Cannabis sativa is having a moment—from selling out in our first recreational marijuana stores to adding heft as hemp to vegetarian dishes around town. And while everyone is talking about the former, we’re here to celebrate the latter.
Hemp seeds (which have no psychoative effects) are a favorite of Colin Patterson, chef and owner of Sutra Seattle (Wallingford, 1605 N 45th St.; 206.547.1348; sutraseattle.com), the city’s only vegan fine dining restaurant. “Hemp seeds are one of the only plant-based foods that contains the same omega fats you find in fish,” says Colin Patterson, who has always relied on whole foods for flavor, not fake meats and proteins such as tempeh or seitan. “I don’t think [fake proteins] showcase food very well, it’s an easy out, and it’s also not very nutritious.”
Hemp seeds can be pulverized and used as a thickening agent for vegan-friendly “creams.” “If you add saffron to broth-soaked hemp seeds and purée them, you get a similar effect to a seafood saffron sauce,” as the omegas contribute a subtle fishy undertone.
At Sutra Seattle in Wallingford, Patterson uses hemp seeds for sauces, creams, salad dressings and soups. The seeds help enrich lobster mushroom risotto or a house-made Caesar salad, which he also blends with seaweed for a strong, ocean-like flavor. They may also be eaten raw, although Patterson suggests soaking them for at least 15 minutes before eating. “They have a very subtle, toasty flavor,” and soaking them helps to release the seeds’ nutritional flavor. “You’re making them come alive.”
Why you should try hemp seeds: For vegans or people with dairy allergies, hemp seeds give food a velvety texture that is otherwise hard to create. “Without [having to use] coconut milk or nuts, hemp seeds let you explore a fatty feel,” Patterson explains, “and diversity is good in a diet.”
How to use them at home: Soak the seeds in liquid—broth, water or vegetable juice—for 15 minutes or longer. Purée and strain to remove any solid pieces of the seed. For adding creaminess to soups, plan to use about 1 cup of hemp seeds per every 1.5 cups of liquid. For salad dressing, add soaked seeds to a blender with fresh herbs, lemon juice and water, and blend until the desired consistency is reached—no need for oil, as the seeds add the fat.
Where to find hemp seeds: Patterson orders them in bulk and recommends purchasing shelled hemp seeds, which break down more easily. They are sold as hemp hearts or shelled hemp seeds at most natural food stores, including Whole Foods Market (wholefoodsmarket.com; $21.99/pound). They are also available in 7-ounce (organic) and 8-ounce (non-organic) bags at PCC Natural Markets (pccnaturalmarkets.com, $10.50).
Click here for Patterson’s recipe for smoked lentil sunchoke cake with black garlic hempseed sauce.