Agave nectar (Recipe: grilled peaches with balsamic and granola)
A year ago, when I first started using agave nectar, I'd mention it in my cooking classes and be met with the dreaded uuhhh.
(Actually I can't even spell the sound a kitchen full of puzzled cooks makes. Something more gutteral, more visceral, more eeewww. The sound you hear when people watch a horror movie and a creature crawls out of a lagoon. Often accompanied by a no-please-no-not-me waving of the hands.)
What is thaaaaaaat?
You'd think I'd proposed cooking with innards, or Pepto Bismol, or eye of newt.
Maybe I should have told my students that tequila comes from the same plant.
Agave nectar has come a long way in our culinary consciousness, thanks to its low glycemic index status, and while I still get the occasional uuhhh, I get far more oh, cool, I've heard of that.
Agave nectar, or syrup as it's sometimes called, comes from the tall, spiky, blue agave plant, native to Mexico and resembling a giant aloe vera. When the plants are 7-10 years old, the core is removed. It's called the pina, because it looks like a 50-pound pineapple. The pina is then crushed to extract the sap inside.
The sap is heated for a long time at a low temperature and the carbohydrates break down into sugars -- specifically into a complex form of fructose called inulin, which resembles the sugar found naturally in fruits. Agave nectar is higher in fructose, which does not stimulate insulin secretion to the extent that other sugars do, and lower in glucose, so it's easier on your metabolism, preventing the familiar but unpleasant (and, for some, unhealthy) "sugar rush".
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. You can substitute agave nectar for sugar, or for honey, in most recipes. Agave nectar comes in two grades: light, which is flavor neutral; and amber, which tastes a bit like a thin maple syrup.
Now, if you go to a cooking class and the instructor mentions agave nectar, you won't be one of the eeewwws.
Grilled peaches with balsamic and granola
Easy, impressive, addictive. Make this with any stone fruit, or even with firm pears. Serves 6.
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup light agave nectar
peaches, halved, pits removed
1 Tbsp olive or canola oily
1/2 cup granola (homemade or storebought)
In a small, deep saucepan, heat the vinegar and agave nectar over medium-high heat until it begins to boil. Continue heating, watching carefully, for 10 minutes or until reduced by 3/4 to a thick (but still pourable) syrup.
Meanwhile, scoop out a bit of the insides of the peach to remove any bits of the pit.
Heat a stove-top grill pan over medium heat. When the pan is hot, brush the cut side of each peach half with olive oil, and place cut side down on the grill pan. Do not move the peaches! Cook for 2 minutes or until nice grill marks appear. Remove peaches from the pan and place cut side up on individual serving plates.
When the syrup is reduced to desired consistency, drizzle it over the peaches. Top with a bit of granola, and serve immediately.
More recipes in The Perfect Pantry:
Pan-roasted glazed salmon
Gingered chicken and Napa cabbage salad
Honey-roasted beets with orange and thyme
Spiced lentils with squash and raisins
Other recipes that use these pantry ingredients:
Roasted figs with goat cheese and agave-balsamic glaze, from Kalyn's Kitchen
Strawberry watermelon and feta salad, from Foodiecrush
Baby back ribs with balsamic peach BBQ sauce, from Damn Delicious
Whole wheat pasta salad with beans, capers, and balsamic yogurt dressing, from Cookin' Canuck
Asian glazed drumsticks, from Skinnytaste
Disclosure: The Perfect Pantry earns a few pennies on purchases made through the Amazon.com links in this post. Thank you for supporting this site when you start your shopping here.
It's funny I just posted about agave too on Glam. Agave is so expensive I tend to hoard it instead of using it. I guess agave has that low glycemic index factor going for it, but I really do love the flavor of honey.
something i yet have to get my hands on - it's difficult finding it here in germany. i love grilled peaches!
Looks like I will have to stick to honey... :( Agave nectar is only sold at health food stores here, and is so expensive! I'm intrigued to try it, though... "Thin maple syrup" sounds good :)
I run the risk of adding new stuff to my pantry whenever I learn about something new from reading your blog, ha ha :D I think I will prefer this more than maple syrup :)~
Veeery interesting. I never heard of this before.
Grilled fruits are such a surprise of a treat and I really enjoy the boost that comes with the balsamic!
I would love to eat this for breakfast! Looks amazing.
It's funny my friend just used agave nectar in his margaritas last week, it was really yummy!
About a month ago I purchased a bottle of Agave nectar.
My husband was with me at the time and said, "What are you going to do with that?"
I said, "I have no idea, but I've seen Lydia feature it on The Perfect Pantry before so I'm pretty sure she'll have some good ideas/recipes/uses."
He looked at me blankly, bewildered by my actions and statement.
As today would have it, we have a bag of peaches in the kitchen and Agave nectar in the pantry.
While patience and planning aren't my husband's strong suits, I love him anyway and I will share these grilled peaches with him, being sure to mention I made them with Agave nectar.
I wonder if he'll remember our conversation?
i love agave nectar. of late i've been replacing balsamic vinegar with pomegranate molasses (we get one variety in the arab store that is labelled 'pomegranate syrup' and has just pomegranates, nothing else), and i love it.
Thanks for this info on agave nectar. I've seen it being used when I was researching in gluten-free recipes I think.
I'm still eagerly waiting for stone-fruit season to start here. :-)
I have not tried agave nectar. Sounds good with peaches!
