High on Home Cooking: Celebrate 4/20 With the High Times Cannabis Cookbook
Ganja spanakopita from the Cannabis Cookbook.
Photo by Sara Remington, courtesy Chronicle Books
Publishers love to send us cookbooks here at Fork in the Road, and often those books come straight from the chefs at some of New York's best restaurants. So we decided to share the love, and each week, we'll feature a new book, a recipe, and a few thoughts on cooking from the authors. Check back every Tuesday for a new book.
The Official High Times Cannabis Cookbook By Elise McDonough and the editors of High Times Magazine, 160 pages, Chronicle Books, $18.95
In a week punctuated by Passover Seders, Easter brunches, and all the feasty, family-fraught gluttony spring can muster, we're here to make sure you don't forget that Sunday brings another venerable celebration: 4/20. In honor of this hazy holiday, we're de-shelving a 2012 book of reefer recipes that will both get you blitzed and taste good.
In typical High Times fashion, the book is a culinary journey and a trip through the annals of American counter-cultural history, with tales and recipes from folks who pushed marijuana culture and cooking forward in our great nation.
So you'll find Brownie Mary's pot brownie recipe, Willie Nelson's Texas chili, and Eddie Huang's Cheeto fried chicken, along with instructions for making THC-infused butter, oil, and other cooking fats, other recipes both sweet and savory, broken up by course, all laced with stories to distract your stoner mind from actually cooking.
We chat with McDonough on cannabinoid chemistry, working with the flavor of grass, and how to eat responsibly.
What must people understand to make great, get-you-high food with weed? The most important thing to understand is that the cannabis plant, as it just grows from the ground, is not psychoactive at all. So in order for it to become psychoactive, it must be heated or dried; that's why when you harvest the bud, you hang it up to dry, and a chemical reaction occurs, converting the THC-A, into the THC that gets you high.
So what I tell people about eating cannabis, but it also really applies to cooking, is that you have to go low and slow. So when you're cooking, you heat it on very low heat, and you heat it for a long time, usually at least an hour to make sure you have everything activated. And then when you're eating it, you want to start with a very low dose and go slowly by waiting several hours before eating any more. That will prevent you from eating too much, which can be a very unpleasant experience.
And in terms of flavor, and incorporating the pot taste into dishes? Cannabis has a very grassy taste because of the chlorophyll that's in the plant. So if you have the means, hash is a very luxurious ingredient that imparts a really nice flavor. I love the flavor of hash, it works so well in many different recipes. If you don't have access to hash, and you're using ground cannabis shake, or trimmed weed you can kind of mask the grassy flavor by combining it with peanut butter or chocolate, and that's why you see so many chocolate edibles, because those flavors work so well together. On the savory side, I think cannabis tastes really good in a pesto or salad dressing or something that has a lot of other herbaceous flavors.
What seasonal ingredients do you love using in your early-spring cooking? We did the 420 farmer's market risotto, which is a really nice spring recipe that would be appropriately timed for this part of the year. Another thing I like to do is, when we do get the plants in the ground, and they start growing, by about mid-June, you start to get those nice fresh leaves, and I like to juice with those leaves. It's not psychoactive, but you can put it in with your vegetable juices and it's really, really good for you. It has a lot of medicinal benefits without the psychoactivity. It's great in so many different forms.
What is one of the oldest recipes in the book and where did it come from? It's not a recipe in the book, but I just wrote an article online about mahjoun, and this was a very traditional food eaten in the Middle East and throughout the Mediterranean, and a lot of people who were traveling the hippie trail back in the 1960s and 1970s got to try it and brought it back to America.
So it's basically like an energy ball, which is something people make now that's similar. So it's like this ball that's formed out of pulverized fruit and chopped nuts and all sorts of dried spices and cannabis butter. It's really delicious; I had a version that this lady is recreating and selling in the Bay Area, and she got the recipe from her brother who traveled extensively in Morocco in the 1960s and 1970s. That was something that was covered in High Times, actually the first food article about eating pot ever published in High Times, and that was in 1978 I think, it was this article called "Eat it," and it was about this sailor who traveled all around and got to try some mahjoun when he was in the Mediterranean, and he said it was so good, he had such a psychedelic experience, he missed his boat back.
That sounds a lot like the heady ganja gooballs you see the ladies selling at festivals. Yeah! It's sort of a prototypical ganja gooball. Then, in the 1950s, you had Alice B. Toklas, and the phrase "Alice B. Toklas brownies" was kind of the way that pot food was reintroduced into popular culture. Alice B. Toklas was Gertrude Stein's lover, and she published a cookbook, and she had a recipe for -- they called it a brownie, but it was really something more like a mahjoun. So that kind of evolved into the gooball, and then today you see all these energy balls around, too.
What's your favorite/best savory recipe? I really like pesto. I think that's just a great way to use cannabis, and it tastes great, and it's just one of my favorite things, and it keeps well in the fridge, and you can just kind of add it to things, and it makes a great condiment. That's actually a great way to use cannabis; you can just kind of put a dollop of it here and there. I also like salad dressings, and different hummuses, and dips and salsas. You mix a bit of hash into the salsa, and it's just really, really nice.
