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High Country: Meet the rising culinary star and proud pothead who’s reinventing Jewish food

'Modern mensch' Jake Cohen poses with a signature homemade challah loaf.
Courtesy Jake Cohen

Since his first cookbook debuted and hit bestseller lists in March, culinary content creator Jake Cohen has also been amplifying his other main passion: cannabis.

In between roles as a recipe tester for Saveur Magazine, food editor of Tasting Table and food critic for Time Out New York, Cohen turned into a social media sensation when he started sharing what he was up to in his own kitchen with his Persian-Iraqi husband, Alex Shapiro. The couple was inspired by OneTable, a national nonprofit that encourages millennial Jews to practice the Shabbat dinner tradition they are both now board members).

“[Alex] had never heard of babka or gefilte fish,” Cohen told Jewish Journal earlier this year. “All of a sudden, I realized Jewish food cannot be defined by one section of a Jewish community … It completely shook up everything I knew about food in a secular sense. It made me reevaluate what that meant as a Jew struggling with identity. We began to explore that through Shabbat.”

Mesmerizing challah-braiding videos and tantalizing photos of new twists on traditional Jewish food (in preparation for the dinner parties they started hosting every Friday night) helped score Cohen a book deal from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, which published “JEW-ISH: A COOKBOOK: Reinvented Recipes from a Modern Mensch.”

Since then, Cohen, 27 and a Culinary Institute of America alumni, left his latest post as feedfeed’s editorial and test kitchen director to build “Wake and Jake” full-time, while opening up about his own cannabis use along the way (his signature L’Chaim tie-dye tee is merch from the hilarious Instagram meme account Tokin’ Jew).

Click here to read the full story in Forbes.

Schmaltzy Chex Mix

I’m not a huge snacker. I can restrain myself against a bag of potato chips or a bowl of popcorn, but put some Chex mix near me and I lose all control. There is just something about its combo of textures that gives me life. So, I figured I might as well throw some chicken fat on it and call it a day. I toss this snack mix with rendered schmaltz, fresh thyme, dried spices, garlic, and lemon zest before baking it low and slow until it’s crisp and addictively salty/greasy.

While this munchie is perfectly good for anytime noshing, it’s one of my favorite things to make the day before I host Shabbat, so I can put out a giant bowl of it when my guests arrive (it’s also always better the day after you make it). It buys me a bit more time to put the finishing touches on dinner, while I enjoy my own private snack bowl.

My only disclaimer is about the pretzels. To this day, I pick out all the pretzels from store-bought Chex mix. Why? Because they are inferior to all three kinds of Chex and the mighty bagel chips used in the mix. However, I’ve found that gluten-free pretzels are absolutely incredible in this recipe. I don’t know why, you’re just going to have to trust me on this one!

— Jake Cohen

•Yield: serves 8 to 10

•Prep time: 15 minutes

•Cook time: 45 minutes

Ingredients:

•½ cup schmaltz, melted

•2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves

•1½ teaspoons kosher salt

•1 teaspoon onion powder

•1 teaspoon dried oregano

•1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

•1 garlic clove, finely grated

•3 cups corn Chex

•2 cups rice Chex

•2 cups wheat Chex

•2 cups bagel chips

•1 cup small pretzels

Instructions:

•Preheat the oven to 275°F.

•In a small bowl, stir together the melted schmaltz, thyme, salt, onion powder, oregano, lemon zest, and garlic.

•In a large bowl, toss the corn Chex, rice Chex, wheat Chex, bagel chips, and pretzels to combine, then drizzle with the schmaltz mixture and toss to coat. Transfer to a half sheet pan and spread into an even layer.

•Bake, tossing halfway through, for about 45 minutes, until fragrant and crisp. Transfer to a bowl and serve warm or store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week.

Excerpted from “Jew-Ish: A Cookbook: Reinvented Recipes from a Modern Mensch” © 2021 by Jake Cohen. Photography © 2021 by Matt Taylor-Gross. Reproduced by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved.

High Country: Sungrown cannabis cultivator Roots Rx shares the pros and cons of farming at altitude

Unlike California, where sungrown cannabis thrives in growing regions like the Emerald Triangle, flower from Colorado most commonly comes from indoor greenhouses in industrial parks. With a challenging climate — made even more difficult the higher the elevation — it’s a challenge to find cannabis that’s cultivated the way it was intended to: from the earth.

Enter Roots Rx, the multi-store chain of dispensaries that has gained a foothold in the high country with six mountain town locations in Aspen, Basalt, Eagle-Vail, Edwards, Gunnison and Leadville. Its first location opened seven years ago in Eagle-Vail, with Roots Rx Aspen and Basalt soon following in 2014 and 2015, respectively. Today, the Roots Rx corporate team remains based in Eagle-Vail with an indoor cultivation headquarters adjacent to its Leadville location.

SHOP

Roots Rx

rootsrxstores.com | @rootsrxco

ASPEN – 400 E. Hyman Ave. (lower level)

970-900-9333

BASALT – 165 Southside Drive

970-539-9333

But what sets the traditional adult- use retailer apart from its competitors is that it also owns a large parcel of land (ownership declined to disclose acreage and output specifics) near Basalt, where it operates a full-scale outdoor cannabis farm. As one of the only true seed-to-sale dispensary companies in the state, Roots Rx features a special “sungrown shelf” in each of its stores (availability is dependent on harvest yield and time of year) with its indoor supply supplementing the remaining inventory; Roots Rx offers 14 unique strains in total, in addition to flower from brand partners across Colorado.

Following the first snow, which had the Roots Rx team scrambling to wrap up their final harvest of the season last Sunday, cultivation manager Cody Bolt shares his pros and cons for growing cannabis at altitude. (He also personally recommends the Sunset Mac and Chem Dawg #4 as his personal favorite Roots Rx sungrown strains.)

PRO:

Outdoor natural sunlight provides more light than plants can use in a day, and since they are in the dirt, it provides more potential for root growth and greater yielding plants. We don’t have as high of an electric use, since there is no need for lights. The plants become more resilient because they become used to the Colorado temperature flux we experience in our area. They ease into the seasonal change, which makes them heartier plants. And at elevation, we have low pest pressure since they don’t thrive in the colder temperatures like they (can) in an indoor, climate-controlled setting.

CON:

With outdoor we don’t have as much control, we have to work with Mother Nature’s changes, which can happen very quickly. It also means we have to do it the right way once, instead of having to go back and manipulate a better environment in an indoor setting.

PRO:

The benefits include the native soil and water (on the farm). They are of great quality and that makes a huge difference. Challenges include late spring freeze and early fall freeze and we only get one growing season when growing outside.

CON:

Using the soil on the land is extremely reusable, but we do have to do a lot by hand to avoid emissions from heavy equipment. As an industry overall, we have to work on improving everything we are doing and move to more organic practices. Along with keeping all of our facility and store practices sustainable.

The Roots Rx farm employs a staff of eight, who hand-trim every harvest.
Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times

PRO:

The soil is extremely fertile! When you look at a panel of (our) soil we have great microbial growth. Good bacteria in the soil is beneficial, in the same way probiotics are good for humans. Its natural nutrient profile levels are very good. We start testing these levels in the spring, when the snow melts to ensure we are starting with the best opportunity for healthy plants!

HARVEST SERIES

Welcome to the inaugural and annual Harvest Series, where each week in October, High Country will introduce you to leading local cannabis cultivators and entrepreneurs as a celebration of the season. Synonymous with a final gathering of fruits and vegetables before the first frost, autumn is equally as ripe for cannabis farming — it’s a crop, too, after all.