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Wednesday, September 15, 2004

All About Honey

I predict honey consumption will rise dramatically tonight. Why? It's the eve of the Jewish new year and to celebrate, Jews use honey in cakes, desserts and serve it with apples or on Challah bread as a ritual to ensure a "sweet new year". Growing up my mother used to make a holiday treat made of dough cooked in gingery honey and dotted with maraschino cherries that my sister and I were crazy about. But I think we mostly just liked it the novelty of it.

Honey is an unusual ingredient, like milk, it is a by-product of the animal kingdom. Though honey should not be fed to infants under one year of age, for everyone else it does have many health benefits, including anti-microbial properties and a high levels of antioxidants. Going back to the time of Hippocrates, it has traditionally been used to heal wounds and as an energy source.

My favorite honey dessert has got to be baklava a Greek dessert made with layers of filo dough and almonds and honey. Recently I discovered chestnut honey and it's strong, earthy flavor works well with grilled meats. In the past couple of years more and more honey cookbooks have been published and I can only assume that interest in this ancient ingredient is growing.

Whether or not you are celebrating the new year tonight, you can sweeten things up with some of these ideas for using honey:

*Dip apples in honey mixed with peanut butter

*Drizzle honey on ricotta that has been mixed with chopped walnuts and chocolate chips for a quick dessert

*Spoon honey over Greek style plain yogurt for breakfast or dessert

*Mix equal parts honey and butter as a spread for cornbread or corn muffins

*Add a tablespoon or two of honey to milk and eggs before soaking bread for french toast

*Mix one tablespoon each honey, vinegar and mustard with 1/4 cup olive oil to make a creamy salad dressing

*Marinate chicken in equal parts honey and lemon juice, grill or bake

*To 1/2 cup catsup add 1/4 cup each honey, soy sauce and lemon juice to make a tangy barbecue sauce