of us had much extra money in those days, Eileen taught me never to skimp on quality ingredients, to be ambitious in my recipes/cooking, and to make even simple lunches into real “occasions” by setting pretty tables and using the good dishes — lessons I took to heart and still practice today!

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    My grandmother is my inspiration, she’s the one who brought cooking to life for me, her joy and love permeated everything she touched in the kitchen. It is from her that I learned to celebrate the pleasures of food.

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    Lana — February 28, 2011 @ 4:04 am

    That is a wonderful story. I think that Kim Severson probably appreciated and fully understood the moment when your daughter decided to show her personality:) Mothers have a common bond after all. I am so happy you had such an experience, especially because you did not seek it, it found you:)
    My favorite cookbooks are the ones which tell the stories and let me get a glimpse of the author’s life. I did not read Kim’s book, but I think that it would be a great reading material.
    I learned an awful lot from my mother who is a great cook, and I have to put her in the first place. My Aunt, her sister, though, taught me how to relax in the kitchen and embrace the process, instead of fretting about it.

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    Amelia — February 28, 2011 @ 10:45 am

    I would have to say Mom and the sudden advent of cooking blogs. I get so much inspiration from other peoples blogs.

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    Lynda — February 28, 2011 @ 11:03 am

    I can thoroughly picture the minivan and tantrum – hilarious (after the fact) for sure…
    I’ve had much inspiration, but what comes to mind right now are our dear friends Georg and Carola in Switzerland. They live simply within their means, yet each night is a feast featuring fresh, local food procured from their garden and the local markets. Dinners last several hours in the European way, beginning with an apero, followed by charcuterie, then perhaps a homemade pasta, then a meat or fish simply prepared, followed by a simple salad. Then follows the cheese, a worthy dessert in and of itself, followed by fresh fruit or perhaps a homemade sorbet. I strive to keep this tradition alive in our own family life now that we are in the US (which at times requires more mindfulness) – emphasizing the pleasure of preparing and eating delicious, fresh food while treasuring our time and company together.

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    Sherri — February 28, 2011 @ 12:34 pm

    I really enjoyed your piece on being interviewed by Kim.

    I wanted to cook from the first time I saw Julia Child on PBS as a small child. I was just fascinated by all the ‘exotic’ dishes she prepared. I’d watch my mother in the kitchen and question her endlessly about ingredients and techniques.

    Thankfully, Mum has always had a garden (and a very green thumb) and fruit trees in abundance. As kids, my sisters and I would be enlisted to help plant, weed and harvest the bounty. This also sparked a lifelong quest for the finest, freshest ingredients available.

    I was about 13 or so when Mom finally redecorated the kitchen, installed all new appliances and a set of cookbooks from around the world. Upon revealing this to me, she walked out and simply said, “I quit.” She would prepare holiday meals and an odd pot of something delicious but as no one would show up, she was done with making dinner. She provided us with everything we needed and I would spend hours experimenting and investigating cuisines and cultures previously alien to me.

    Thanks to that first set of international books, I now collect cookbooks and am constantly expanding my knowledge and technique in the kitchen.

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    Barbara | VinoLuciStyle — February 28, 2011 @ 3:19 pm

    You took me back a few years…to the land of minivans and tantrums but then just as quickly to those memories of time in the kitchen with my Grandma.

    My mom was a good cook; actually a very good cook but with 6 kids we always had a lot of the same thing; foods that were easy to prepare and serve to a large family so spaghetti, stew and meatloaf topped that list. Helping my mom was work; I don’t recall it being a fun time for either of us…it was quite simply getting dinner on the table.

    But time with my Grandma Bathe was special. Special because I was there for a day without that herd of siblings, special because she could share techniques and recipes with me before I was really old enough to care as I do now. And special because everything she did, for everyone, was out of love. Even when I showed up unannounced on a Sunday afternoon, the first words out of her mouth were, ‘Barbie, can I get you something to eat?’ and she always seemed to have a treasure trove of goodies just waiting in the fridge.

    I know I would love this book…it’s those stories that are associated with some of my favorite dishes that make them most important to me.

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    David Dadekian — February 28, 2011 @ 7:56 pm

    I could list a few great RI chefs I’ve worked with, but I’m going with my early, early influence: my best friend’s Italian mother. She made a huge impression on me, cooking rabbit and squid and all sorts of delicious, fantastic Italian food at home. Great fun.

