Plan bee

Last modified: 3/21/2012 12:00:00 AM
This year's warm weather hasn't been good for New Hampshire's maple syrup producers. Maple trees need the temperature to drop below freezing at night for the sap to run properly, and Mother Nature has not been cooperating. My brother and sister-in-law are guessing they'll make only half as much syrup as they produce in a normal year, though what they have produced is gorgeous - buttery flavored and amber.

But if next winter's larder is going to be light on maple syrup, it's looking like it might be packed with honey to make up for it. My in-laws' hives have come through the winter in fine form, and the bees are already swarming my garden, looking for something eat.

Alas, there's not much in the way of pollen available at the moment, so the bees have taken to scaring the birds away from my feeders, crawling over the sunflower seeds, scraping up the nutritious seed-dust to carry home to feed their hungry brood. They've even been swarming over a few trees we cut recently and making off with sawdust, though I can't imagine any larval bee is going to be happy with that for dinner.

In honor of the return of the bees, I broke out the last of the honey I bought last fall from my in-laws and worked on some honey-rich recipes. Below you'll find three of my favorites.

Whenever you see "Hong Kong Style" in the title of a grilling recipe, it means soy sauce and honey will be featured. I like to balance all that salt and sweet with hefty doses of vinegar, hot peppers and alliums. The marinade recipe that follows is also delicious on grilled pork or beef.

Because of the warm weather, this year's parsnip season is going to be as brief as the maple syrup season has been. Parsnips - which traditionally overwinter in the ground to sweeten up for early spring consumption - send up green leaves when temperatures rise. And once the greens appear, the center of the parsnip goes woody and becomes inedible. This year, the parsnips have begun to bolt a month early, which means if you're going to eat them, now is the time. In this recipe for glazed parsnips, honey underscores the spice note in the root vegetable while lemon adds some needed acidity and butter rounds things out.

And finally, the Honey Walnut Tart is my homage to a recipe from the Republic of Georgia, where honey and walnuts are abundant. There, boiled honey is mixed with walnuts to make a sticky candy. I've added some cream, butter and bourbon to the mix to make a deliciously rich caramel filling. In fact, the tart is so rich, it should be served by the sliver rather than the slice, and I would forego topping it with whipped cream or ice cream. Serve it instead in the Mediterranean style, with a tiny cup of bitter espresso to balance the caramel or, come June, with a few fresh strawberries.

 Grilled Chicken Wings Hong Kong Style

 

1 teaspoon sesame or other oil

½ cup honey

½ cup soy sauce

1 small bunch scallions, trimmed of roots and chopped

3 to 4 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped

1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger

2 teaspoons Chinese five spice powder (optional)

¼ cup vinegar (sherry, cider, or another acidic variety)

2 tablespoons hot pepper sauce, such as sriracha (optional)

1 dozen chicken wings

To measure the honey, oil the measuring cup with the teaspoon of oil, then pour in the honey. Combine all the ingredients except the chicken wings and mix well. Place the wings in a large, flat, nonreactive pan and pour ࡪ of the sauce over them. Toss to coat, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for several hours or overnight.

Heat a well-oiled grill to medium hot or preheat your oven to 450 degrees. Arrange the chicken wings the long way on metal skewers, stretching the wings so they are as straight as possible. Coat again with marinade.

Place the wings on the grill or on a large, oiled sheet tray in the oven. Cook for 10 to 15 minutes or until cooked through - they will take longer in the oven than on the grill - basting occasionally with the remaining marinade, and turning the skewers so the wings brown evenly. If they begin to burn, turn down the heat. If roasting in the oven, you may turn on the broiler briefly at the end of cooking to crisp the wings a bit. Serve immediately.

 Honey and Lemon Glazed Parsnips

 

1 bunch parsnips (about 2 pounds before peeling), peeled and cut into small pieces

2 tablespoons honey

juice of one lemon

2 tablespoons butter

½ teaspoon salt (or to taste)

1½ cups water

parchment paper or tinfoil, cut to fit the pan with a 1 inch hole cut in the center

Combine the honey, lemon juice, butter, salt and water in a saucepan and bring to a simmer.

Add the parsnips and rest the prepared parchment on top of the them. This will allow the cooking liquid to gradually reduce as the parsnips cook.

Simmer the parsnips until they are tender and the liquid has reduced and thickened. Be careful not to let the liquid boil away completely or the parsnips will burn. If necessary, add a little more water. Ideally, the cooking liquid will reduce to a glaze over the parsnips.

If the parsnips are tender and the liquid hasn't reduced enough, scoop out the parsnips and continue cooking the liquid until it reaches the proper consistency. Return the parsnips to the glaze, toss well and serve hot.

 Honey Walnut Tart

 

1 pre-baked, 10-inch tart shell (a 9-inch pre-baked pie shell will also work, though you may have a little extra filling)

1 cup heavy cream

1 cup sugar

1 cup honey

2 tablespoons corn syrup

½ teaspoon salt

4 tablespoons cool butter, cut into pieces

¼ cup bourbon, dark rum or brandy (optional)

2 cups walnuts, lightly toasted

Combine the cream, sugar, honey, corn syrup and salt in a heavy pot and bring to a simmer. Continue cooking until a candy thermometer inserted in the caramel reads 250 degrees.

Remove from the heat and add the butter, stirring carefully as the caramel may bubble up. Add the bourbon and mix well, then stir in the nuts.

Pour the mixture into the pre-baked tart shell and allow to set for several hours, until completely cool and firm enough to cut. Serve in very small slivers with espresso or tart, fresh fruit, such as strawberries.




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