That does sound nice; add a little extra something special to the dish, but it's not like you eat it and within an hour you're dead on the floor. Yeah, that's what you want to avoid, and that's a great thing that's happening now in the world of edibles is that lab testing has really revolutionized everything. Now you can really have a predictable experience; I know so many people who are hardcore smokers who had that one brownie that one time, and it was just way too strong, and after that they swore off edibles. But now, it's like you know what you're going to get, in most cases, and that's allowed a lot more people to be able to try it.
Any forecasts for where edibles are headed, now that they're legal in some places? I honestly think that in the next 10 years, once the laws change, and if we can continue to get it legalized in as many states as we can, you're going to see more people embrace the food angle of it, especially people who would never want to smoke anything. When you can take a chocolate that eases your PMS, it's going to become incredibly popular everywhere. So I would just encourage people to try it, and make sure to start with a low dose if you've never done it before; start with 10 milligrams, and make sure you eat it on a full stomach, and wait at least two hours to feel the effects. And if you do eat too much, just know that you're going to be fine. You're probably going to sleep for a long time, and just relax and take deep breaths, and don't panic.
For more from Elise McDonough, find her on Instagram: @EliseMcD420
Classic Cannabis Brownies
Long before California first legalized medical cannabis in 1996, Mary Jane Rathbun -- better known to her many admirers as Brownie Mary -- took the law into her own hands (and kitchen), personally supplying thousands of people suffering from AIDS, cancer, and other serious illnesses with her namesake medicated desserts. She also played a primary role in the campaign to pass Proposition 215, which made California the first state to allow cannabis use for medicinal purposes.
Once named Volunteer of the Year by the AIDS ward of San Francisco General Hospital, Mary played surrogate mother and grandmother to the sick and dying, offering her "kids" (as she called them) not just free, "magically delicious" brownies that cured their nausea and helped them eat, but also the intangible touch of human kindness that brings hope in the face of pain and uncertainty. According to longtime friend and fellow activist Dennis Peron, Mary got her start in the early '80s and at her height baked more than 1,500 brownies per month, all of them infused with marijuana trim and shake supplied for free by philanthropic local dealers and growers. Her tiny apartment building couldn't contain the smell of all that baking, leading to her first arrest on the street while carrying a sack of brownies that she meant to distribute during her next hospital rounds.
Each time she was arrested, Mary Rathbun called bullshit, arriving for court adorned in pot-leaf jewelry and pro-legalization buttons and basically daring the prosecutors to find a San Francisco jury that would convict a little old lady for bringing brownies to AIDS patients. Only twice were they successful, and each time Mary was sentenced to community service -- not exactly a punishment for a woman who selflessly worked to help others until she died in 1999 at age seventy-seven. Indeed, in Brownie Mary's eyes, community service was the reason they had busted her in the first place!
So let us never forget that before medical marijuana was ever an "industry," it was a crime, and that brave freedom fighters like Mary Rathbun turned outlaw not just because the law was wrong, but also because it was a matter of life and death for someone they loved. Nobody needs to make that choice in California today, but in most of America, countless Brownie Mary disciples face the same decision: whether to serve the needs of a loved one, even if it means running afoul of the law. Naturally, most do it just for a single suffering soul, be it an uncle, a wife, a son, a grandmother, or a friend, but they do it, quite simply, because medical cannabis works, and sometimes nothing else matters.
RECIPE: Stones 16
1 cup all-purpose flour ¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder ½ teaspoon baking powder ¼ teaspoon salt 3 tablespoons THC Oil*** 5 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped 1½ tablespoons light corn syrup 1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar 1 tablespoon applesauce 3 egg whites 2 teaspoons vanilla
***THC Oil (Cannabis-Infused Oil)
It's not necessary to use first-pressed extra-virgin or estate-bottled olive oil to make your THC Oil; an affordable virgin olive oil works nicely. Of course, high-quality ingredients result in a more delicious end product, so if you plan on using your THC Oil for salad dressings or to drizzle over veggies and pasta, a fruity extra-virgin olive oil will make all the difference.
Makes 6 cups
6 cups olive oil or canola oil 1 ounce cannabis buds, finely ground, or 2 ounces trimmed leaf, dried and ground
Preparation: 1. In a double boiler, slowly heat oil on low heat for a few minutes until you begin to smell the oil's aroma. Add the ground cannabis slowly, stirring until it is fully coated before adding more cannabis.
Simmer on low heat for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.
2. Remove the mixture from heat and allow it to cool before straining. Press the plant matter with the back of a spoon to wring all the oil out of it. Compost the leafy remains and save the oil in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 months.
1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
2. In a small bowl, mix together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt, and set aside.
3. Pour the THC Oil and the chopped chocolate into a double boiler over high heat. As the water boils in the lower pan, whisk the chocolate and oil until melted and smooth. Remove from heat, and whisk in the corn syrup, brown sugar, and applesauce. Stir in the egg whites and vanilla. Beat the mixture vigorously until smooth, then stir in the flour mixture until well incorporated.
4. Grease a 9-by-13-inch baking pan. Pour the batter into the pan. Bake for 18 to 23 minutes, or until the center of the top is almost firm to the touch. Let cool. Enjoy.
Story and recipe reprinted with permission from Chronicle Books.
Check out our Cookbook of the Week archives for more like this.
Get the Food & Drink Newsletter
Our weekly guide to New York dining includes food news and reviews, as well as dining events and interviews with chefs and restaurant owners.