Limonene Chimichurri

Chef Brandon Allen shares the science and inspirational tale behind his limonene-infused chimichurri

@chefbrandonallen

Featured Terpene - Limonene

Ingredients:

  • Fresh curly leaf parsley
    • 2 oz (1 bunch, small stems are okay to include)
  • Fresh oregano
    • 1 oz (1 bunch, leaves only)
  • Raw garlic
    • 3-4 cloves
  • Red wine vinegar
    • ¾ cup
  • EVOO
    • 1 ¼ cup
  • Limonene
    • 15 drops
  • Kosher salt
    • 1 tsp, adjust as needed
  • Black pepper
    • ½ tsp, adjust as needed
  • Honey
    • 1 tbsp
  • Cayenne pepper (optional)
    • ⅛ tsp

Procedure:

  • Combine everything into a blender, turn it on, pet your dog for 30 seconds, turn it off and pour the chimichurri into a jar.
  • Use to soothe freshly charred, perfectly cooked, medium-rare meats.

While I was in culinary school in Pittsburgh, I worked at a fast casual Argentinian joint called Gaucho, with some of the most badass and positive chefs in the world. Anyone who has worked the line before knows that the chef’s attitude determines the attitude of the kitchen, and there are some really brutal kitchen environments out there that can make an already strenuous job, extra shitty. Fortunately, the chefs and owner of Gaucho set the tone for an atmosphere that was encouraging, energetic and a lot of fucking fun; so, when the door opened for lunch on a busy Saturday with a line of customers stretching out the door around the block, the kitchen crew was ready for battle with positive vibes and a bunch of really inappropriate jokes. I miss Gaucho. I miss the chefs, and I really miss the food!

Anyone who has followed my Instagram knows that you’ll find a range of posts from cannabis education, debunking stoner myths to tons of tacos and a lot of really primal, fatty, juicy, grilled meats! Gaucho has not only influenced my love for grilling for the gram, but my love for delicious sauces and condiments to top charred proteins and vegetables with. Every piece of grilled red meat at Gaucho is cooked to temperature, sliced against the grain on a bias and then topped with some coarse salt and chimichurri... that you could basically just drink right out of the cambro, it’s so damn delicious.

Now, I can’t remember Gaucho’s chimi recipe, nor would I share it with you out of respect for them, but I do remember being told that the ingredients in this recipe are what make it a “traditional chimichurri”, mainly because of the use of parsley and oregano and not cilantro. What is a traditional chimichurri? I honestly have no idea. Quite frankly, I don’t think it matters. As long as you end up with a fresh, herbaceous, slightly acidic, garlicky and oily sauce, you’re good to go. I don’t think any traditional Argentinian chefs are adding isolated limonene terpene to their chimi, so let's just call this what it is - Limonene Chimichurri.

Limonene is one of the most abundant terpenes in the plant kingdom and is the terpene that is commonly associated with narrow leaf marijuana, which everyone incorrectly calls sativa (check out the Trichome Institute to have your mind blown on that little teaser), that produces uplifting, stimulating and euphoric effects. Limonene is also found in all citrus, which is why many marijuana varieties have names and aromatics that include lemon, tangerine, orange, lime and grapefruit.

Limonene does not directly bind to CB receptors of the Endocannabinoid System like cannabinoids or beta-caryophyllene. Instead, limonene and many other terpenes modulate a group of neurotransmitters called monoamines, which includes norepinephrine, dopamine, serotonin, and epinephrine (also called adrenaline, which is functions both as a hormone and a neurotransmitter). This is why limonene and other citrus oils have been shown to modulate mood disorders like anxiety, depression and stress. However, there are different forms and metabolites of limonene that provoke differences in activity in the brain, which is why the dose and method of delivery of limonene is ultimately what determines the effects and medicinal benefits.

When you inhale cannabinoids and limonene together, there is an entourage effect of the various compounds working on different systems at the same time. Cannabinoids modulate the ECS, other GPCRs, PPARs, TRP channels, monoamines and other systems, while limonene also modulates monoamines at the same time. This can promote an interesting situation because the entourage of these molecules can work in different ways, depending on the individual. Which of these compounds are enhancing or inhibiting neurotransmitter release, at what ratio, for how long, and is that what’s needed to achieve homeostasis, or is it provoking instability? The combination of cannabinoids and limonene for one person may bring them out of a depressive and stressful state, while stimulating severe anxiety and paranoia for another. Thankfully, this is why there is a variety cannabis chemovars that have different terpenes and cannabinoids, at infinite ratios, allowing everyone to find the best entourage effect for their individual desired effects.

As I mentioned in my previous beta-caryophyllene recipe, the effects of terpenes through inhalation are completely different than digestion, and the amount of the dose is ultimately what determines the efficacy and effects of the terpene. With that being said, the 15 drops of limonene in this recipe may or may not provoke physiological effects. If you eat this delicious chimichurri while you’re high, you’re not going to feel any modulation in the effects of your high, unless you think really long and hard about it and placebo yourself into a more stimulated high or a severe panic attack! At the end of the day, adding terpenes to recipes, is no different than adding lemon zest, a little extra black pepper, some beautifully floral extra virgin olive oil, or a little dash of hot sauce; terpenes are just another tool for your pantry to enhance the flavor and aromatics of a recipe.

Even if the limonene or any other terpene being added to a recipe isn’t provoking the medicinal effects that various medical reviews and studies claim they can or may do, positively enhancing your experience with food is what’s actually modulating your brain chemistry! When you drizzle this limonene chimichurri onto your perfectly cooked ribeye steak, the aromatics of the sizzling charred fat and protein, combined with citrus and herbs, is going to stimulate your olfactory system and trigger your emotions and memories while modulating brain chemistry. When you bite into the first piece of meat and taste fat, salt, char and tender protein completely balanced out by the herbaceous, acidic and fresh flavors of the chimi, your brain is going to fire like crazy as your reward system is activated and pleasure ensues. Once the bite is down, your palate is going to be sustained with the amazing contrast of flavors due to the fat from the meat and chimi lingering, holding onto every bit of flavor. Finally, take a small breath in through your mouth with your lips slightly open; that cooling sensation that is crisp and sharp is the limonene, cleansing your senses for the next bite… Holy shit I love food, it’s seriously more of a drug to me than cannabis itself.

Not only should we focus on letting food be thy medicine... we should let flavor be thy medicine as well.

Cheers,

Chef Brandon Allen

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