If you’re not already a huge fan of Molly Yeh, where have you been?
The star of the Food Network show Girl Meets Farm began food blogging about a decade ago, and published an award-winning cookbook, Molly on the Range: Recipes and Stories from An Unlikely Life on a Farm, in 2016. While she already had a large following before Girl Meets Farm launched, Yeh has become a household name ever since.
I can’t help but feel some pride over her success because I relate to her in several ways: We’ve both lived in Brooklyn at some point in our lives, we both have performing arts degrees (she got a bachelor’s in music at Juilliard), and we’ve both lived in the Midwest. I lived in Minnesota for a decade before moving back east, and Yeh now lives on a sugar beet farm with her husband and daughter in Grand Forks, North Dakota, which borders Minnesota.
Last but not least, Yeh is also Jewish, and several episodes of her show feature her takes on traditional Jewish food for the holidays. Thinking back, I realize how rare it is to see a food TV star — especially one so young — celebrating the Jewish holidays. So I jumped at the chance to interview Yeh by email about her upcoming Rosh Hashanah episode, set to air on Sunday, September 22.
On her blog, Yeh mentions Rosh Hashanah is one of her favorite holidays. Compared to the Gregorian calendar New Year (January 1), she sees it as more of a beginning since it’s “the start of harvest, the start of the best (colder!) seasons, the start of sweater weather [and] the start of the school year.” Summing it up, she adds, “All of the best things happen in the fall and winter and Rosh Hashanah is the beginning of that!”
According to Yeh, it wouldn’t be Rosh Hashanah without “a crisp fall breeze in the air and freshly baked challah.” In fact, round braided challah is one of her most-requested recipes this time of year. “My current fave,” she states, “is potato challah. Adding mashed potatoes to the dough makes it so dreamy and light and fluffy.”
Yeh’s typical Rosh Hashanah menu includes apples from the trees on her farm, honey from her brother-in-law’s bees, and marzipan, since all three ingredients go so well together. “It’s also always a perfect time to use up the last of the tomatoes, potatoes, and herbs from our garden,” she points out. “And we will have lots of squash from our garden, too, so that often makes its way onto our table!”
In the upcoming episode of Girl Meets Farm, Yeh will be making delectable dishes like brisket, carrot hash with eggs and pesto, and a celery dill soda spritz. She’s especially excited to share her recipe for apple butter rolls with honey marzipan frosting with her viewers. “They check all the boxes,” she shares. “Apples, honey, round challah, and they’re parve because they use my favorite trick for making a dairy-free frosting using ground blanched almonds. The frosting is so luxurious.”
Farm life has its challenges, but Yeh has learned to adapt and make the best of what’s available. Since Rosh Hashanah always falls at the start of the beet harvest, the craziest time of year for Yeh’s husband, she remembers her first holiday on the farm as kind of wild. “Rather than sitting down to a big brisket dinner, I packed up brisket tacos and we ate them on the tractor,” she reminisces.
“Finding brisket in my town is the biggest headache,” Yeh admits. “I don’t know what it is about brisket, but I can never ever find it when I need it.” Luckily, she and her husband often eat plant-based meals, which inspired her to create a brisket braised chickpeas recipe last September. “I wanted to make a super comforting hearty vegetarian dish that makes the house smell just as amazing as braised brisket,” says Yeh. “I just replaced the brisket in my family’s brisket recipe with chickpeas and squash and it came out beautifully!”
Unsurprisingly, Yeh finds her job fulfilling in many ways. “I love not only cooking for people, but telling the stories behind these dishes as I cook them, and there are so many beautiful stories behind my favorite Jewish dishes,” she enthuses. “They’re the most delicious and comforting, so if I can be the reason that my viewers find new comfort in these dishes, whether or not they’re Jewish, I’ll feel like I’ve done my job.” She adds, “I also want to show how warm, welcoming, vibrant, and delicious the Jewish culture, community, and religion is.”
This year, the High Holidays are particularly special for Yeh and her family, as it’s the first one they’ll be celebrating with her daughter Bernie. “I can’t wait until she’s old enough to help me cook,” reveals Yeh. “The best part of the day is hanging out in the kitchen, kneading challah, smelling all the smells, listening to fall folk tunes, wearing sweaters… I am so excited for the day that she can braid challah and add her own twist to it.”
“Maybe she’ll be the first person in the history of our family to like raisins in her challah, maybe she’ll carry on the tradition of being repulsed by raisins in her challah,” Yeh muses. “Either way, I can’t wait.”
Get Molly Yeh’s recipe for apple cider brunch brisket from our friends at The Nosher.
Images courtesy of Food Network