Cookbook explores cannabis’ potential in culinary repertoire

Although Tracey Medeiros insists her new cannabis-focused cookbook is not a party book, it definitely includes a recipe for a favorite treat: pot brownies.

“I couldn’t resist,” Medeiros said of the fudgy, deeply chocolate recipe. The nod to pot brownies is just one of 125 recipes in “The Art of Cooking with Cannabis,” a handbook for understanding how elements and products of the cannabis plant can be incorporated into the kitchen. Recipes range from desserts to starters (sweet corn and cashew chowder) to mains (chicken and kale meatballs with cherry tomatoes and cannabis pesto; and mussels with roasted corn puree and peppers).

“When Vermont started the process of legalization, I found myself reading about cannabis as an herbal and culinary ingredient,” said Madeiros, who lives in the Green Mountain State. The recipes are in three sections, based on the use of cannabis products: hemp (a plant in the cannabis family), CBD (the medicinal chemical compound of the cannabis plant) and THC (the psychoactive chemical that gives the user the euphoric feeling of being “high”).
“It was important for me to categorize and include each one,” said,Madeiros, who will discuss her book  Saturday during a tour of the Hudson Hemp farm in Hudson.

The sections explain the difference in each cannabis product and how they can be incorporated into cooking. Hemp, which is high in fiber, protein and fatty acids, has long been turned into flour, liquid and oils, and is available in natural food stores. The use of CBD and THC in food on a regulated, legal basis is a more recent development.

“I tried to make it fun to read and not complicated,” Madeiros said, and she relied on insight from chefs, growers and producers to help dissect cannabis and its uses.

“I tried to find folks who use the cannabis plant to elevate the culinary landscape,” she explained. Much like in her other books (“Dishing Up Vermont,” “Vermont Farm to Table Cookbook,” “Connecticut Farm to Table Cookbook” and “Vermont Non-GMO Cookbook”), Madeiros used the expertise of this book’s 45 contributors to tell a full story of the subject.

“It was important for me to include profiles to show why these people have gotten into cannabis,” she said.

One contributor was Sfoglini Pasta, based in West Coxsackie. “We started making hemp pasta four or five years ago when hemp was resurging on the market,” co-owner Scott Ketchum said. Hemp seeds are ground into a flour-like, protein-rich powder and combined with durum semolina before being turned into pasta. Ketchum said hemp gives the pasta a nutty flavor that pairs beautifully with roasted winter squash. Hemp also provides more than 20 amino acids, including those not naturally made within the body.

Across the river in Hudson, Melany Dobson, the chief product officer for Hudson Hemp, contributed recipes that focus on the use of raw cannabis leaves.

“The leaves are a byproduct, removed during the maturation of the plant. De-leafing can be very beneficial to the plant,” Dobson said. Consuming raw cannabis leaves has immediate benefits and includes CBD in its raw, acidic form, she said.

Eating raw leaves does not provide a euphoric effect, she added, noting that cannabis must go through a process called decarboxylation (generally done through heating the leaves) to concentrate the THC within the leaves. Because of the relatively benign nature of the raw leaf, there is an opportunity for people to grow cannabis like kale or microgreens, or include it in commercially packaged mesclun mixes.

“As we see more people growing cannabis in their backyard, it will encourage people to explore cannabis as a culinary addition,” Dobson said.

The problem, she said, is the lack of federal regulation on cannabis-based products as food products.

“Transitioning from a drug into a food is a regulatory issue. There is a lot of red tape in the food system,” Dobson said. That might change as cannabis legalization grows: Only three states (South Dakota, Nebraska and Idaho) have no legal cannabis industry. According to Forbes, New York’s fledgling legal marijuana program is expected to generate $1.2 billion in annual sales by 2023, and $4.2 billion by 2027.

  “The Art of Cooking with Cannabis” is formatted to include insights similar to a community cookbook, Madeiros said.

“All of my cookbooks are community books, where everyone has a voice. Most of those voices come from white chefs, growers and company owners, highlight the disparities of opportunity provided within the legalized cannabis industry.” she said. “The war on drugs — which included strict laws against marijuana, still listed at the national level as a Schedule 1 drug, meaning in federal eyes it has no approved medical use — has weighed harshly on Black and brown communities in America. They are criminally charged with the possession and sale of marijuana four times more frequently than white counterparts, the American Civil Liberties Union reports. While decriminalization of marijuana benefits those communities, people who are traditionally marginalized still lack the access to economic resources that allows them to participate in the legalized cannabis industry.

“Cannabis has now come to the forefront in many respects,” said Madeiros, who released her book in May. The response she has received regarding the book shows a change in how people feel about cannabis-related activities. “There has been a profound shift in attitude,” Madeiros said, and whether people choose to smoke or ingest, she has a recipe to perfectly pair with their preferred cannabis product.

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