The Swell App’s Deborah Pardes: Storytelling, Entertaining and Portobello Leek Soup

Taste Buds with Deb - Episode 2
May 4, 2023
kajakiki/Getty Images

“Food is a gateway to conversations,” Deborah Pardes told the Journal.

As vice president of stories and voices at Swell, Pardes’ job is to ignite and continue conversations

Deborah Pardes (Photo by Alon Goldsmith)

Swell is a micro-podcasting app, where in 5-minute audio posts, people can share their opinions and expertise. They can also ask and answer questions, explore new ideas/concepts, connect with new friends and more.

On the Swell App, Deborah Pardes has a post, asking, “What’s in your bowl?”

You’re 10 years old, there’s an empty bowl. What food memory from your childhood fills it up?

For her, that food is holipches, also called holishkes. It is traditional Jewish cabbage rolls, stuffed with meat, rice, sweet and sour sauce and occasionally raisins.

Now a vegetarian, Pardes still enjoys the traditional dish. She uses Beyond Meat with quinoa or couscous. It’s the sweet and sour sauce that ignites that food memory.

For Pardes, in-person conversations are just as invigorating. After all, she said, isn’t food just a medium for connection?

“I hate eating alone,” she said. “I tend to have people over on Friday or Saturday nights. It’s really stretched me, because I’ve wanted to make it low-stress [and] not that expensive, but really robust and fun.”

When she entertains, Pardes’ go-to is lots of mezze platters. She serves a lot of dips, breads and other appetizers. “It takes the pressure off the main dish,” she said.

Pardes loves trying new things.

“When you mix vegetables and fruits, you have to have that right combination,” she said. “Mango is a hero fruit, because it can be dropped in a lot of things that work perfectly.

Pardes’ favorite is a nice starter soup.

“I’m a big fan of roasting something and then putting it in a soup, because it adds all that yummy taste to it,” she said. “I make this portobello mushroom and leek soup that people love.” The recipe is below.

When asked what she knows now that she wishes she knew when she started cooking, Pardes said, “Every food that you cook usually has an amazing natural flavor. Don’t be afraid to bring it out with heat or with salt or with the temperature change.”

As with food, what do people need to know about storytelling to become better?

“I think storytelling has to do with the ability to get out of your own way, just like cooking,” she said.

Imagine, whoever you’re talking to is someone who loves you and wants to hear what you have to say.

“Half the time, when we tell stories, we’re afraid of being judged,” she said.

Like cooking, storytelling is confidence.

Realize that person is enjoying the words you are weaving together in a format that creates an image. You are sharing something they didn’t know before. They are as happy to receive the story, as you are to share it.

Discover more about the Swell App and how it curates community and conversation.

For my full conversation with Deborah Pardes, listen to the podcast:

Watch the interview:

Follow Deborah Pardes on Swell at swellcast.com/dbpardes. Follow Debra Eckerling at swellcast.com/thedebmethod.

Portobello Leek Soup

4 portobello mushrooms

4 leeks

1 shallot (optional)

5 cups of water

Bay leaves

1 tsp fresh thyme

1 tsp salt

1 tsp pepper

2 tbsp white miso paste

1 – 2 cups regular coconut milk, depending on your taste/preference

Brush clean the portobellos; do not use water. Brush three of them with a bit of olive oil and roast for 20 minutes at 300°F.

Meanwhile, sauté the leeks (plus one shallot; it’s a nice touch) in butter or avocado oil until tender.

Add that fourth raw chopped portobello into the leeks. Stir in and cook a bit longer.

When the other three mushrooms are roasted, chop them finely and add to the leeks and the mushroom.

Add 5 cups of water. Raise heat to medium, and add some bay leaves, fresh thyme, salt and  pepper.

Boil for 10 minutes. Then simmer, partially covered, for about 10 more minutes.

Cool the soup slightly; discard the bay leaf

Add 2 tablespoons of white miso paste. Note: Don’t boil miso; add it now, not before.

Puree the soup in batches in a blender or food processor.

Return the pureed soup to the pan and add coconut milk. This makes it creamy, a tad sweet and a bit thicker. Be sure to use regular coconut milk, not light.

Cook over low heat until you serve. Garnish with parsley and maybe a few golden mushroom bits.

Debra Eckerling is a writer for the Jewish Journal and the host of “Taste Buds with Deb.” Subscribe on YouTube or your favorite podcast platform. Email Debra: tastebuds@jewishjournal.com.

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