Friday, September 21, 2018
Cooking

Cookbook review: An eclectic collection makes up food blogger's 'Molly on the Range: Recipes and Stories from an Unlikely Life on a Farm'

Every Thursday, a timer goes off on Molly Yeh's phone reminding her to start the dough for the unbreakable ritual of Friday Pizza Night. Friday Pizza Night is sacred whether her family is traveling, at home or during harvest when her husband works long days on the family farm and they eat slices on a tractor.

There are some other things you should know about the immensely popular food blogger. Her blog, mynameisyeh.com, was chosen as Saveur's Blog of the Year for 2015. She has 171,000 followers on Instagram, and hundreds of thousands of monthly visitors to her site. She is on Team Cake, not Team Pie. The only all-nighter the Juilliard grad has ever pulled was in the name of doughnuts. Her first cookbook, Molly on the Range, includes a macaroni and cheese flow chart and a diagram for a schnitzel costume, which she made for Halloween after winning a month of free schnitzel from a food truck in New York City.

Yeh, 27, who has kept a journal most of her life, has honed a conversational, inviting tone that is key to attracting so many online followers and translates well into a bound book.

The cookbook is organized into four sections — Breakfast and Brunch, Mains, Snacks and Celebrations, and Desserts — and is like a timeline of her life in the form of recipes. It starts in Chicago suburbia, where it looks like she got the same '90s kid starter pack I did, complete with Furby, Tamagotchi and Lunchables. Like Yeh, I'll never forget the moment the Lindsay Lohan twins in the 1998 version of The Parent Trap realize they both dip their Oreos in peanut butter. Yeh's shout-out to this food moment comes in the form of a recipe for chocolate cookies stuffed with a sweet peanut butter filling.

The book moves forward quickly with her mom's matzo brei and recipes for hummus and pita, informed by her trips to Israel. From there, she goes to New York City to study percussion. This part includes one of the best recipe titles I've read: Spaghetti and My Ex-Boyfriend's Meatless Balls, which comes with the story of a macho vegetarian boyfriend, a breakup and the determination to get his mom's vegan meatball recipe because it was too good to let go. She meets her future husband, a trombonist and fifth-generation beet farmer she nicknames Eggboy, and eventually moves to his family's farm in East Grand Forks near the North Dakota-Minnesota border. She becomes well-versed in hotdish, offering a version featuring Minnesota wild rice, ras el hanout and dates.

Yeh's recipes are often inspired by her Chinese and Jewish roots and her trips around the world. Fresh rhubarb and tomatoes grown in her garden find their way into her kitchen, and 12 chickens named Macaroni provide plenty of eggs for all that baking. But she can also get down with some store-bought pie dough (Team Cake, remember?) and always keeps frozen spinach around, because it's tough for a woman on the range during an Upper Midwest winter.

Sesame coffee cake with a generous crumb topping will be a standout on any brunch spread. Yeh's family hosts a Dumplings of the World Party for a combined celebration of Christmas and Hanukkah, so now I have a game plan to host my own dumpling dinner. Her chicken and waffles-inspired brunch contribution is waffles made with challah dough and topped with breakfast brisket. Cauliflower Shawarma Tacos are destined to be a weeknight classic. And anyone who has ever wondered about homemade Funfetti cake will find Yeh has already figured it out, and she has shared the recipe.

I see many copies of Molly on the Range getting smeared and stained with tahini, including my own, in the name of cake or falafel fattoush. And this Thursday? My timer is set for Pizza Night.

Ileana Morales Valentine can be reached at [email protected]

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