March, to me, means two things. St. Patricks’s Day (being the crazy non-Irishwoman that I am) and Maple Syrup time. The earth is starting to wake up a little bit now…grass is getting a tad greener, we are seeing some blooms appear…the days are warmer and the nights are still cool. THAT is precisely syrup time. I swear, somewhere in another life, I must have been a farmer. I derive just too much pleasure from the stuff that Mama Nature comes up with (except snakes- *shiver*).
Have you ever been to a sugar shack? Amazing how delightfully naughty that sounds, despite the fact that we are talking about something you drizzle over pancakes. A sugar shack is the single-most fabulous smelling little ramshackle building on our entire planet. The air is maple-scented. Warm, sugary, maple-y…swirling all around you and being consumed by every pore of your being. Just call yourself a flapjack and be done with it. Really. It’s perfectly intoxicating. And then, when you find out how much work goes into making a single gallon of this liquified amber goodness, you’ll gain a whole new appreciation and virtually want to kiss every sugar maple tree you see. It takes 35-50 gallons of sap to make ONE little ol’ gallon of maple syrup. That’s truly ridiculous. That almost makes me feel a little badly about using it in such a devil-may-care way on my breakfast foods. But oh….it’s so worth it, isn’t it? Just please tell me now that you only buy this marvelous real stuff, not the high fructose corn syrup masquerading as a syrup. Please? If you do, your assignment this week is to try a bottle of the good stuff. You’ll never go back, extra dollars aside. Besides, it’s all natural. Mama Nature’s candy-from a tree.
Before I launch into some recipes, I have a find to share with you. I buy a jar of this cream every year when we go to New Hampshire (ironically, it’s made in Vermont. Whatever). It ranks up there with Nutella, freshly ground peanut butter and other items that are so good they don’t even make it onto the foods they are intended to be put on. You, a spoon and the jar. Everyone else can just clear out of the room. It’s maple cream….think of a maple sugar candy that’s been melted and then you get to spread it on something. Like your tongue. Love those sugar maples.
I have a few marvelously magnificent maple-y recipes to share with you. Perfect for your upcoming weekend. I’m being good, too…one that’s a veggie and one that’s sort of a sweet. Both are from the wonderful Cook’s Illustrated Cookbook that my dear husband got me for Christmas that truly weighs no less than 5 pounds. It’s a bohemoth of a book.
Roasted Maple-Mustard Green Beans
(funny, I just read the recipe and there’s this one intro line that says “These beans are a great match for pork”. I read it as “These beans are a great match for a fork”. Either way works-ha)
1 Tb. maple syrup
1 Tb. Dijon mustard
1 Tb. whole grain mustard
pinch cayenne pepper
1 lb. green beans, trimmed
2 carrots, peeled and cut into 2 -inch long matchsticks
1 Tb. vegetable oil (or oil of your choice. I always go with Extra Virgin Olive)
1 Tb. minced fresh parsley
Preheat oven to 450 with rack in middle. Combine syrup, mustards and cayenne in a small bowl. Line rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil and spread beans and carrots upon it. Drizzle veggies with oil and using clean hands, toss to coat. Sprinkle 1/2 tsp salt, toss to coat and distribute in even, single layer across pan. Transfer to oven and roast for 10 minutes. Remove baking sheet from oven. Pour syrup mixture over beans, and using tongs (hot!), toss to coat. Redistribute in even layer again and continue to roast until carrots and beans are dark golden brown in spots and beans are starting to shrivel..a little. 10-12 minutes.
Season to taste, sprinkle with parsley and enjoy!
Glazed Maple-Pecan Oatmeal Scones
1/5 cups old-fashioned or quick oats (old-fashioned give a deeper oat flavor and the quick give a softer texture. Your call which to use)
1/4 cup whole milk (you can also use half-and-half)
1/4 cup heavy cream (you can also use half-and-half)
1 large egg
1.5 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup maple syrup
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
10 Tb. unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch cubes and chilled
1/2 cup chopped pecans
3 Tb. maple syrup
1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
Preheat oven to 375 and put rack in middle position. Spread oats and pecans on a baking sheet and toast until fragrant and lightly brown, about 7-9 minutes. Cool on wire rack. Increase oven temp. to 450. When oats are cooled, measure out 2 Tb. for dusting counter and set aside. Line second baking sheet with parchment.
Whisk milk, cream (or half-and-halfs), egg and maple syrup in small bowl until mixed together. Reserve 1 Tb. in small bowl for glazing and set aside.
Mix flour, baking powder and salt together. Scatter chilled butter pieces over dry ingredients and cut in with pastry cutter or knives. Do not use hands…don’t want to cool the butter. Work relatively quickly. Transfer mixture to medium bowl and stir in oats and pecans. Using spatula, fold in liquid ingredients until large clumps form. Mix dough by hand until it forms a cohesive mass.
Dust counter with 1 Tb. reserved oats/pecans. Turn dough out onto counter and gently pat dough into 7-inch circle about 1-inch thick. Cut dough into 8 wedges and place on prepared baking sheet. Brush tops with reserved milk mixture and sprinkle with a tad of sugar, for crunch. Bake until golden about 12-14 minutes. Let scones cool on sheet for 5 minutes and then transfer to wire rack. When scones are cool, whisk 3 Tb. maple syrup and confectioners’ sugar until combined and drizzle over scones.
Don’t you just love the word drizzle when it comes to food?
See you all on Monday!