Deb Perelman Of Smitten Kitchen Shares Her Favorite Kitchen Shortcuts

Cooking in a tiny New York City kitchen is stressful. Cooking in a tiny New York City kitchen for millions of new followers, and coming up with new recipes on a weekly basis, makes that normal stress of not having a dishwasher feel like nothing. But Deb Perelman, whose blog Smitten Kitchen has been around for over ten years (a.k.a. forever in blog years), pulls it all off somehow, continually inspiring us with new seasonal, eye-catching creations.

So what's her secret? While we'd like to think it was a superhuman ability she was just born with, Perelman says she has "no arrogance" when it comes to cooking, and instead makes it work with hacks, shortcuts, and tips learned over years of experimenting.

Her second cookbook, Smitten Kitchen Every Day, is all about what she calls the "happy discoveries" that have allowed her to cook amazing meals without much work or time. But before we dog-eared the book for recipes to try, we got a chance to chat with Perelman about her go-to tricks and tips to elevate every meal of the day with just a little prep. In other words: Here's how to live the Smitten Kitchen life even if you're just barely able to boil water.

Ahead, five tips you can steal from Smitten Kitchen right now.

Make Your Own Salad Dressing & Keep It On Hand

Perelman likes keeping a big batch of her favorite homemade dressing (in her case, an easy Caesar) on hand as a way to jumpstart salads. Better than store-bought, all it needs is a bag of greens and you have an instant side-dish.

"We use dressing on a thin-sliced cauliflower salad, or a thin-sliced broccoli salad, or even on a slaw mix," she says. By making a double or triple batch of it, you can add it to meals for one or for a group as needed.

For bonus points, you can also make your own croutons with bread that's about to go stale. Perelman's "crushed" croutons made from bread crumbs can be stored in an air-tight container in the fridge and add texture to a simple salad.
Toast Nuts & Put Them On Everything

"I think that toasted nuts taste 500 times better than un-toasted nuts," says Perelman. Unconvinced? She describes a well-toasted almond as "almond candy." Even lightly-toasted nuts from the store can use an extra trip in the oven.

"If I have the time when I come home, if I bought [pre-toasted] pecans or walnuts or almonds, I will pop them in the oven again," she says. Pre-heat the oven to 350°F and pop in a sheet tray with the nuts spread out on top. and keep a close eye on it, tossing frequently. Then, anywhere between 7-12 minutes, take them out when the kitchen starts to smell toasty (but not burnt). Let them cool and store in a jar. You have an easy, delicious snack, salad add-in, and even topping for granola, oatmeal, or yogurt.
Make Pie For Breakfast (Sort Of) & Eat It All Week

Overnight oats are a common breakfast recipe these days, but Perelman offers an easy twist that will keep it from getting boring. Before a recent trip, she baked apples for her son and layered the overnight oat ingredients on top for a sweet, pie-inspired breakfast.

"I love to use juice glasses," she says, " I feel like they're the perfect size. But if you want have something that you can take it to work, you can use small jars or containers," she says. Start by baking apples (or any fruit that would taste good baked, like pears or bananas) and sprinkling them with a bit of sugar, cinnamon, a pinch of salt, or whatever you want. Cook at around 350°F in a casserole dish until soft, adjusting for your own preference. Then place the baked fruit in the bottom of a jar, top with rolled oats and milk or almond milk and let sit over night. The next morning, you can eat it cold or heat it up for a warming winter breakfast.

She even suggested an idea for the PSL lovers: bake canned pumpkin like you would for a pie, using around half as much sugar as your favorite recipe calls for (but adjusting as needed), then placing the filling in the bottom of jars for a breakfast-friendly pumpkin pie that is actually pretty healthy.
Slow-Roast Tomatoes On Sunday & Enjoy Them All Week Long

Another easy prep idea (that will also make your kitchen smell amazing) is a perfect Sunday project that will take boring, midwinter cherry tomatoes into something exciting. Slow-roasted tomatoes, look (and taste) amazing with fresh summer produce, but can be made year-round. Baking them on low for several hours yields what Perelman calls, "little sweet/salt packets" that can be added to boring salads, grain bowls, pastas, and roasted meats to make something really delicious.

You can also also add whole garlic cloves in the skin to the pan. After they've cooled, drizzle the peeled garlic and tomatoes with lots of olive oil and you've got a spread that is great for toast or easy, fancy cheese plates. It's one of Perelman's most popular recipes for a reason.
Buy A Can Of Tomatoes & Have Dinner In A Flash

One of Perelman's most iconic Smitten Kitchen recipes she actually didn't come up with herself. The three-ingredient recipe from Marcela Hazan is simply made with canned tomatoes, butter, and an onion. In other words, what are the odds you already have an onion at home, and a stick of butter, and some pasta? (Really, you just need to keep the canned tomatoes on hand, too, and you can make dinner in a flash — no grocery shopping required.)

"It's the most luxurious tomato sauce in the entire world," Perelman says of the recipe. It doesn't even need Parmesan (though, of course, you're free to add that as well). It's the kind of "back-pocket" recipe that requires very little work, doesn't cost much, and doesn't feel like a punishment for not wanting to go to the grocery store (or being too broke to spring for delivery that day).

"I mean who doesn't want that," says Perleman. "Everybody wants to know how to turn a can of tomatoes into to dinner." And thanks to her, we can.