Cooking at the Cove: Tap into maple season

Cooking at the Cove: Tap into maple season

Versatile Maple-Roasted Butternut Squash will become a menu mainstay. Karen Schneider / For The Forecaster

Ever since I’ve lived in Maine, maple syrup has been a staple in my kitchen year round and is my sweetener of choice. I could fill a book with all the ways I use one of nature’s flavor enhances and can’t help but wonder what you do with maple syrup in your kitchen. Here are three of my favorites.

Karen Schneider cooks and writes in the village of Cundy’s Harbor. You can reach her at [email protected]

First up is winter squash roasted on a sheet pan with maple syrup, garlic, sage and salty, meaty tidbits. No matter whether you choose bacon, pancetta or ham, remember to use just enough as a flavoring so the squash is the star of the dish.

This combo is delicious served with pork or chicken. Or you can simply pile it on slices of toasted Maple Oatmeal Bread or serve it with Maple Season Salad. If you’re a vegetarian, just omit the meat.

One of my most frequent ways to serve the squash is as a unique bruschetta. Squeeze the roasted garlic out of its peels onto small pieces of toasted baguette, smoosh the caramelized squash on top and sprinkle with sea salt.

I’ve been serving Maple Season Salad to my family and guests for at least three decades now. One of my most-asked-for recipes, this dressing can be mellowed out to a silky, creamy version with the addition of half-and-half. This dressing, minus the dairy, also can be used as a tangy marinade for chicken or pork or brushed on salmon filets during the last five minutes of cooking time.

If you’ve never made bread before, this recipe for Maple Oatmeal Bread is the one to try. These golden loaves have a soft, springy interior with a texture that’s just right for sandwiches and also make for yummy toast. The addition of coffee in the batter brings a deeper, richer flavor to the bread. It’s a tad sweet, so if you want to back off the sugar a bit, go ahead, but don’t reduce the maple syrup; you’ll want every bit of that flavor. Isn’t sap season wonderful? It’s a sure sign that spring really is coming!

Maple-Roasted Butternut Squash

1 large butternut squash
1 large head garlic, separated and unpeeled
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons maple syrup
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 ounces bacon, pancetta or ham, chopped
1 small bunch fresh sage (about 12 large leaves)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Peel and seed squash and cut into 1-inch cubes. Place squash and garlic on a sheet pan in one layer. Toss with olive oil, syrup, salt and pepper and bake for 20 minutes, until the squash begins to brown on the edges, stirring once. Add meat and sage evenly over the squash and continue to bake for another 20 minutes until squash and garlic are tender and caramelized. Season to taste. Yield: 4-6 servings

Maple Season Salad

1 (5-ounce) box spring greens
1 large crunchy apple or 1 large firm pear, thinly sliced
1 cup shredded carrot
1 cup walnuts or pecans, toasted

Dressing

1/4 cup olive oil
2 1/2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
3 tablespoons maple syrup
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 small garlic clove, peeled and scored
1/4 cup half-and-half (optional)
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Whisk together all ingredients and allow flavors to meld for at least three hours. If using half-and-half, be sure to refrigerate. Divide greens, fruit and nuts between salad plates and drizzle the dressing. Yield: 4 servings

Maple Oatmeal Bread

1 cup hot coffee
3/4 cup boiling water
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/3 cup canola oil
1 cup old-fashioned oats
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons salt
2 packages active dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water
2 eggs, lightly beaten
5 1/2-6 cups flour

In a bowl, combine first seven ingredients. Cool to 110-115 degrees. In another large bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water then add oat mixture, eggs and 2 cups flour; mix well. Stir in enough remaining flour to form a soft dough. Turn onto lightly floured board; knead until smooth and elastic, about 6-8 minutes. Place in an oiled bowl, turning once to oil the top. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about an hour. Punch dough down. Turn onto a lightly floured surface and divide in half. Shape into loaves. Place in two oiled glass loaf pans. Cover and let rise until doubled, about 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake 40-45 minutes until golden brown. Remove from pans and let cool on racks. Yield: 2 loaves


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