When it came time to start planning menus for the upcoming ninth season of her award-winning PBS cooking show, “Jazzy Vegetarian,” Hendersonville-based host Laura Theodore found inspiration looking inside, not outside, the box.
“For about a year and a half, my husband and I have been getting fresh produce deliveries from Mother Earth [Food],” says the cookbook author, actor and jazz singer. “When I pulled a beautiful eggplant out of my box one week, it inspired the recipe for spicy eggplant rollatini, and it just went from there.” Theodore reached out to the food delivery service’s founder, Andrea Duvall, who committed to a partnership providing produce for the show and participating in ongoing promotions.
Lifestyle changes brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic were also motivators in developing recipes for the new season. “More people were cooking at home and still are, so it was important to me to develop easy-to-prepare pantry recipes,” she explains of this season’s theme, easy vegan cooking at home.
Theodore will continue the conversation on that topic with the October publication of her new companion cookbook, Easy Vegan Home Cooking. The book will include over 125 plant-based and gluten-free recipes for the family, along with tips for sneaking more vegetables onto the plates of even the most committed carnivores.
When Theodore got the green light from PBS in 2011 to launch the show, she was still living in New York. “I was a child actor and did a lot of television and was a singer, so I was comfortable in front of an audience and camera,” she remembers. “I had 20 years’ experience turning family recipes vegan, but cooking in front of a camera is a new skill set.”
She didn’t exactly have the full-throated confidence of PBS programming executives. “They said, ‘It’s a vegan show, maybe we’ll get two seasons out of it.’” She started airing in 45% of U.S. television households and is now in 90%.
Among the recipes in the upcoming 10-episode season is the aforementioned eggplant rollatini, pantry polenta lasagna, hearty vegan meatloaf, potato-cauliflower mashup, date-nut snowballs and maple-espresso chocolate mousse. Theodore will also share pantry essentials, flavor enhancers, plant-based substitutions and a little bit of dinner music. “I like to sing while I cook,” she says.
Season nine of “Jazzy Vegetarian” kicks off Friday, July 30, at 2 p.m. on PBS NC and will air weekly on Friday afternoon. For more information on the show, past episodes, recipes and Theodore’s books, visit avl.mx/9zw.
The mode to bountiful
Mother Earth Food has resumed the option for customers to add a donation to their weekly purchases to help the food-insecure and support local farmers. Friends in Need donation levels from $10-$100 go toward the purchase of produce, which in turn is distributed by Bountiful Cities, a local urban agriculture nonprofit that supports social justice, access to education, sustainability and economic viability. For more information, visit avl.mx/9yl.
More than a mouthful
Madison County-based author, teacher, gardener, forager and international chef Susi Gott Seguret has plenty to say about food and cooking. But for her new book, A Chef’s Book of Favorite Culinary Quotations, she lets more than 200 food luminaries do the talking. Segmented into categories such as nourishment, dining, wine, cooking and love, the book features quotes from locals such as Joe Scully, Mark Rosenstein and Tres Hundertmark as well as icons like M.F.K. Fischer and Julia Child.
“I’ve collected food quotes all my life,” says Seguret. The book, she adds, is “for people who love to cook or people who just love to eat.”
A Chef’s Book of Favorite Culinary Quotations is available for order online and in bookstores. To learn more, visit avl.mx/9z8.
Pick and play
Jeter Mountain Farm in Hendersonville kicked off its 2021 U-pick season on July 23 with the debut of a newly constructed 6,000-square-foot indoor play area. Features include a wooden tractor jungle gym with slide, stacks of hay bales for climbing, apple basketball hoops and a playhouse with black-light chalkboard walls and glow-in-the-dark chalk.
Also new this year is a sunflower field, a cheerful setting for those already planning their holiday photo cards. “We cut back on the amount of fields we use for commercial crops this year to open up more space for our U-pick guests,” says co-owner Jocelyn Hunsader. “The Sunflower Experience is such a happy place!”
Containers are provided for each type of picking (peck baskets for apples and peaches, pint boxes for berries and water-filled bags for sunflowers). The Cider Barn taproom is also open with several drink options, including The Original, a new Pink Lady Jeter Mountain Hard Cider and four Flat Rock Cider Co. ciders.
Jeter Mountain Farm is open Fridays 10 a.m.-5 p.m. and Saturdays 9 a.m.-3 p.m. with expanded operating hours to kick off apple season starting Friday, Aug. 13. For special events and a seasonal product calendar, visit avl.mx/9z7.
The farm is at 1126 Jeter Mountain Road, Hendersonville
Head for the hills
If you want to spend quality, up-close-and-personal time with a farmer rather than being part of an unruly herd, the N.C. Foothills Farm Tour is the place for you. But organizers say you need to act fast as these intimate experiences always sell out in advance.
The NCFFT launched in 2019 to promote regional collaboration and partnerships within the agricultural community of Polk and Rutherford counties. “It is also our hope to connect our local communities to our agricultural producers and showcase rural heritage and farms for our surrounding urban neighbors,” says Hannah Bundy, horticulture agent with the Rutherford Cooperative Extension.
The 2021 schedule began in June with tours at San Felipe Farms and Buttercup Cottage. The next event happens Saturday, July 31, inviting 30 guests to Looking Glass Creamery in the morning and C-Saw Hill in the afternoon. Additional tours are scheduled for Aug. 15, Sept. 18 and Oct. 23. For more information and tickets, visit avl.mx/9zd.
As consumer interest in eating locally and knowing the hands and lands that feed us has increased, so has agritourism. But just like raising crops, growing that curiosity takes planning and organization.
After a year interviewing agritourism operators and stakeholders in the region, N.C. State University’s EmPOWERing Mountain Food Systems team will spread the seeds of knowledge it gained by partnering with several regional organizations and agencies to present the 2021 Regional Agritourism Seminar by the Center for Environmental Systems on Monday, Aug. 9.
The event runs 9 a.m.-4 p.m. at the Haywood County Extension Office, 589 Raccoon Road, Waynesville. Afterward, participants are invited to visit KT’s Orchard and Apiary in Canton to hear about its agritourism programming and sample berries, apples and honey produced on the site.
Participation is free, but registration is required in advance at avl.mx/9yf.