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    Paula - bell'alimento — February 28, 2011 @ 8:08 pm

    One of the many high notes of food blog south was meeting Kim Severson. She is a GEM and I can’t wait to read her book. My Mom and Grandma were the ones who lit the cooking fire in me and there have been so many others along the way but they were the fire starters ; )

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    Jennifer (Savor) — February 28, 2011 @ 8:13 pm

    This sounds like a glorious read! I am happy you were able to meet her.

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    Lucy — March 1, 2011 @ 10:44 am

    Great story on your interview. Kids can truly interrupt our lives, and in that moment we think it’s hugely important, but in the grand scheme of things it doesn’t amount to a hill of beans. . The only people who don’t understand are the parenting experts — those who don’t have kids!

    My biggest influence in cooking has been my grandmother. She cooked three meals a day for many, many years, and made it seem effortless. And everything was delicious. Killing us with saturated fat, but delicious all the same.

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    Brandy Truex — March 1, 2011 @ 1:49 pm

    Thanks for the book recommendation. My mom inspired my love of cooking by making me and my sister help make dinner every night. I made a lot of Rice A Roni, that was usually my job. When I graduated college and started dating, I found I only had a couple of dishes to make for the “special someone”: baked chicken (with cornflake crumbs) and tuna casserole. I wanted to do better. So my lack of knowledge about cooking led me to start a monthly “Supper Club” with 10 girlfriends back in 1999. The main rule is you have to try a recipe you have never tired before, give out any tips if necessary and provide the recipes. The group has morphed over time and has held strong with the same five couples (four girls from the original 10) for about 7 years. I have learned so much!! I am not initmidated by new recipes and I have a much better sense in the kitchen. I even started a small kitchen garden two years ago so I can have fresh herbs!

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    Gail — March 1, 2011 @ 1:58 pm

    I’d love a chance to win this book!!! My Aunt Evelyn was one of the greatest home bakers EVER!
    I used to love to watch her swirl the chocolate fudge icing on her incredible mocha cake…she did it so effortlessly. I could be in her kitchen for hours while she’d make her famous jelly roll for her favorite brother-in-law, who happened to be my father. Everything Evelyn touched was beautiful
    and delicious.
    But, this memory outweighs them all….when my mother was in the hospital giving birth to my brother, I stayed with my Aunt Evelyn & Uncle Leo. Evelyn was making spaghetti sauce. She pulled up a chair, tied a big apron around me and gave me a wooden spoon so I could stir. I don’t think there was a better food memory for me…I really thought I was cooking! And, later on, Evelyn gave the credit for the sauce to me.
    It doesn’t sound like much, I know, but in our house, I was barely allowed in the kitchen for fear I’d get hurt or make a mess. This was NIRVANA!

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    Janis — March 1, 2011 @ 8:01 pm

    Love your story.
    When I was a kid my brother who is 8 years older than me intrigued me with his cooking. Now when we visit each other we love cooking together.

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    fooddreamer — March 1, 2011 @ 8:48 pm

    It looks like a great book and I am so glad you made a personal connection with her. I’d have to say that my whole family of in-laws, particularly my father in law, inspire me. They all love to cook and life is lived around the meals and food they prepare. I am pretty certain I would not have been allowed to marry my husband if I didn’t like cooking!

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    Ethan — March 2, 2011 @ 10:09 am

    Wonderful giveaway and great story MJ and I’m sure you provided Kim with a good chuckle while you were bartering in the van over a cookie.
    Although both my parents are great in the kitchen, I will always remember the passion and happiness my Bubbie had cooking for her grandchildren.

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    Mardi@eatlivetravelwrite — March 2, 2011 @ 3:32 pm

    the cooks who have taught me life lessons are actually my petits chefs. I think I am teaching them so much yet I learn so much from them in return 🙂

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    I would have to say my mother. Growing up I was always aware of the fact that she was a great cook but it wasn’t until I moved out on my own that I truly began to appreciate her skill. Now, a month away from my own wedding I am learning to cook and blogging about it.

    What a fantastic book – I would LOVE to read it.

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    Fuji Mama — March 3, 2011 @ 10:07 pm

    The book sounds fabulous! My dad’s mom was the person who really taught my own mom how to cook. My mom’s mom was a widowed singled mother who taught elementary school, and so threw together quick meals. My mom, as a result, learned the basics, but never really learned the love of food until she met my dad and then his mom. My grandmother is a phenomenal cook, and my mom quickly became one as well. If it wasn’t for my grandmother, I wouldn’t have the love for food and cooking that I do now!

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    Bakeanything — March 3, 2011 @ 10:19 pm

    My nanny taught me the things I needed to know. She was from a foreign land and spoke poor English but we connected through food. She taught me how to appreciate homegrown garden vegetables and simple meals. Because of her I’m a full time pastry cook (:

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