Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Have you Heard About Agave Nectar?

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Every day around 4:00 p.m. I go downstairs, make myself a nice cup of tea and get ready to watch Everyday Italian and Barefoot Contessa, two of my favorite cooking shows. This is also the time when I start thinking about my next post so it's not a 100% full attention situation, particularly since I could recite most recipes having watched them umpteen times. Today I knew Giada was making salmon with quinoa,(no interest here), so I wasn't paying much attention until out of the corner of my eye I  saw the salmon steaks come out of the grill.  Whoa, what was that she coated them with?? Whatever it was, I could not decipher what she was saying....something about a cross between honey and maple syrup.   So I quickly checked out the site for the recipe and there it was...agave nectar...agave what??!!!  Google and Wikipedia next stop..

Agave nectar (also called agave syrup) is a newly created sweetener, developed in the l990's and commercially produced in Mexico from several species of agave, including the Blue Agave (Agave tequilana) used to make tequila.  Agave nectar is sweeter than honey, though less viscous (that means thinner, I learned that too)

agave tequiliano

agave avelladinens

 To produce agave nectar from the Agave tequiliana plant, juice is expressed from the core of the agave, called the piña. The juice is filtered, then heated to hydrolyze polysaccharides into simple sugars. The main polysaccharide is called inulin or fructosan and comprises mostly fructose units. The filtered, hydrolyzed juice is concentrated to a syrup-like liquid a little thinner than honey that ranges in color from light to dark depending on the degree of processing. The syrup contains iron, calcium, potassium and magnesium which contribute to the resulting color.

Agave nectar consists primarily of fructose and glucose. One source gives 92% fructose and 8% glucose; another gives 56% fructose and 20% glucose. These differences presumably reflect variation from one vendor to another. Due to its fructose content and the fact that the glycemic index measures only glucose levels, agave nectar is notable in that its glycemic index and glycemic load are lower than many other natural sweeteners on the market.

Agave nectar is said to be 1.4 to 1.6 times sweeter than sugar. It is often substituted for sugar or honey in recipes. Vegans in particular commonly use agave nectar to replace honey in recipes. It is also used as a sweetener for cold beverages such as iced tea because it can dissolve quickly.

Agave nectars are sold in light, amber, dark, and raw varieties. Light agave nectar has a mild, almost neutral flavor, and is therefore sometimes used in delicate tasting foods and drinks. Amber agave nectar has a medium-intensity caramel flavor, and is therefore used in foods and drinks with stronger flavors. Dark agave nectar has stronger caramel notes, and imparts a distinct flavor to dishes, such as some desserts, poultry, meat, and seafood dishes. Both amber and dark agave nectar are sometimes used "straight out of the bottle" as a topping for pancakes and waffles. Raw agave nectar also has a mild, neutral taste. It is produced at temperatures below 118 °F (48 °C) to protect the natural enzymes, so this variety is an appropriate sweetener for raw foodists.

Agave Nectar has many other fine qualities as well. Foremost among them are the certified purity, both organic and kosher. Also of note is the flavor. The light variety's neutral flavor will not alter the taste of the foods in which it is used making it ideal as a sweetener for coffee, tea, fruit "smoothies", and other beverages. The amber variety's mild natural flavor will lend a delicious and mysterious hint of flavor to sauces or baked goods. This sweetener is also very convenient to use, as it has a long, stable shelf life and will not solidify. It pours quickly even when cold, blends and dissolves readily in or on all foods. For baking, its moisture retention properties are comparable to those of honey. Bakers also may notice a silky, smoother texture to their goods and better definition of other natural flavors.

This pure, unrefined sweetener is a great-tasting, economical alternative to all other sweeteners, granular or liquid, perfect for all around use. It has approx 1.4 x the sweetening power of white sugar and its mild flavor doesn't vary widely which will lend a real consistency to recipes.  For more information check this site

If you'd had enough and just want the recipe for the salmon, here it is:

Grilled Salmon With Citrus Salsa Verde




2 large oranges

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

1/2 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

2 scallions, finely sliced

3 tablespoons chopped fresh mint leaves

2 tablespoons capers, rinsed, drained and coarsely chopped

2 tablespoons orange zest

1 teaspoon lemon zest

1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper


Vegetable or canola oil, for oiling the grill

4 (4 to 5-ounce) center cut salmon fillets, skinned, each about 3-inches square

2 tablespoons amber agave nectar

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper


For the salsa: Peel and trim the ends from each orange. Using a paring knife, cut along the membrane on both sides of each segment. Free the segments and add them to a medium bowl. Add the olive oil, lemon juice, parsley, scallions, mint, capers, orange zest, lemon zest, and red pepper flakes. Toss lightly and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Set aside.

For the salmon: Put a grill pan over medium-high heat or preheat a gas or charcoal grill. Brush the grilling rack with vegetable oil to keep the salmon from sticking. Brush the salmon on both sides with the agave nectar and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Grill until the fish flakes easily and is cooked through, about 3 to 4 minutes on each side. Transfer the salmon to a platter and allow to rest for 5 minutes.

Spoon the salsa verde on top of the salmon or serve on the side as an accompaniment.

If you want the accompanying dishes, click here

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