News Column

Have You Tried Agave Nectar?

Nov. 1, 2012

Nicole Marshall Middleton

Agave nectar has its fans and foes.

Yet this liquid sugar is still a hot topic on the food scene.

Agave nectar is sold in light, raw, amber and dark varieties, each having a distinct color. I found that the darker the nectar, the stronger the caramel flavor of the syrup.

Agave nectar is made from several species of agave plants grown in Mexico and South Africa.

The nectar tastes similar to honey, though it is sweeter, which to me means you use less. It also isn't as thick as honey, making it preferable for cold drinks, such as iced teas, because it dissolves faster. It also has a long shelf life and won't crystallize in the bottle.

And, unlike honey, agave syrup is vegan, meaning it can be used by individuals who do not wish to use any product associated with animals.

Agave nectar can also be used as a substitute for maple and corn syrups and is frequently used to sweeten beverages, such as margaritas or mojitos.

It gained popularity for having a lower glycemic index, but there are some who dispute its suggested designation as a healthy alternative to other sweeteners.

If you would like to try agave nectar, moderation is always the best advice for any sweetener.

Here are some suggested recipes for agave nectar.

ROASTED SWEET POTATOES WITH AGAVE NECTAR AND FRESH ROSEMARY

3 large sweet potatoes, washed and peeled, cut into cubes
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 tablespoons dark or amber agave nectar
1-2 tablespoons fresh rosemary, finely chopped
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place the cubed sweet potatoes in a large bowl. Whisk together the olive oil, agave nectar, salt and pepper in a small bowl.

2. Pour the mixture over the sweet potatoes and toss. Make sure the potatoes are well coated. Add the fresh rosemary and toss again.

3. Line a large baking sheet with foil and spray with cooking spray. Spread out the potatoes on the baking sheet. Bake for 45-50 minutes. Stir the potatoes every 15 minutes. Make sure the potatoes are soft. Serve warm.

- adapted from twopeasandtheirpod.com

AGAVE LIME CHICKEN

1 whole chicken (2-3 pounds)
1-3 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup agave nectar
1 tablespoon Celtic sea salt
3 limes
2 onions
1 head garlic
1/8 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon chili powder

1. Rinse the chicken and pat dry. Place chicken in a 9-by-13-inch Pyrex baking dish breast side down. Drizzle with olive oil and agave, then sprinkle with salt, cumin and chili powder.

2. Stuff one lime into the cavity of the bird. Cut the other 2 limes and place in the pan. Cut the onions in half and place in the pan. Leaving the skin on the garlic, break the head apart and scatter the cloves around the pan.

3. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes or until the skin starts to brown. Remove chicken from oven and raise heat to 450 degrees. Turn the chicken over so that breast side is now up.

4. Bake for an additional 15 to 25 minutes or until thigh temperature (taken with an instant read meat thermometer) is 170-180 degrees. Remove chicken from oven.

5. Carve chicken and drizzle with pan juices before serving.

- adapted from Elanaspantry.com



Source: (c)2012 Tulsa World (Tulsa, Okla.) Distributed by MCT Information Services


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