Food of the Week: Maple Syrup

I try to focus this column on healthy foods, so this week’s column is a bit of a departure. Maple syrup, like other sweeteners, should be eaten sparingly. However, there are a few reasons to choose maple syrup over other sweeteners. A 2010 study linked maple syrup to the prevention of diseases such as cancer and Alzheimer’s. Since the study was funded in part by the Federation of Quebec Maple Syrup Producers, its findings should be taken with a grain of salt. It seems likely, though, that maple syrup is a healthier sweetener than refined white sugar, for example. What we do know for sure about maple syrup is that it is an excellent source of the mineral manganese, and also provides some zinc. One tablespoon contains about 50 calories.

Minnesota had a poor maple syrup harvest last spring, and New England’s harvest also suffered due to mild temperatures in March. While I’ve read some reports that global warming will likely have an adverse effect on maple syrup production in the near future, other reports say it’s too soon to tell, or that such an effect is probably decades away.

Maple-Mustard Dressing

From the Angry Trout restaurant in Grand Marais.

Whisk together

¼ c. maple syrup
¼ c. Dijon mustard
¼ c. red wine vinegar
¾ c. vegetable oil

Maple Barbeque Sauce

Delicious with any meat you would barbecue. From The Lewis and Clark Cookbook.

½ t. liquid smoke
1 t. celery seed or celery salt
1 T. Dijon mustard
2 T. extra virgin olive oil
2 T. rice vinegar
¼ c. shallots or onion, minced
½ c. maple syrup
½ c. chili sauce

In a small saucepan, heat all ingredients to a simmer, stirring occasionally. Simmer 3-5 minutes. Alternately, add to meat cooking in a crock pot when the meat is nearly cooked.

Maple Pudding Cake

1½ c. whole wheat flour
2 t. baking powder
¼ t. salt
1½ c. brown sugar
½ c. milk
¼ c. maple syrup
1 egg
1 t. vanilla
½ t. maple flavor
4 T. butter, melted
1-3 T. cornstarch
1¾ c. hot water

Preheat the oven to 350°. In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, salt, and ½ c. brown sugar. In a separate bowl, mix the milk, syrup, egg, vanilla, maple flavor, and melted butter. Combine the two mixtures and spread the batter into an 8- or 9-inch square pan.
In a medium bowl, combine the remaining cup of brown sugar and the cornstarch, then sprinkle it over the top of the batter. Place the pan in the oven, then pour the hot water evenly over the batter. Bake for 45 minutes.

Note: Three tablespoons of cornstarch results in a sauce more like a soft gelatin (when at room temperature). Use 1 T. of cornstarch for a runnier sauce.

Spicy Maple-Roasted Chicken

This adapted Joy of Cooking recipe is actually for quail, but chicken is much easier for most of us to obtain.

6-8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
Salt and pepper
1/3 c. maple syrup
¼ c. soy sauce
2 T. red wine vinegar
½ t. chili powder
4-6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
½ t. five-spice powder

Whisk the last six ingredients in a bowl. Season the chicken with salt and pepper to taste, then marinate the chicken in the sauce for 4 to 8 hours. Preheat the oven to 475°. Drain the chicken, reserving the marinade, and place on a rack in a roasting pan (putting a cookie rack on top of a pan also works). Roast for 10 minutes. Reduce the temperature to 400° and roast, basting twice with the reserved marinade, about 10 minutes more, until the meat juices are slightly pink when the skin is pierced and the flesh is still juicy. Cover loosely with foil and let stand for 5 minutes before serving. Meanwhile, reduce any remaining marinade to a thicker sauce by cooking it in a saucepan.

The Roots of All Evil

This recipe appeared several years ago in my college newspaper, The Concordian, with the encouragement “You can’t really screw this up.” Think of the ingredients and quantities more as guidelines.

1 small acorn squash, peeled
2 yams, peeled
8 potatoes, unpeeled (red or Yukon gold recommended)
2 parsnips, peeled
1 apple, peeled
1 red onion, skin removed
½ c. raisins, dried cranberries, and/or walnuts
4 carrots or 2 c. baby carrots
½ c. each canola oil, maple syrup, and water
1 t. garlic, minced
1 t. each salt and pepper
2 t. any combination of cinnamon, cloves, and allspice

Preheat the oven to 400°. Wash and chop up all the vegetables into dice-sized pieces and toss them in an ungreased glass casserole dish. Whisk together the vinaigrette ingredients and drizzle the mixture over the vegetables. If needed, make more vinaigrette to adequately coat everything. Cover and bake 45-60 minutes.

Maple Indian Pudding

I don’t remember what cookbook I got this from, but it pointed out that this pudding gets its name from an American colonial-era term for corn, “Indian.”

3 c. milk
¾ c. maple syrup
½ c. cornmeal
1 T. butter
½ t. cinnamon
½ t. salt
¼ t. ginger
¼ t. nutmeg
2 eggs, beaten

Preheat the oven to 350° and grease a 1-quart casserole dish. In a large saucepan, bring the milk to a boil over medium heat. Reduce heat to low, stir in the syrup, and cook for 4 minutes. Add the cornmeal and cook, stirring constantly, for 6-8 minutes. Stir in the butter and seasonings, then remove from heat and let cool 5 minutes. Whisk in the eggs until well combined. Pour the pudding into the prepared dish and bake until the center is set, about an hour.