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

Molly on the Range: Recipes and Stories From an Unlikely Life on a Farm
By Molly Yeh
Rodale, 304 pages, $32.50

Molly on the Range: Recipes and Stories From an Unlikely Life on a Farm By Molly Yeh Rodale, 304 pages, $32.50

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 ileanamvalentine@gmail.com.

>>MODERATE

Chocolate Tahini Cake With Tahini Frosting

For the cake:

1 ¾ cups sugar

1 ¾ cups flour

1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt

1 ½ teaspoons baking powder

1 ½ teaspoons baking soda

2 large eggs

1 cup whole milk

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

¼ cup flavorless oil

½ cup tahini

¾ cup boiling water

For the frosting:

1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature

½ cup tahini

2 cups powdered sugar

teaspoon kosher salt

¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract

To make the cake: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and line the bottoms of two 8-inch cake pans or one 13- by 9-inch baking dish.

In a large bowl, whisk together the sugar, flour, cocoa powder, salt, baking powder and baking soda. In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, vanilla, oil and tahini. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir to combine. Whisk in the boiling water.

Pour the batter into the cake pans or baking dish and bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Begin checking for doneness at 28 minutes for round cakes and 32 minutes for a sheet cake. Let cool for 10 minutes, then remove to a rack to cool.

To make the frosting: In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix together the butter and tahini until creamy. Gradually add the powdered sugar and mix to combine. Mix in the salt, cinnamon and vanilla.

For a layer cake, level the round cakes and stack them with a layer of frosting between them. Frost the top and sides of the cake. For a sheet cake, spread the frosting on top and cut into squares, or chill in the refrigerator until frosting is firm and cut into minicakes.

Makes one 8-inch layer cake, one 13- by 9-inch sheet cake or 24 minicakes.

Source: Molly on the Range: Recipes and Stories From an Unlikely Life on a Farm by Molly Yeh



>>EASY

All of the Alliums Fried Rice

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

4 cups finely chopped alliums of your choice: onions, shallots, leeks, scallions, ramps

Kosher salt

Flavorless oil

4 large eggs, beaten

Black pepper

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger

2 cups cooked brown or white rice

Sriracha and mayonnaise, for serving

In a large skillet, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the alliums and a pinch of salt and cook, stirring, until everything is nice and soft and smelling really good, 12 to 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat a separate medium skillet over medium-high heat and coat the bottom with a thin layer of oil. When the pan is hot, add the eggs and cook, gently scraping up the bottom with a silicone spatula, until mostly set. Remove the eggs from the heat, season with salt and pepper, give them a rough chop and set aside. (Alternatively, you could cook the eggs first in the large skillet, then remove them before adding the butter and cooking the alliums.)

Add garlic and ginger to the alliums and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. If the pan looks dry, add butter or oil. Add the rice and scrambled eggs and fold to combine. Salt to taste. Increase the heat to medium-high, spread the mixture out evenly over the skillet and let it cook until the bottom is crispy, about 5 minutes. Serve with Sriracha and mayo.

Makes 4 servings.

Source: Molly on the Range: Recipes and Stories From an Unlikely Life on a Farm by Molly Yeh

Cookbook review: An eclectic collection makes up food blogger's 'Molly on the Range: Recipes and Stories from an Unlikely Life on a Farm' 10/10/16 [Last modified: Monday, October 10, 2016 3:56pm]
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