Chef Janie Jacobson Creates Healthy and Fresh Combinations Using Some Of The Commonwealth’s Finest Products
Who gives up a scholarship to the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) in New York? Janie Jacobson, that’s who. A Portsmouth and Virginia Beach gal known for her healthy cooking classes, Janie knew, way before it was cool, that her path was going to be lined with healthy foods. That path, which began in her mother’s kitchen when Janie was just a teen, led instead to another New York institution—The Natural Gourmet Cookery School, now the Natural Gourmet Institute. There she spent two years learning to be a chef and another year in their teacher training program.
Recently, over coffee at Roast Rider in Virginia Beach, Janie reflected that, “It was kind of weird to do what I was doing back then.” Weird or not, when she returned home to the local area, she approached Joel Feldman, owner of Kitchen Barn in Virginia Beach, about teaching cooking classes. For the next 30 years, this published cookbook author could be found there one to two times per week instructing healthy cooking classes. She also served as a private chef for those with special dietary needs.
But about three years ago, Janie relocated her operation to the airy, light-filled kitchen of her contemporary beach house in the Croatan neighborhood of Virginia Beach where she teaches in-home cooking classes two times each month. Once a month, she also teams up with husband, Jim Craig, to offer grilling classes on the couple’s Green Egg. Caryl Felty and Diane Scarcelli have served as kitchen assistants—and friends—for more than a decade.
Conversation flows as freely as the food around Janie’s stylish island and dining table. She loves the back and forth banter and conversation about food, especially listening to what others have to say and “sharing the love” by cooking for those who appreciate her brand of culinary TLC. Plus, she finds her home a more casual venue for exploring food, including pulling leftovers out of the fridge.
Known for recipes that are lighter and fresher, layered in flavors but easy to prepare, Janie here shares two favorites—not intended to be served together—that celebrate Virginia’s surf and turf—blue crab and white sweet corn—and a century-old recipe in the form of creamy-tangy Duke’s mayonnaise. Though created originally in Greenville, S.C., the Richmond-based C.F. Sauer Company bought Duke’s Product Company in 1929. Janie has long favored Duke’s because it does not contain sugar.
For her Pasta Carbonara with Crab, the milk of peak season corn ingeniously replaces the traditional cream or egg, becoming rich, silky and thick. So as not to overpower the delicate flavor of the corn cream, Janie prefers pancetta for a bacon-y texture and saltiness without the smoke, and a light hand with the rosemary, Old Bay and the tongue-tickling, seven-ingredient Shichimitogarashi. To serve with the sauce, Janie prefers Andean Dream gluten-free pasta for a less wheat-y taste.
Her Roasted Jalapeno Pimento Cheese in Roasted Baby Peppers is equally delicious on toast when mini-bell peppers aren’t in season. Two types of cheese create an ideal balance of flavors while the harissa lends a hint of smoky irresistibility.
Jim, a level one sommelier, paired Virginia wines with Janie’s recipes. For the pasta, uncork a bottle of Church Creek Steel Chardonnay. Perfect for shellfish, he describes this wine as “a crisp, dry, balanced wine with refreshing acidity, minerality and the flavor profile of an old world Chablis.” For the pimento cheese, he suggests Williamsburg Winery’s well-priced, cheese-friendly Two Shilling Red Zinfandel, “a deep Zin with a soft nose, good fruity accents and a slightly acidity at the finish.”
By Betsy DiJulio