Chem Tales: Stephanie Hua’s Edibles Cookbook

The Mellows founder offers a modern — and discreet — twist on THC-infused treats.

Before the golden age of marijuana got underway, the only cannabis cookbooks you’d find at a local bookstore felt more akin to the type of items carried at Hot Topic and Spencer’s Gifts. With covers emblazoned with oversized pot leaves and lettering that evoked smoke or psychedelia, these titles played into the novelty of cannabis as an ingredient while offering little in the way of reliable — or legitimately delicious — recipes.

Bay Area resident Stephanie Hua of Lick My Spoon hopes to put an end to that with Edibles: Small Bites for the Modern Cannabis Kitchen (Chronicle Books).

Set for release in early November, Edibles may have a few (comparatively) discreet pot leaves on its cover, but the focus is on the food. Including recipes like duck meatball sliders, cardamom caramels, and roasted beet hummus, Hua and co-writer Coreen Carroll’s work dovetails with a cultural shift away from those huge brownie slabs that risk torpedoing your day and toward gourmet bites infused with microdoses of cannabis.

Hua has experience in this arena already. In 2015, she started Mellows — a San Francisco company that offers handcrafted, low-dose marshmallows. In a sense, Hua successfully predicted a pivot from “junk food” edibles to a more sophisticated approach.

“I think the market is just now starting to catch up to this belief in low-dose edibles,” Hua says, “but we’ve been doing that from the very beginning.”

Green eggs and ham. Courtesy photo

In fact, before she ever entered the cannabis industry, Hua met her future Edibles co-author while the two attended San Francisco Cooking School. While Hua focused on Mellows, Carroll launched the Cannaisseur Series, which offers cannabis dining experiences and workshops across the Bay Area.

“After we graduated,” Hua recalls, “we realized that we were both working in cannabis. When the opportunity to make a cookbook came my way, there was really no one else I would’ve rather brought onto this project than her.”

Creating any type of cookbook is a substantial undertaking, but with cannabis, there are numerous other factors to consider.

For one, cannabis can’t simply be listed on a recipe list in the same way one might denote the need for half a stick of butter, given the drastic varieties of potency between strains. In creating a cookbook geared toward low-dose bites, Hua and Carroll opted to develop the collection’s 30 recipes using the widely available strain Sour Diesel.

Together, they created dosage calculations based on the strain’s commonly accepted THC and THCA percentages, with the expectation that readers would be able to substitute the cannabis the authors used for any strain with the equivalent levels. Now that such information is readily available on the labels of products at all licensed dispensaries, there is far less risk of a well-meaning amateur cook accidentally tripling a recipe’s potency.

Edibles also includes a wealth of information on the practicalities of cooking with cannabis in sections like “The Importance of Cannabis,” “Tricks of the Trade,” and “Master Infusions.”

“We want to set people up for success,” Hua says. “We felt it was really important to include a section where we highlight different tips and techniques to help readers make sure they have consistency throughout the recipes. Especially when you’re talking about something that’s intended to be a microdose, a few grams of an ingredient can make a world of difference.”

Naturally, none of Hua and Carroll’s efforts would amount to much if the recipes themselves were not first and foremost delicious. While they handled the dosing with lab testing, the pair’s family and friends benefited by serving as guinea pigs, sampling non-medicated variations of corn dog muffins and roasted grape crostini.

Indeed, it is the cookbook’s approach — presenting itself as a collection of recipes that simply happen to include cannabis — that truly sets it apart from its predecessors. If the cannabis cookbooks of the past were concerned with getting you as high as possible, the focus with Edibles is to inspire cooks of any skillset to create something that balances elevation with flavor.

“We really wrote this book with the food lover in mind,” Hua says. “I think part of our underlying mission with putting this book out is to destigmatize and normalize cannabis use. We felt it was really important for this to look like it could be right at home on anyone’s cookbook shelf. I think the culinary focus behind it makes it really appealing for people who just love to be in the kitchen, to cook for their friends and family, and to entertain. Whether it’s infused or non-infused, there’s nothing we love more than breaking bread and sharing a great meal with the people we love.”

Edibles: Small Bites for the Modern Cannabis Kitchen comes out on Tuesday, Nov. 6.
Hua and Carroll appear at San Francisco Cooking School on Nov. 6 at 6 p.m. and Omnivore Books on Thursday, Nov. 15 at 6:30 p.m., yayedibles.com.

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