That grilled peach looks good! I am going to have to look for this agave nectar.
Amy, I purchased the bottle in this photo for $2.99 at Job Lot, which is one of Rhode Island's fabulous discount stores. The other bottle in my pantry, of the dark agave, was $4.95. So yes, it can be a bit expensive -- but for those of us who need to watch our blood sugar, it's a wonderful discovery.
Meeta, email to me if you'd like me to send some to you (same for any readers who can't find this locally).
Manggy, the two different types of agave nectar really cover all the bases. Glad you can find this at your health food stores.
Noobcook, my Canadian husband will never let me replace maple syrup with agave -- but we are replacing the honey with this in some recipes, and it works really well.
Paz, this is something you really must try. I'm sure you'll like it.
MyKitchen, I love grilling stone fruits. They only stay on the grill for a minute or two, but it really brings out the natural sweetness.
Jason, we had this for dessert, but breakfast or a brunch would be great too.
Sandie, thank you for your faith in The Perfect Pantry, and in your own pantry! I'm betting the hubby will love these peaches.
Bee, pomegranate molasses is one of my favorite pantry items, too. And it would make a great glaze with the agave for these peaches.
Nora, I think you're right, that I'm seeing more agave in GF recipes, too. Must learn more about that.
Veron, oh you must, you must try this. Just squirting a bit on grilled salmon, or in a tomato sauce, adds a wonderful depth of flavor.
Kevin, thanks -- it was truly yummy. Please try this!
I've been wondering what agave nectar was - interesting! I think I'll try it, I use honey quite often and sometimes I wish it were a touch less sweet. Those peaches look incredible, and I love the combo with granola. Crunchy! :-)
Thanks for the info on agave nectar. I have heard of it but have not tried it yet. Your dessert sounds wonderful. The type of dish we would eat for breakfast the next day too!
i have never tried agave nectar before..from the look of it they sound perfect with any dessert! and your photography as always is simply spectacular!
Lydia, I'm amazed how long agave nectar's been around and that so many chefs are just discovering it now. Those peaches look drool-worthy and a real excuse to buy a bottle!
I've never used agave nectar before, but I've never been able to find it. The peaches look amazing!
Even though Agave is great for baking, I have yet to use it in baking.
I have a few bottles of Agave sitting patiently in my pantry. And, so far, I've only used it to sweeten my tea.
Hopefully, your Agave entry will awaken my dormant brain cells.
Oh Lydia, you always make the most impressive dishes. I'm so glad you're showing us pictures of them! I must get some agave syrup or nectar.
Lydia, I could be one of those folks in your class! Agave nectar is on my list of things to try, you have made it sound easy and I appreciate the recipes. Thanks also for the link to the substitutions. I will hunt some down this weekend and give it a go...
Kathy, agave is a bit less sweet, and also less viscous, so it dissolves more easily into sauces and things. Hope you like it.
Natashya, I think this really would be a great breakfast dish.
Dhanggit, thank you -- I'm always trying to improve my food photography (so it will look as good as yours!).
Marilyn, you're so right, and I am so late to the party. It's not an ancient food, but agave has been on the food scene for 15 years.
Deborah, my local supermarket now carries agave, and that's a big change from just a year ago. It's also easy to find online now (amazon sells it).
Marysol, now that you have it in your pantry, please try this simple recipe to get your "agave mojo" flowing. I posted a recipe last year for glazed salmon, too.
Hillary, I'm planning to keep my focus on ingredients, but every now and then I'll be sharing photos of the recipes, too. Glad you are enjoying them.
Gudrun, you can always substitute sugar or honey for agave, with a bit of adjusting of recipes to allow for the change in moisture content. But agave does have its own wonderful properties, so I hope you'll give it a try. Of course I'd love to have you in one of my classes!
I've only used it to sweeten hot tea, but I love it. I love the sweetness that it adds without any honey flavor. I'll have to try this with the peaches!
I love the way agave imparts moisture to gluten-free baked goods (which too often are dry and crumbly). It's quickly become my favorite sweetener (though I still use stevia in tea and iced coffee).
I have been on the hunt for agave nectar since I read about it on 101cookbooks, but I have been coming up dry. I am off to my local OSJL today. Who would have thunk to look there?
And then I can try this delicious recipe.
Hi there, you have a wonderful blog just wanted to let you know you get this at trader joes for $2:99. I would like to know where u get the pomegranate molasses from i have been looking everywhere for it and we do not have any arabic stores nearby:(
Lydia, this is utter goodness here! Am I missing something? I'm seeing peaches everywhere I turn! I had them with cottage cheese yesterday as I sat poolside for a bit :) Great recipe.
Pam, the flavor of agave is similar to honey, though not as sweet; it's the consistency that isn't the same.
Karina, same for me. I reach for the agave more often than any other sweetener.
Sue, I found agave in two Job Lots last week. Hope you had success!
Nair, thanks for the tip about Trader Joe's! For pomegranate molasses, try online, or make your own: buy pomegranate juice at the supermarket (Knudsen's is a good buy), and boil it down to 1/4 of its original volume. Voila -- pomegranate "molasses"!
Bren, it's the end of peach season here in the Northeast, so pretty soon you'll be seeing recipes for apples and squash -- that's what's coming into season now, though nectarines are still around.