Usually when I buy a cookbook, I leaf through it, read it in bed, and count myself lucky if there is a recipe or two I want to try. HOMEMADE WITH LOVE: Simple Scratch Cooking from In Jennie’s Kitchen by Jennifer Perillo is different. As soon as I opened it and saw Penny De Los Santos’s gorgeous photos, I wanted to try half a dozen recipes.
Jennifer Perillo writes In Jennie’s Kitchen (www.injennieskitchen.com), a blog where she has shared culinary advice for time-challenged working parents and cooks since 2006. Jennie Perillo is the consulting food editor at Working Mothermagazine. Self-trained, she has worked in some of New York City’s top restaurants including Grammercy Tavern and Alain Ducasse at the Essex House. She is clearly an expert cook, who, as a mother, a wife (she lost her husband, Mikey, suddenly in 2011), and a working woman, has developed a style that is simple yet delicious.
It took several weeks to write this review as I enthusiastically explored the cookbook and invited friends and family to share the delicious meals I produced. ‘From scratch cooking’ takes a little time and planning, but the results are definitely worth it and Jennie’s shortcuts make it easy.
As much as I was intrigued, I was a little skeptical. Why would I make my own ricotta? The ingredients are simple: buttermilk, milk, cream and salt. The hands-on time is minimal. The result? The creamiest ricotta I have ever tasted. Once I made it, I used it plain for a hors d’oeuvre, then had some with fresh strawberries for breakfast. As soon as it was gone, I wanted more. At a press party celebrating the publication of HOMEMADE WITH LOVE, we feasted on several dishes cooked by Jennie Perillo herself. She served the ricotta on a plain crostini with a drizzle of honey on top. Wonderful!
Several recipes that can be made ahead of time, like the ricotta, are used in other recipes. I made the Creamy Homemade Ricotta, Molasses-Simmered Onions, Slow-Roasted Tomatoes, and 20-Minute Marinara over two days and refrigerated them. Each of these recipes takes very little actual hands-on time – once cooking, they simmer or roast on their own.
For my first dinner showcasing recipes from HOMEMADE WITH LOVE: Simple Scratch Cooking from In Jennie’s Kitchen, I had saved enough ricotta to make a Summer Squash, Ricotta, and Lemon Thyme Tart with a whole-wheat pastry crust. One of my guests described the crust as tasting like a savory graham cracker. I also made Crispy Thin Crust Pizza with the Slow-Roasted Tomatoes, Sicilian Meatballs with Marinara Sauce, then French Onion Cheese Buns made from half of the pizza crust dough stuffed with the Molasses-Simmered Onions and lots of Gruyere cheese.
I cooked straight from the HOMEMADE WITH LOVE recipes, no substitutions or additions and just tasting for salt – not the way I usually cook from a cookbook. Each dish was greeted with delight, requests for “just a little more,” and “the recipe, please.”
I had made lots of the marinara sauce, so I was ready for another night when two vegetarian cousins joined several of us omnivores. The sauce went on Lentil Ricotta ‘Meatballs.’ Happily, I did have to make more ricotta. I also served A Simple Roast Chicken and Slow-Roasted Tomato and Fresh Mozzarella Panzanella made with Parmesan Skillet Croutons and the slow-roasted tomatoes originally made for the pizza. I almost forgot to put the mozzarella in - after all, I did not make that!
Wow! I have never made so many recipes from one cookbook in so short a time. Almost every recipe was easy and turned out well – I learned I need to practice my croutons. At the press party where Jennie Perillo herself made the food so we could taste how good it is, the croutons were crispy with Parmesan, but my Parmesan fell off. Hey – I can write to Jennifer Perillo and ask her a question on the blog! How great! I can’t do that with my Julia Child cookbooks.
Experienced cooks and novices both will enjoy reading and using HOMEMADE WITH LOVE: Simple Scratch Cooking from In Jennie’s Kitchen. It is published by Running Press.
Photo of Jennie Perillo by Penny De Los Santos, reprinted from: Homemade with Love by Jennifer Perillo. All other photos by Gloria Henllan-Jones.