As a veg viewer, are you constantly having to tune out non-veg segments of TV cooking shows? That wont be a problem with The Jazzy Vegetarian, premiering October 1 on PBS stations nationwide; every single recipe is animal-product-free. Jazz musician Laura Theodore, who hosts the show, answers our questions about the project.
Q: What inspires The Jazzy Vegetarian?
A: Creativity. Love of good food. Love and compassion for animals. Healthier choices for humans and the planet. Making the world a better place, one recipe at a time!
Q: How improvisatory is your approach to singing and to cooking?
A: Very improvisatory. Many of the things I love about cooking are the same things I love about being a jazz singer. The process of cooking and the process of jazz singing are both creative and challenging; each recipe and each song is a new creation. Adding a slightly varied ingredient in a recipe is the same to me as singing a slightly different musical riff in a song.
Q: Whats the key to creating satisfying animal-product-free recipes?
A: I often base my recipes on traditional family favorites, like lasagna, chili, soup, casseroles, pots de crème or other classic puddings, cakes, cookies, etc. Many of these recipes have been handed down from my mother and grandmother. My grandmothers last name was Cook, so I think that explains my love of cooking from a very early age! I remember, at the age of three or so, standing on a stool in the kitchen helping my grandma make applesauce using apples gathered from the trees in her back yard. To create a vegan version of a classic recipe for a meat, dairy, or egg dish, I first make a list of all the animal-product ingredients in that recipe that need to be replaced. Then I make lists (in my head and on paper) of the vegan ingredients I think may mimic the look, taste, texture, and mouth feel of the animal products, and start testing the recipe. For example: In the Meatless Meatloaf I prepare on my TV show, I use ground walnuts, mushrooms, sunflower seeds, breadcrumbs, and vegan cheese to replace the meat and eggs in the original meatloaf recipe. Walnuts provide fat and texture, mushrooms offer a meaty taste and moisture, sunflower seeds supply fat and act as a binder, breadcrumbs help achieve the bulk expected in a traditional meatloaf, and vegan cheese replaces the egg to help to hold it all together.
Q: Any tips for overcoming the resistance of omnivores youre cooking for?
A. Oh yes! Thanks for asking! I find that pleasing omnivores is best achieved by serving vegan versions of traditional favorites. When Im serving dinner to family and friends who are omnivores, Ill focus on classic menus like lasagna, garlic bread, and a green salad, with chocolate ganache pudding for dessert. When I host an elegant dinner party, I may serve crispy portobello steaks or stuffed portobellos, maple-mashed sweet potatoes, roasted asparagus spears, and luscious raspberry parfaits for dessert. For a lunch gathering, the menu might be: a chilled creamy-tasting cucumber soup, potato salad, and avocado sandwich wraps or Reubenstyle sandwiches, with peanut butter fudge for dessert. Special breakfasts may feature my cashew French toast or eggless scramble with homemade biscuits or muffins. Jazzy-licious!
Q: Whats the most important thing you can teach about cooking?
A: Be creative. Listen to your taste buds, and season recipes to satisfy the tastes you and your family love. For example, if you find a recipe that lists Italian herbs as an ingredient, but all of you are enamored of a particular all-purpose seasoning, go ahead and substitute it.
Q: Which ingredient would you most like to turn viewers on to? Why?
A: Hmm. Tough question. I guess it would be organic tofu. It really is a miracle vegan ingredient that I like to use in so many dishes. Why? Organic tofu can expertly take the place of animal-based ingredients like cream, eggs, meat, cheese, and milk. I use organic tofu in puddings, cream soups, casseroles, and countless baked goods, and dining companions invariably ask: Are you sure you didnt use any cheese, milk, or cream in this dish?
Photo: Joe Orecchio
Hair and make up: Christina Turino