The Fresh Honey Cookbook
I love cooking with honey – not only in the Fall or dead of Winter, but all year around. It’s such a nice substitute for regular sugar and gives a warm, homey flavor to almost all types of recipes. I recently picked up a copy of The Fresh Honey Cookbook, by Beekeeper, Caterer, Chef and Spokesperson for The National Honey Board and Café owner Laurey Masterson of Asheville NC. I fell in love with her vibrant recipes using different varieties of honey throughout all 12 months of the year – she offers honey-tasting tips and recipes featuring seasonal ingredients for dishes both savory and sweet.
Each chapter is organized around a specific honey for the month including orange blossom, tupelo, avocado, eucalyptus and blueberry honey and more. In January, she has a recipe for Meyer lemon and Honey-Marinated Chicken Skewers, Pork Tenderloin with Orange Blossom Honey Mustard and Oven Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Garlic. In the Summer, she features delicious fresh recipes for Grilled Garlic Shrimp with a Fresh Heirloom Tomato Sauce, Vermont-Style Summer Squash Casserole, and Broiled Peaches with Sourwood Honey.
She also goes into detail about her experience as a beekeeper and teaches readers how bees make honey, how it’s harvested, what they can do to help the bee population and what is going on in the hives throughout the year.
Here are a few of my favorite recipes from the book for the chilly months of the Winter season. Enjoy!
roasted delicata squash with tuscan kale
Delicata squash is naturally sweet and pairs so nicely with the kale and the other tastes of Italy and the Mediterranean. This recipe calls for pine nuts, which are quite expensive these days, but the buttery texture and flavor is so delicious that I am reluctant to suggest an alternative. This dish is great as a lunch salad or as a warm side dish. She recommends pairing this with her Deviled Beef Bones recipe made with Eucalyptus Honey (recipe follows).
3 Delicata squash (about 3 pounds total)
Extra-virgin olive oil
¼ teaspoon coarse salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 pound bow-tie pasta
2 bunches Italian (Tuscan Lacinato) kale
½ cup pine nuts
1 cup crumbled feta cheese
1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
2. Cut the squash in half lengthwise and remove the seeds. Cut into 1-inch chunks (there’s no need to remove the edible skin). Arrange on a baking sheet and spray or brush with olive oil. Season with the salt and pepper. Roast 10 to 15 minutes, until tender. Allow to cool.
3. Fill a large pot with water, add salt, and bring to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until just tender. Drain, rinse, and set aside.
4. Remove the leaves of the kale from the stems and cut into large pieces. Set up a steaming basket over boiling water, and steam the kale just until bright green, about 2 minutes. Remove and plunge into ice water to stop the cooking and keep them bright green.
5. Toast the pine nuts in a small dry skillet over medium-low heat until light brown, 3 to 5 minutes. (Stay nearby while you’re toasting. Left unattended, they can easily burn.)
6. Combine the pasta, kale, squash, and pine nuts in a large bowl. Toss, and then add the cheese. Taste and adjust the seasonings. Enjoy!
deviled beef bones
Laurie grew up with these wonderful beef bones, which were leftovers from the standing rib beef roast served at her Mother’s Blueberry Hill restaurant. The fat rib bones have a lot of meat and are enough to make a substantial meal out of them. They are served in a barbecue sauce that is a dark, wintry mixture featuring Eucalyptus Honey, which resembles molasses or Louisiana cane syrup. It is then combined with mustard and served as a delicious sauce for the beef bones.
Eucalyptus Honey varies from light amber to very dark brown, depending on where the eucalyptus is growing. It has a stronger taste then the lighter honeys, but is very pleasing to folks who have a more adventurous palate. This dark honey is perfect for the chillier days of Autumn and Winter.
1 teaspoon dry mustard
½ teaspoon salt
¼ cup Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon eucalyptus honey
1 tablespoon molasses
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
6-8 whole beef rib bones, cooked
- Preheat the oven to 425°F if using cooked ribs, or 450°F if using uncooked ribs.
- Combine the dry mustard, salt, Dijon mustard, vinegar, honey, molasses, and Worcestershire sauce in a small bowl. Whisk well.
- If your ribs are already cooked, place them on a baking sheet, brush with the barbecue sauce, and cook in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes. Finish them under the broiler for 5 to 7 minutes until crispy.
