I particularly love the bumper seasons — the start of the fall when you are still getting Summer watermelon and heirloom tomatoes alongside the grapes and pumpkins; those first few weeks of Spring, when the market is still filled with the last lingering apples, pears, and squashes but with the first peaks of the greens to come there as well. This week’s haul included lots of pears and the first bits of arugula that I’ve seen this season, along with some maple syrup, which seem particularly precious this year.
It was a terrible maple sugaring season this year. I know this because I was all set to go mapling no less than a dozen times over the past few months, in Vermont, in Quebec, in upstate New York, only to be thwarted by the damn weather over and over again.
You need fairly specific conditions for the sap to flow — consistently below freezing temperatures at night and above-freezing temperatures during the day to get the hydraulic suction going inside the tree that will actually cause the sap to flow. It’s pretty amazing when you think of it, that nature.
I knew none of this when I started my maple quest at the beginning of winter. I’m such a city-iot, as the friends of my rural dwelling nephews would say, that it never occurred to me that those maple trees in their yard were indeed were maple syrup comes from. All this research for my potential harvesting has given me a renewed appreciation for the sweet stuff, which by the by is loaded with polyphenols, plant-based compounds that work as antioxidants and also nutrients like zinc and manganese, so I’ve been trying to use it more and in different applications — to glaze carrots, take the bitter out of Brussels sprouts, in whiskey and bourbon cocktails in lieu of simple syrup, and as a sweet element in salad dressings.
This salad was super simple — 1 pear, peeled and roughly sliced, sprinkled with salt and then roasted in 450°F oven for about 20 minutes, until it was softened, golden brown, and fragrant. I had a great lump of creamy burrata cheese, and tore it roughly into pieces and placed on plates with a huge handful of the arugula. The finished pear got tipped on top and then the salad was drizzled with this simple maple dressing: Into a small jar went 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard, 2 tablespoons of fresh squeezed lemon juice, 4 tablespoons olive oil, 1 tablespoon maple syrup, and a little salt and pepper, then shaken until emulsified.