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Ganja gourmet 

You wouldn't cook an apple pie with leaves and stems, so why would you make an edible with leftover bud-shake?

"You're not going to call that an apple pie," Jessica Catalano says in an interview with the Indy. "You want to use the apple, which is the equivalent to the bud on the plant."

The 28-year-old culinarian and cookbook author insists on cooking medicated food with bud, not only for the higher potency, but also for the flavor. All strains impart certain flavors that can enhance the taste of a dish, like Strawberry Cough for a berry pie or Lemon Kush Keef for Vietnamese spring rolls.

That means you can also pass up the bitter green taste infamous among edibles, since you're not cooking down leaves and other leftovers packed with chlorophyll. Catalano, who works at Medical Marijuana in the Rockies, in Frisco, adds that since the market has driven medical marijuana prices down, it's more affordable to bake with bud than ever before.

It's also moving toward a gourmet paradigm. She's in the final editing stages of The Ganja Kitchen Revolution: The Bible of Cannabis Cuisine, a 74-recipe cookbook due for release Nov. 13 from Green Candy Press in San Francisco. The "international cuisine" theme is complemented by dosing charts; strain recommendations and substitutions (should your center be out of Strawberry Cough); vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free ingredient lists; and home extraction methods, including ones that use dry heat (which you'll have to buy the book to learn more about).

It all hails from Catalano's personal trials and errors, as well as her training — she double-majored as a chef and a pastry chef at Pikes Peak Community College, and hopes to one day go back and earn a degree in culinary-arts management.

Chronic vs. chronic

The Buffalo, N.Y., native came to Colorado a few years ago and lived in Colorado Springs before relocating to Littleton, Golden and now Summit County. She's also a patient herself, having battled chronic migraines throughout her life.

"I know this is crazy, but I started smoking when I was in seventh grade," she says, "and I realized what a miracle plant it was and how it helped my migraines. I've been on every kind of migraine medication you can possibly think of; I've been to multiple neurologists, had tests done, sleep tests, things stuck on my head ..."

The medications weren't much better.

"I remember one pill, the first side effect was sudden death of cardiac arrest," she says. "When I drew the line was when my last neurologist tried to prescribe me anti-seizure pills."

Now Catalano eats one edible each night and only has sporadic migraines, usually from restaurant food unexpectedly containing MSG, one of her triggers. But one or two a month is nothing compared to the 15 or so that she long endured.

Kiss from the cook

Given her transformative experience, it was only a matter of time before her appreciation of MMJ ran into her lifelong love of food. Catalano recalls an "intense passion for cooking" beginning when she was 3 or 4 years old: "It was a medium for me to express my love towards people, and take care of people."

In 2010, Catalano launched a personal blog titled the Ganja Kitchen Revolution. The cookbook started production the next year.

Her blog shares the book's gourmet approach (every dish begins with a preparatory mise en place), and includes recipes like Glazed Bourbon Balsamic G13 Sockeye Salmon and Hong Kong Masala Chai Dark Chocolates; humbler items include Lavender Hong Kong Lemon Sugar Cookies. Innovative as ever, Catalano recently posted a how-to on juicing with cannabis.

She ultimately hopes her efforts will help legitimize her industry further, even if her biggest contribution just winds up being putting her own name out there.

"I believe that, in order for legalization to happen, and for this medicine to be available to everyone, everyone has to step up and be, like, 'This is who I am, this is my real name. I'm a lawyer, I'm a doctor, whoever, but I support medical marijuana, it's nothing to be ashamed of.'"

For now though, she hopes she can just get people to stop burning their cannabutter.

"They cook it for days, they cook it for six hours, 12 hours, 18 hours, 24 hours, two days, three days — it's silly. You don't need to do that at all," Catalano says. "You're just overcooking the butter, and you're actually causing the butter to turn acrid. You're causing the plant matter to release all the chlorophyll; it just makes it bitter, and a lot of the THC will actually evaporate out in the process, so you're just defeating yourself.

"The cook time is an hour — that's all you need. You don't need any more or any less."

edie@csindy.com


Moroccan Mazar Lamb

— Courtesy Jessica Catalano

  • Edibles move from bitter brownies to succulent salmon.

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