- If your ribs are not cooked, place them in a baking pan, brush with the barbecue sauce, and bake in the oven for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and reduce the heat to 350°F. Brush the ribs again with the sauce and return to the oven for 20 to 25 minutes longer. Remove the ribs once more and brush with more sauce. Turn the heat to broil and broil for 5 to 7 minutes, until the ribs are crispy (but not burned!!). Serve warm.
pears with blue cheese, toasted pecans, and chestnut honey vinaigrette
I get excited by the proliferation of pears in the market in the winter. I imagine what it would be like to live in Washington or Oregon. And so, though they are not local to me in December, pears are available and abundant and become the foundation for this delicious salad. Sweet, salty, bitter, and sour: All four tastes are in this salad, which makes it a memorable one for your guests.
This recipe uses a Chestnut Honey, which is one of the stronger honeys prized in Tuscany as a local taste. Italians appreciate many more bitter flavors than we do, and it has a big taste explosion for your palate. The color, flavor and smell of Chestnut Honey varies depending on the source of the Chestnut trees. Descriptors go from light and slightly pungent to extremely strong, breathtaking and lingering.
For the vinaigrette
2 tablespoons orange juice
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon honey, preferably chestnut honey
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
For the salad
¼ cup pecan pieces, toasted
4 ripe but firm pears
¼ cup crumbled blue cheese (Maytag)
1. To make the vinaigrette, combine the orange juice, vinegar, and honey in a small bowl and stir with a wire whisk until well mixed. Drizzle the oil into the bowl in a thin stream, whisking constantly until well blended. This will take 2 to 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
2. To make the salad, toast the pecans in a small dry saucepan for 2 to 3 minutes over medium heat, watching carefully and tossing often so they don’t burn.
3. Cut the pears in half from the stem to the blossom end. Remove the core, and cut each half in half again.
4. Arrange the pear quarters on individual salad plates. Sprinkle with the cheese and toasted pecans and, just before serving, drizzle with the vinaigrette.
easy tarte tatin
I love tarte tatin, the inverted apple pastry, but I am not the best baker in the world, as I’m not really patient with careful measuring. Frankly, I am much more comfortable cooking than baking. But this recipe will produce a grand result even if you’re not a serious baker. And if you have any leftovers, they make a great breakfast.
Get the best tart local apples you can find. With that start, you’ll do very well.
1 sheet frozen puff pastry
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
½ cup honey, preferably eucalyptus or local honey
3 pounds tart apples, peeled, cored, and sliced into wedges
Unbleached all-purpose flour, for the pastry
Ice cream for serving (optional)
1. Following the instructions on the package, thaw the puff pastry. This will take 30 to 45 minutes, depending on the type of pastry. You should be able to unfold it without breaking. Set aside.
2. Melt the butter in a 10-inch cast-iron skillet over medium-low heat. Add the honey. Stir well to blend thoroughly. Carefully arrange the apple wedges in the bottom of the skillet in a decorative pattern, taking special care on the first layer, as it will end up being the top of the tart. Take care, also, to fill in any holes with other apple pieces. Continue to layer the apples until you have used all the apple slices. Since they will shrink as they cook, you want the uncooked apples to be higher than the edges of the skillet, so add more if needed.
3. Cook over medium heat on the stove until the juices bubble up and change from clear to a rich amber color, 15 to 25 minutes, depending on the heat and the consistency of your apples. As they cook, press the apples down with a rubber spatula; once the juices are visible, baste the apples with the juices. Keep an eye on them and don’t allow them to burn. Remove from the heat and allow to cool slightly.
4. Preheat the oven to 475°F.
5. Roll out the thawed pastry on a floured surface, until it is a square that can comfortably fit over the skillet. Lay the puff pastry over the cooked fruit, making sure that the pastry completely covers the apples. Tuck the pastry into the sides of the skillet, sealing in the apples.
6. Bake the pastry-covered skillet in the oven for 20 to 30 minutes, or until the pastry puffs up and turns a golden brown. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely.
7. Place a serving platter on top of the cooked pastry and, holding tight, flip the skillet over so that the tart comes out of the skillet and ends up on the platter, pastry side down. Remove any of the cooked apples that might have stuck to the skillet and tuck them into the tart as needed.
8. Serve with ice cream, if you like, though it is perfect just as it is.
“Excerpted from The Fresh Honey Cookbook (c) by Laurey Masterton, photography (c) by Johnny Autry, used with permission from Storey Publishing.”