Geoffrey and Margaret Zakarian make a pretty great team. The two run restaurants together and are now preparing to release their first book together, The Perfect Pantry, in the fall of 2014. The Zakarians and publisher Clarkson Potter were generous enough to give Kitchen Daily a sneak peek and it's pretty sweet...
Within their new book, the Zakarians compose an ode to honey. Read on for an excerpt from their section on honey, replete with three creative recipes (pictured above):
One of the oldest and most "natural" sweeteners, honey renders its flavor from the flowers on the specific plant the bees visit. Honeys range widely in color and taste—from acacia, which is very light and sweet, to buckwheat, which is richly flavored and almost as dark as molasses. Wildflower honey is a mix of honey and pretty utilitarian (clover honey, which is widely available, is also a good choice).
Honey can be stored at room temperature, but if exposed to humidity, it may crystallize in the jar. If this happens, put the jar in a bowl of warm water and let sit until the crystals dissolve. Honey is sweeter than regular sugar and is obviously moister, so they cannot be evenly swapped one for the other in baking. However, you can evenly substitute honey for half the sugar, reducing the total liquid in the recipe (this includes liquids and eggs) by one-quarter for each cup of honey used.
Travel is a great way to expand your honey repertoire. Look out for local honey from local bees at farmers' markets or food shops—it's a fun way to diversify your pantry a bit.
Plain honey, flavored honey or even a piece of honey comb is a great addition to a cheese tray set out for guests as an appetizer or after a meal.
Gold Rush Cocktail
Honey, instead of simple syrup, is a great way to sweeten cocktails made with darker liquors, such as bourbon, rum, and whiskey. Although the liquor is bourbon, the balance here among the sweet, acid, and liquor make this a crowd pleasing cocktail. This drink is our number-one cocktail at the Lambs Club in New York, and I was lucky enough to learn it from the incredible bar man Sasha Petraske. Merci, Sasha!
¼ cup honey
1 cup bourbon, preferably Elijah Craig
3 ounces lemon juice
In a small saucepan, warm the honey with 2 tablespoons of water to make a syrup. Cool and chill completely, at least 2 hours.
In a cocktail shaker filled with ice, combined the chilled syrup, bourbon, and lemon juice. Shake vigorously until the contents are very cold, about 30 seconds.
Serve over large ice cubes in rocks glasses.
Fresh Ricotta with Honey and Lemon
Use the least pasteurized, most natural milk and cream you can find to make fresh ricotta in order to expedite the curdling process. In the final dish, the honey balances the richness and acidity and is ultimately what makes honey, lemon, and ricotta such a classic and palatable combination.
1 quart whole milk, preferably organic or not overly pasteurized
1 cup heavy cream, preferably organic or not overly pasteurized
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
¼ cup honey
Kosher salt or fleur de sel
Prepare a double layer of cheesecloth over a fine sieve over a large bowl to catch the whey from the ricotta.
In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine the milk and cream. Bring to just a simmer and stir in the lemon juice and vinegar and stir gently until the mixture curdles, about 30 seconds to a minutes. Stir in the lemon zest. Let sit, off heat, for just 1 or 2 minutes, until the curds fully separate, and then gently pour into the cheesecloth-lined sieve.
Let the ricotta drain to the consistency you like—as little as 5 or up to 30 minutes, and then discard the whey in the bottom of the bowl. Let cool to room temperature.
Serve in small bowls. Drizzle with the honey and sprinkle with a little salt.
Frozen Hazelnut and Honey Terrine
Honey and hazelnuts are a wonderful flavor pairing. You could also make this terrine with skinned almonds or walnuts or a combination of all three nuts.
1/2 cup hazelnuts
1/4 cup honey
3 large egg whites, at room temperature
½ cup sugar
1 cup chilled heavy cream
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line an 8½ × 4½-inch loaf pan with plastic wrap that hangs 4 inches down the sides. Toast the nuts in a pan until light golden, shaking occasionally, 8 to 10 minutes. Cool completely.
Put the nuts in a food processor and grind until crumbly. Add the honey and process to a paste. Scrape into a large bowl.
In a mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whisk the egg whites on medium speed until foamy. Add the sugar in a slow stream and whisk on high speed for firm, glossy peaks, 1 to 2 minutes.
In a large bowl, whisk the cream to soft peaks and then stir in the vanilla.
Add about one-third of the egg white mixture to the nut mixture and whisk to lighten it. Fold in the remaining egg white mixture to make a homogenous mixture. Gently fold in the cream, again until the mixture is homogenous. Spread into the prepared loaf pan. Smack the pan down on the counter to remove any air bubbles and smooth the top with a spatula. Cover the surface with the overhanging plastic wrap and freeze until solid, preferably overnight.
To serve, unwrap, and cut into slices with a warm serrated knife (warm either a knife run under hot water or over the stove flame for a few seconds).
Image Credit: Sara Remington