Interview with a cannabis chef: Monica Lo and her fresh cannabis chimichurri recipe
Chef Monica Lo grew up in a household with a love for food, where every meal was made from scratch. From a young age, she was spending quality time in the kitchen with her mom, “prepping the mise en place or pleating dumplings.”
This love of food evolved over the years, turning into a passion project that from which sprang forth “various food blogs” back in the days of Tumblr. Eventually, as the years went by, she eventually launched her own site, becoming the creator of Sous Weed – Cannabis-Infused Recipes From an Asian American Kitchen.
Lo got her start in the culinary world through art with a background in advertising and design. Her career evolved into food styling and photography classes during time she spent in New York. Later, she moved to San Francisco and started having pop-up dinners and events.
She learned the way many of the greatest do: through the foundations of cooking taught by her parents. In this case, intertwined with their Taiwanese and Chinese traditions.
Monica Lo meets cannabis
In 2015, Lo’s cooking journey took a turn towards cannabis. It began with a workout injury – a herniated spinal disk. She was prescribed a mix of opioids and acetaminophen by her doctor, but the medicines “destroyed” her stomach. “[It made] the whole situation worse,” says Lo.
“Raw or cooked, this plant is delicious! It’s not always about the THC or CBD; cannabis is a nutrient-dense vegetable to be treated as a culinary challenge like any other.”– Monica Lo
Eventually, seeking relief from the pain without the terrible side effects she was experiencing, Lo tried a cannabis edible.
“That night I slept so well,” says Lo. “From that day on I knew I had to make my own edibles.”
There was just one problem. Lo lived in a strict no-smoking building, which meant the smell of cannabis wafting from her kitchen could be trouble, smoking it or not. She couldn’t cook it on a stovetop or crockpot, so she had to get creative. Fortunately, at the time, Lo was working as Creative Director for a sous vide start-up.
Sous vide is a cooking technique where food is vacuum sealed in a bag and then cooked to precise temperatures in water baths. The technique allows for greater precision and consistency, and has been around in the culinary world since the 70s, but didn’t really take off in the U.S. until the 2000s. From there it’s grown and has become more accessible to home chefs.
Lo decided she would put her start-up’s machines to the test, and to her delight, it worked. Lo says, “Since the cannabis flower and cooking oil are sealed in an airtight bag and placed underwater to infuse – there’s no smell! Plus, I can make multiple cannabis infusions at once, using all my favorite cannabis strains. I would use these infusions in a variety of sweet and savory dishes.”
Embracing the plant and its unique qualities
Lo doesn’t hold back from the possibilities when cooking with cannabis.
She uses various cooking oils, fats, butter, sugars, and alcohol for the base of her infusion, and says she prefers both fresh and dry cannabis flower and leaves.
“To get the full spectrum of benefits, you should use whole plant material. There are over 100 cannabinoids that have been identified,” Lo reminds us, while celebrating broad-spectrum cooking. She believes cannabis can be an accompaniment in dishes, rather than an additive to hide and disguise.
“The flavors of cannabis should be welcomed, not hidden.” says Lo. “The lovely terpenes that give each cannabis strain its distinctive smell should be celebrated.”
Lo says that by using a gentle method like sous vide, it’s possible to infuse more phytocannabinoids and terpenes into cooking oils, and this allows her to consider her food pairings more carefully.
“For example,” says Lo, “I like to infuse a strain that smells funky and garlicky into lard or schmaltz to use in savory dishes. Or I’ll infuse a lemony, citrusy strain into olive oil to use in a salad dressing. On the flip side, I also chop up my cannabis fan leaves to use in a chimichurri, or juice it to color my dumpling dough. It’s an opportunity to be creative!”
Ultimately, her journey into cannabis cooking helped Lo manage her back pain in a less invasive manner and take back control of her life. She documented the process on her blog and Instagram, and as a result, doors opened for her to collaborate with “really amazing people and brands” in the cannabis industry.
“It’s been quite the adventure,” Lo says.
Edibles for everybody
Monica’s latest venture is the launch of her cookbook, The Weed Gummies Cookbook. Lo says it has been her dream since she started to publish a book, and she hopes her practical cookbook can be a go-to resource for the cannabis curious of all levels.
“Homemade edibles are cost-effective, discreet, and delicious! The Weed Gummies Cookbook offers approachable ways to incorporate a variety of cannabinoids into your routine. With step-by-step instructions and color photos, you’ll also get tips for safely handling and labeling your confections.”
At the end of the day, Chef Monica hopes the takeaway from her brand, Sous Weed, is that cannabis can be used as a superfood ingredient, as opposed to only a psychoactive additive.
“Raw or cooked, this plant is delicious! It’s not always about the THC or CBD; cannabis is a nutrient-dense vegetable to be treated as a culinary challenge like any other. My goal is to encourage and empower people to make their own infusions at home.”
Chef Monica Lo’s cannabis chimichurri recipe
Chef Monica Lo says, “If you’re growing a cannabis or hemp plant at home and you’re unsure of what to do with all the fan leaves–just eat it! While the leaves, in the raw state, won’t get you high, they can still provide you with a wealth of health benefits. Plus, it makes an awesome chimichurri.”
No cooking necessary
Makes about 2 cups
• 1/2 cup flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
• 1/4 cup raw cannabis or hemp leaves, finely chopped
• 2 tablespoons fresh oregano, finely chopped
• 1 small shallot, finely chopped
• 4 garlic cloves. finely chopped
• 1 red jalapeño, seeds removed, finely chopped
• 1/2 cup red wine vinegar
• 3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil*
• Juice of 1/2 lemon
• 1 teaspoon sea salt, plus more to taste
• 1/2 tsp cracked black pepper
1. Chop all ingredients separately.
2. Add ingredients into a bowl and mix well.**
3. Salt and pepper to taste.
4. Serve on skirt steak or roast chicken and enjoy.
*Substitute regular olive oil with your preferred dosage of cannabis-infused extra virgin olive oil if you’d like.
**To make a creamier dipping sauce that tastes amazing on empanadas, blend all ingredients together in a blender or food processor.
Follow Chef Monica Lo on Instagram to stay up to date on her recipes, books, and adventures. Click here to check out more of her recipes on Leafly.