She’s a Brooklyn native—a Brooklyn Italian, to be exact—who’s made a name for herself in the food industry. She’s a food writer and recipe developer, and has garnered praise from The New York Daily News, Time Out New York, and CNNfn. Her blog, In Jennie’s Kitchen, is a treasure trove of recipes for home cooks. Everyone, say hello to Jennie, known to us here at Tasty Kitchen as jenniferperillo.
Jennifer Perillo traces the start of her career to a Newsweek article about being a personal chef, which her then-boyfriend (now husband) showed her shortly after her father had passed away at the young age of 49. Reminded of the uncertainty and fleeting nature of time, she decided to pursue her dreams with renewed vigor. She started a catering business in 1999, followed by a foray into the New York City restaurant industry. Nowadays, she keeps herself busy at home with her young daughters, but her love for all things culinary remains constant. Her office is now her test kitchen in Brooklyn, and she also works as the consulting food editor for Working Mother magazine.
Jennie’s recipes have won accolades, and her test kitchen not only churns out delicious savory dishes but also staples, condiments, and “supporting role” items that folks often just buy from the store. She even admits to have joined a support group for her addiction to homemade ricotta.
For all the success she’s had, Jennie maintains that she’s still incredibly shy. “My big Brooklyn Italian personality aside, I’m pretty quiet left to my own devices. In fact, I enjoy solitude very much, and while cooking with friends is always fun, sometimes being alone with the veggies and a chopping board is what I need to find an inner balance.” Which is a very good thing, when you look at some of the wonderful dishes she has below that start with that solitary act of chopping veggies. It’s no wonder that her favorite kitchen tool is her Wusthof chef’s knife.
Clockwise from left: Lentil-Ricotta “Meatballs”, Vegetable Fried Rice, Steel Cut Oats with Caramelized Onions and Ricotta, and Fried Green Tomatoes.
When asked if she has any favorite chefs or food celebrities, Jennie answered: “The real celebrities are the men and women getting into the kitchen on a daily basis and giving the gift of a home-cooked meal to their families. Creating recipes for home cooks to make their lives easier and tastier is my inspiration.” Easy and tasty indeed, like the wonderful vegetarian French Onion Soup you see below.
Some of her favorite food pairings are garlic and oil, tomatoes and basil, and chocolate and salt. Wait. Did someone say chocolate?
I could look at that fudge brownie all day. In fact, I think I’ll do just that while you read even more about Jennie and find out what ingredient she reaches for at the end of the day.
Q: What do you enjoy most about cooking?
A: That’s easy—the sense of control and order. In a world that seems crazy and sometimes just doesn’t make sense, I know that when I cut cold butter into flour, baking powder, baking soda, sugar and salt, and add some buttermilk, then the guaranteed end result will be light and fluffy biscuits. And knowing I’m nourishing people and adding a smile to the faces of friends and family is a sweet reward too.
Q: What is the strangest food or food combo that you really, really enjoy?
A: When I was a kid I was intrigued by Laverne’s Pepsi & milk concoction, but I wanted to create something different. So I used to drink milk and orange juice together. Sounds gross, but it’s like a liquid creamsicle. I haven’t tried it in years, so might feel a little differently now.
Q: If you had to eat something right now, and had only 3 minutes to get it ready, what would it be?
A: The devil’s food cupcake sitting on my kitchen counter. It’s not homemade, but from a local chocolate shop that I modeled my signature recipe after. I bought it for the Mr. a few days ago and can you believe he hasn’t even licked the frosting off it yet? [Editor’s note: I’d chime in and say I can’t believe that, but I’m still ogling that fudge brownie.]
Q: Most memorable kitchen disaster?
A: Well, that would be just last week. For whatever reason, the waffles I made for breakfast the other day were a disaster. I blame it on mixing the batter before having a sip of coffee. Or maybe it was the baby clinging to my leg. Obviously, I forgot something. Thankfully we had some yummy homemade strawberry jam on hand and spread it on toast with butter. An acceptable comeback in my opinion.
Q: Complete the sentence: “I panic when I realize that I’m out of …”
A: Seriously, I never panic when I’m out of an ingredient. I just look at it as an opportunity to put a different twist on the recipe. Oh, wait does bourbon count? Because I really enjoy sidecars and old fashioneds, so maybe that might make me a bit nervous, especially come 5:00pm.
Q: Give us one of your favorite kitchen tips that you wish you’d always known.
A: That canning really is easy to do at home. Once you get past the fear of botulism, canning done properly is quick, easy and economical.
Thank you for answering our questions, Jennifer!
You can see more of Jennifer’s recipes here in her Tasty Kitchen recipe box. If you want to see even more (and I know you do), head over to her blog, In Jennie’s Kitchen. It’s filled with so many goodies and great tips, and there’s a very good chance you’ll learn a thing or two from her.