Monday, March 21, 2011

Cheese and Maple Syrup... Or, Lionel Richie, Eat Your Heart Out...

Cheese and maple syrup. What to some may seem an unlikely marriage is in fact one of mother nature's most ingenious combinations. I happened to be up in Vermont over the weekend, where the sugar making season has just gotten underway and have returned incurably smitten with all things laced or laden with maple syrup.

howie at the boilerFor those of you who've never experienced sugaring, it is quite a thing to see. Forests still coated in a thick blanket of snow slowly but surely come back to life, sap pulsing through the trees, a sign of springtime coming. Sap runs for only a few weeks a year, when nighttime temperatures fall to below freezing and the days are warm. Sugar makers trudge out to the sugarhouse to hustle wood into the boiler, where giant pans boil the sap down until it's reduced to the amber hued syrup we know and love. Neighbors come out to help each other sugar, meals are cooked in maple sap inside the sugar house, beers are drunk, stories are told, and a good time is had by all. After the harshness of winter, it seems an unfathomable gift.



There must be a million incredible recipes out there, but here are three simple and delicious ways to munch maple syrup with your favorite fromage. We like Deep Mountain Maple Syrup from the town of West Glover, Vermont. Check them out at the Union Square Greenmarket!

Baked Hartwell with Maple Syrup and Walnuts:
This is a simple, but delightful thing dreamed up by Marisa Mauro, owner of Ploughgate Creamery, and also a resident of West Glover!

Ingredients:
1 wheel Hartwell cheese (if you can't find Hartwell, substitute a soft brie-like cheese)
1 generous pour of maple syrup
Chopped walnuts (optional)
Sliced bread (baguette or raisin nut breads are both great)

1. Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees
2. Place cheese in a ramekin of the appropriate size
3. Douse in maple syrup to your liking
4. Sprinkle with chopped nuts
5. Bake until gooey and delicious (5 to 10 minutes)
6. Dip bread and enjoy!

Yogurt with Maple Syrup:
This is not revolutionary, I know. But when the yogurt in question happens to be thick, rich, and delightful like our Three Corner Field Farm sheeps' milk yogurt or Beltane Farm goats' milk yogurt, it's a whole new ballgame. Serve as dessert at your next dinner party and instant dairy gratification shall be yours. Just think... there is nothing more low maintenance or delicious. Your chef-ing status will immediately rise in the eyes of your friends and family, and you won't stress about some fickle pastry misbehaving in the oven!

Ricotta Pancakes with Maple Syrup:
Again, probably not the first time you've heard of this one, but I can't think of many better ways to make cheese and maple syrup sing to one another... If you thought Lionel Richie and Diana Ross scored with 'Endless Love', just wait till you try these on for size!

Ingredients:

4 large eggs, separated

2 cups ricotta cheese (we've got Salvatore Bklyn and Alleva Ricotta!)

2/3 cup Evans Farm crème fraiche

1 1/3 cups all purpose flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 1/2 cups whole milk

Melted butter

Maple syrup


1. Whisk yolks, ricotta and creme fraiche in large bowl
2. Whisk flour, baking powder, salt and baking soda in another large bowl
3. Add flour mixture to yolk mixture and stir until combined
4. Stir in milk
5. Using electric mixer, beat whites in another large bowl on medium speed until soft peaks form. Fold beaten whites into batter.
6. Heat griddle or large skillet over medium heat. Brush with butter. Working in batches, spoon 2 tablespoons batter onto griddle for each pancake.
7. Cook until golden brown, about 3 minutes per side. Serve with maple syrup!

'Till next week... eat cheese with maple syrup and be merry!

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