Friday, August 19, 2022

There are a few things you need to know about “peas love & carrots, the cookbook.”

The first is that “peas love & carrots” is the brainchild of Jerusalem resident Danielle Renov who, with her children fast asleep and her husband out of town, decided to dip her toes into the seemingly endless waters of Instagram one fateful night approximately five years ago. Taking on a name that had just popped into her head, Renov decided to share a personal stash of original recipes on social media and the rest, as they say, is history. When Instagram debuted its stories feature a short time later, Renov was quick to hop on board doing demos, building relationships and amassing an impressively large base of fans who found her to be both likable and relatable.

Which brings us to the second thing you need to know about “peas love & carrots.” Yes, this is a cookbook with more than 250 recipes, but “peas love & carrots” is so much more than just a collection of appetizing recipes and gorgeous pictures. Peppered with generous servings of humor and a full commentary on every dish, reading this book is like chilling with a close friend, one who gets you and understands what real life is all about. That sense of approachability and feeling of connection are the secret behind Renov’s popularity and the many anecdotes, tidbits and, of course, cooking tips in the cookbook are filled with heart, which is what “peas love & carrots” is all about.

Last but not least in my unofficial intro to Renov’s labor of love (with a side of peas and carrots, of course) is that this is as much a book about cooking as it is a cookbook. Think of “peas love & carrots” as Cooking 101 at your local community college, with kitchen newbies gently ushered into a new world with clear, step-by-step instructions. Renov’s “86 things I want you to know about this book + cooking in general” is full of practical advice such as putting on comfortable shoes when you cook and understanding the difference between kosher and table salt. Sticking to the “keeping it real” format that has earned her more than 62,600 Instagram followers, Renov discusses her fondness for cloth napkins and kitchen timers while making clear her aversion to celery strings and raisins, which she describes as the unfulfilled potential of grapes, adding, “They could have been wine. Now they are ruining noodle kugel for children everywhere.”

Ironically, while Renov had been amassing original recipes that gave voice to both her Ashkenazic and Sephardic roots for years, she never intended to publish a cookbook. But life has a way of just happening, and in her introduction, Renov explains that “peas love & carrots” was created as a thank you to both God and her followers. Clearly the demand for Renov to compile her recipes was there because the cookbook sold 42,000 copies in just four weeks, its first printing of 18,000 books selling out completely before they could even be delivered to ArtScroll’s warehouse.

I know it sounds cliché, but there really is something for everyone in “peas love & carrots,” with recipes ranging from easy weeknight dinners to more elaborate spreads for Shabbos or Yom Tov and everything in between. Renov starts with the basics, listing an impressive repertoire of homemade mayonnaises and a wide range of dips including pistachio olive and sesame-free almond techina. She goes big with a full-page recipe for sautéed onions that calls for 40 onions that slow cook for hours, correctly pointing out that just about everything tastes better with the addition of well-browned onions. Salads and dressings play a significant role in “peas love & carrots,” some amped up with proteins such as fish, chicken or cheese, while others feature just veggies in all their glory.

My favorites here? The sheet-pan pizza that lets you mix things up so that everyone gets their favorite slice without having to take out multiple cookie sheets, the baked hoisin-sriracha chicken egg rolls, made with leftover chicken and, because I love all things chocolate, especially when paired with flakes of Maldon salt, the dark-chocolate almond joy truffles. Don’t forget to check out some of Renov’s truly inspired creations including the tomato soup with cheddar cheese matzah balls (yes, you read that right), bar-b-cumin’d carrots with a touch of lime and the bourbon-braised short rib recipe that works equally well on full-sized roasts and is laced with a full 12 ounces of bourbon. I also have to give a special shout out to the no-boil, no-dishes corned beef that I tried out two weeks ago on a piece of meat that I was worried might have a little bit of a boingy texture, something that isn’t exactly a plus in a main dish. It came out perfectly textured and my reservations about using a full three tablespoons of dry mustard on the meat rapidly disappeared as everyone at the table devoured the corned beef. Learn from my mistakes and be super careful when you remove the meat from the foil, or you will end up with a saucy mess all over your kitchen counters that really isn’t all that much fun to clean up.

Be sure to take note of Moshe Wulliger’s stunning photographs and Renov’s chapter headings offering plays on words such as “an apron is just a capon backwards” before the poultry section and “they lived apple-y ever after” preceding the desserts. “peas love & carrots” will keep you smiling as you slice, dice and sauté your way through its 432 pages, its French Moroccan, Eastern European, Israeli and American flavors reflecting Renov’s heritage as well as her Five Towns upbringing and her current Israeli existence, offering a trip around the world, through time and into its author’s heart.

Sandy Eller is a freelance writer who writes for numerous websites, newspapers, magazines and private clients. She can be contacted at [email protected]

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