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Molly Yeh Is Bringing Jewish Cuisine To The Food Network

Molly Yeh is a big deal, but she’s about to get a lot bigger. For nine years her blog “My Name Is Yeh” made waves around the Internet. Now she’s about to head to the silver screen, with her new Food Network show Girl Meets Farm.

I spoke with Molly about her new yogurt-focused cookbook (she calls yogurt “the duct tape of dairy products”), bringing Jewish food to mainstream television, and what she hopes to achieve in the process of becoming an heiress to the food media throne.

Shira Feder: So, first things first. What inspired you to write about yogurt for Short Stack?

Molly Yeh: Well, it’s my favorite, most versatile ingredient. I use it as a substitute for heavy cream or butter, on toast…I originally suggested labneh as an idea for the book, and they wanted something broader, so I went with yogurt. It’s a sweet, savory texture enhancer, and it’s healthy. It’s full of probiotics. My digestive system was on point while I was eating this.

Really? I always wondered how much yogurt a person could take. Although that is probably a question for a doctor.

I mean, some days I ate it for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I used it in place of milk, as stock in soups, to thicken things….

So your own Food Network show’s air date is coming up. How are you feeling?

Well, I feel great about being able to put together this menu that reflected how I like to cook. My mom came on one episode and we made brisket, we did Chinese food another episode, my father’s Chinese…We did colorful foods and foods that were meaningful to me. There were lots of sprinkles.

I love this idea of every menu telling a story.

Exactly. I was doing food I felt excited about. I was making hummus, I don’t even know if this will make it into the final episode, but I was saying you have to do it with boiled chick peas. The producers sat me down in front of a camera and said ‘Tell us why it is so important to do it with boiled chick peas.’ I got so excited, just talking about hummus to the Food Network. I feel like you don’t see a lot of hummus and challah and shakshuka on the Food Network and that was really the meat of the process.

Okay, now I have to ask. Why do you need boiled chick peas to make hummus?

It makes the flavor so pure and the texture so smooth. When the chickpeas are still warm from boiling, you get warm hummus, which feels more like a meal. And it’s not that hard. Just plan ahead, soak them all night, and dump them in the food processor.

So you mentioned bringing shakshuka and hallah to the Food Network. Is that one of your goals with this show?

Well, my goal is twofold. If people feel inspired to try something new and different in the kitchen then I’ll have accomplished what I wanted to accomplish. And there’s a new dimension to it not being written word recipes in a blog. It’s easier for people to grasp onto, visually.

Show, don’t tell.

I’ve had my blog for nine years, I think it is. It’s like a scrapbook of me. It’s like a workshop where I can do anything. The show is a little more collaborative, but on the blog I can get experimental…

So the first thing I found out about you is that you live on a beet farm with your husband in North Dakota. Obviously this appealed to me because I always daydream about being swept away by someone to an onion farm in Tunisia or whatever. How did that happen?

It all happened pretty much naturally. Both of us were such homebodies. The first five years I lived in New York I was going out every night, to restaurants and album releases and parties. After so much of that, we realized we were both homebodies, who liked to stay in with Netflix and we should not be paying New York rent to be homebodies and live so far from my family. So we packed up the car and drove west.

And now you can watch Netflix and eat beets.

Exactly!

It is truly exciting to talk to you in these weeks before your show airs, when you are on the cusp of becoming a household name.

Oh, no.

The Woman Who Brought Shakshuka To The Food Network, that’s how you’ll be known.

Ha ha, I wish!

Shira Feder is a writer. You can reach her at [email protected]

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