Agave nectar (Recipe: pan-roasted glazed salmon)
In many ways, I am clueless.
I don't have an iPod or an iPhone. I've never played Wii, or watched all of the Star Wars films or High School Musical (though granddaughter Sabina can tell me all about it). I can't name the "in" colors for Fall, or the newest cocktail. I don't know who won American Idol, who's Dancing with the Stars, or who will be The Next Iron Chef.
And though cooks have been talking about it for years, until quite recently I never knew anything about agave nectar.
Agave (pronounced ah-GAH-vay) nectar, or syrup, is a new product derived from an ancient plant native to the state of Jalisco in central Mexico. Extracted from several varieties of wild agave, this natural sweetener has come into its own as a substitute for both sugar and honey, and it's found a permanent place in The Perfect Pantry.
Sweeter than refined sugar, less viscous than honey, and with just 60 calories per tablespoon, agave nectar adds sweetness, solubility and moisture to baked goods and beverages like smoothies and iced tea. To substitute in a recipe, use 1/3 cup agave nectar for 1 cup of sugar; you might have to adjust the amount of liquid in the original recipe to allow for the added liquid from the agave.
This product, available in my local grocery store and also online, offers real advantages to those who must limit their consumption of glucose, like the Type-1 diabetics in my family. Agave nectar is higher in fructose, which does not stimulate insulin secretion to the extent that other sugars do, and lower in glucose, making it lower on the glycemic index -- a measure of how much your blood sugar increases after eating a specific food.
Agave nectar comes in two grades: light, which is flavor neutral; and amber, which tastes a bit like a thin maple syrup. I prefer the light grade, as it's much more all-purpose, but either one will be delicious in broccoli salad, challah, tofu-strawberry whip, chocolate cake, mango-coconut smoothies, and even in margaritas.
I'm still pretty clueless about agave nectar. Do you have a favorite recipe to share?
Pan-roasted glazed salmon
A lovely combination of sweet and salty, this all-purpose glaze works just as well on boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs, or on chunks of firm tofu. Serves 6.
1-1/2 to 2 lbs salmon fillet, skin removed, cut into 6 serving-size pieces
Coarse ground black pepper
2 tsp olive oil
3 Tbsp low-sodium soy sauce OR 2 Tbsp dark soy sauce
1 Tbsp agave nectar, or more to taste
Scant 1/2 cup orange or mango juice
Preheat oven to 400°F.
Season fish all over with salt and pepper. Add olive oil to a roasting pan, and then add the fish. Over medium heat on top of the stove, cook the fish for 3-4 minutes until the bottom is firm. Do not turn the fish! Add remaining ingredients, stir to combine, and spoon some of the liquid over the fish fillets. Place the roasting pan in the oven and cook for 10 minutes, or until the fish is just firm. Remove fish to a serving platter, and cover loosely with aluminum foil; place the roasting pan back on the stovetop. Bring pan juices to a boil, and cook until reduced to a syrupy sauce. Drizzle sauce over the fish, and serve.
This just in: Christine and a group of friends in Boston are hosting their first-ever Drop In & Decorate party on December 1. The cookies will be donated to Horizons for Homeless Children.
If you're planning a Drop In event, please drop a note to lydia AT ninecooks DOT com.
To learn more about Drop In & Decorate Cookies for Donation, and see lots of wonderful photos, visit www.ninecooks.com. And, throughout this week, please visit some of my favorite bloggers who are so generously helping to spread the Drop In & Decorate idea, on their own sites or elsewhere in cyberland: Nikas Culinaria, Homesick Texan, Baking and Books, Food Blogga, The Inadvertent Gardener, Jaden's Steamy Kitchen, La Mia Cucina, One Hot Stove, 37 Days, The Cooking Adventures of Chef Paz, French Kitchen in America, Veronica's Test Kitchen, Kelly the Culinarian, shawnkenney.com, Thyme for Cooking: The Blog, Chew on That, Culinary Types, Nook & Pantry, Cookthink, Tea & Cookies, Mele Cotte, A Veggie Venture and startcooking.com.
"Drop In & Decorate captures what I value about the holiday season: fun, togetherness, not consumer oriented, not about spending lots of money, giving to others, creating something unique and homemade." Lucia, volunteer extraordinaire