Taste of Honey by Marie Simmons – A Book Review
Honey Panna Cotta & Velvety Honey-Chocolate Pudding
Call it a convergence of events or call it synchronicity, but sometimes life has an exquisitely sweet harmony. For the last few weeks I have been consumed with thoughts of honey. I’ve been researching the state of the world’s bee population, along with the honey trade and manufacture. Right in the midst of it all I discovered Taste of Honey by Marie Simmons. Ms. Simmons, cooking teacher, food writer and author of over twenty cookbooks, has produced a veritable compendium of honey.
Ms. Simmons’ love of honey is clear from the outset. She leads the reader into the hive with an awe inspiring description of the life of these creatures, the organization of their society, and the division of labor between the queen, the male drones and female workers. It is all here, the world of bees, from their anatomy, to the queen’s virgin flight, to how they make their honey.
The section Tasting and Cooking with Honey opens with a guide to forty American honeys from Acacia to Wild Oak. A profile of each honey includes its plant source, color, texture and flavor notes along with suggestions for how each honey is best used, a treasure trove of information. There are honeys here I have never heard of, and this book sent me to the market to start exploring and experimenting.
Honey is a little like olive oil; there are myriad varieties, over three thousand worldwide, each a reflection of its land of origin and the particular plant the bees visited. As with olive oil, the best way to get to know it is to have a tasting where you can compare color, flavor notes, texture and viscosity of a variety of honeys. Guidelines for a Honey Tasting provides suggestions on how best to arrange a tasting and get started learning about this miraculous nectar. I have always thought that honey has a particular affinity for cheese, and I was pleased to read that Ms. Simmons agrees. I found the section Honey and Cheese Tasting particularly illuminating, and her suggestion of pairing Sicilian orange blossom honey and Burrata is a stroke of brilliance.
No matter how you like your honey, there is something in one of the four recipe sections for you. In Breakfasts and Snacks you’ll find everything from muffins to cornbread, popovers, quick breads, and more. The Flatbread with Melted Manchego, Rosemary and Honey makes a great afternoon snack or appetizer for a summer meal.
In Main Dishes are recipes for Pork Chops and Apples with Honey and Apple Cider Sauce, Sweet and Sour Meatballs (one of my favorites), and Chicken Stewed with Tomatoes, Green Olives and Orange, a dish the author said was inspired by Chicken Cacciatore. The play of the acid of the tomatoes and white wine with the sweet flavor of honey and orange make a particularly pleasing and satisfying supper dish.
Salads and Vegetable Side Dishes presents fifteen dishes that use honey in ways I never considered. Pear, Stilton, and Bacon Salad with Honey-Glazed Pecans was my favorite in the chapter. Roasted Red Onion Wedges with Honey and Balsamic Vinegar, Honey-Glazed Carrots with Oregano, and Moroccan-Style Stewed Tomatoes and Fennel with Honey and Preserved Lemon are also standouts.
The section entitled Sweets is sweet indeed. From Honey Oatmeal Raisin Cookies to Salted Honey Peanut Brittle, every page holds something tempting. I started with the Honey Panna Cotta; milk and cream are infused with cloves, cinnamon and orange and sweetened with honey. Sicilian orange blossom honey imbued this Italian classic with a soft, gentle sweetness that blended beautifully with the perfume of the spices and orange. The Velvety Honey-Chocolate Pudding was as smooth as satin, a harmony of texture and flavor, the cocoa and chocolate marrying beautifully with Eucalyptus honey.
Throughout the book are sidebars with honey factoids, and every recipe is preceded by the author’s suggestions for the type of honey best suited for use in the dish. Each chapter finishes with Quick Hits, bulleted suggestions for cooking with honey.
Photographs by Meg Smith reveal the glory that is the diverse world of honey. The book is packed with enticing shots of bees at work, jars of honey ranging in color from almost white to a deep amber and thick honey flowing from dippers. The shots of the recipes are lovingly styled by Nani Steele and thoroughly tempting. Throughout the book are drawings of bees and watercolors of the flowers that nourish them. Considering that our bee population is in jeopardy, this book is a most timely addition to anyone’s bookshelf. From the hive to your home, this volume has everything you need to choose and cook with the finest honey.
Visit the author’s website at MarieSimmons.com
Taste of Honey: The Definitive Guide to Tasting and Cooking with 40 Varietals
by Marie Simmons
Paperback, 192 pages
Andrews McMeel Publishing (June 4, 2013)
Sicilian Orange Blossom Honey is available from Olio2go.
Recipes reprinted by permission of the author.
Note: You can click on any picture for a larger image, and to see a slide show!
I have no affiliation with any product, manufacturer, or site mentioned in this article.