Fresh Figs with Blue Cheese and Honey
A dozen fresh figs (if no figs are available, try peaches instead)
1 oz blue cheese, room temperature
Candied walnuts (optional)
Slice the figs in half from the top down and arrange on the plate. Crumble the blue cheese over the figs. Drizzle the honey over the figs and cheese and serve with candied walnuts (optional).
HONEY BAKLAVA BATONS
These simple cookies, an interpretation of the Middle Eastern pastry of baked phyllo layered with ground nuts and soaked with honey syrup, go nicely with ice cream.
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
1/4 cup honey
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
4 phyllo sheets (18 inches by 13 inches each)
2/3 cup pistachios, walnuts or a combination of the two, finely chopped (about 8 tablespoons total)
Melt the butter with the honey in a small saucepan over medium heat, then remove from the heat and stir in the cinnamon and allspice. Reserve 2 tablespoons for brushing the formed batons. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone liner. Lay one sheet of phyllo (cover the remaining stack with dampened paper toweling to keep the sheets from drying out) on the counter, with one of its long edges running parallel with the edge of the counter. Use a pastry brush to paint the sheet with the butter mixture. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of nuts evenly over the sheet. Carefully grip the edge closest to you and fold it one-fourth of the way, away from you. Fold the folded quarter in half and then in half again. This will create a kind of pastry baton that you can then easily roll all the way to the end of the sheet, until you have created 1 long baton. Cut the baton into five 5 1/2-inch lengths. Transfer the batons to the lined baking sheet, with the seams on the bottom. Repeat the process with the three remaining phyllo sheets. Before baking, brush the tops of the batons with the reserved butter mixture. Bake for 15 to 17 minutes until golden brown. Transfer to a wire rack to cool before serving.
Makes 20 batons
Article by N’ann Harp:
“When early colonists first sailed to the New World in the 1620s, they brought along their cherished European honey bees, introducing Apis mellifera to the North American continent. Here, while sowing the seeds of statehood, our pioneer forebears continued to practice the customs of rural England, where honey bees had long been treated as family members. “Telling the bees” about births, marriages and deaths and including them in special occasions was part of the fabric of family life.
“Today, small-scale, organic beekeeping is making a timely comeback, with renewed interest in and respect for these lost arts from a simpler time…
Humans share with honey bees an ancient, intimate and symbiotic relationship of mutual benefit. Although the fossil records indicate that honey bees were thriving on the planet for an estimated 70 million years prior to the appearance of man, human beings and these highly-evolved social insects quickly developed an enduring affinity for each other.
Our interconnectedness goes back at least 10,000 years, when humans began to record their honey-hunting activities in charcoal and chalk pictographs on cave walls. Honey was a valuable food source for our ancestors and they collected it avidly.
As the hunter-gatherer societies settled into self-sustaining family groups, small garden plots became a familiar center of agriculture and social stability. Honey bees adapted to the increasingly organized agricultural system, attracted to the flowering fruit and vegetable crops that sustained their own hive and honey production needs. In return, the bees enhanced pollination and increased harvest yields for their human partners.
Over the intervening millennia, this interspecies friendship has evolved into the practices of modern beekeeping, generating dozens of crop-specific industries. Roughly 100 of the world’s favorite food crops are now directly reliant upon honeybee pollination, which translates to about 40 percent of the human diet.
Today, however, the very capacity for cross-species cooperation that gave rise to the human-honeybee relationship has also given rise to a host of unintended consequences, including a phenomenon dubbed Colony Collapse Disorder, in which resident honey bees simply vanish from hives.
Something is seriously wrong and scientists are stumped. Some observers call the situation the “perfect storm” of circumstances, which includes the proliferation of pesticide and chemical use in mono-crop production; poor queen breeding practices; loss of genetic diversity; immune system weaknesses; global trade expansion, introducing alien pests against which local bees haven’t had time to develop resistance; mystery viruses; and the usual pests, threats and challenges of sustaining healthy, resilient colonies that can produce strong queen bees.
Hope for saving the world’s hardest-working pollinator may lie in finding ways to dramatically increase honeybee research funding, which is being decreased in some states, due to budget cuts…
A powerfully positive alternative action, encouraged by under-funded researchers, is for private individuals to take up small-scale beekeeping.
“An army of amateur beekeepers could become part of an eventual solution by helping to collect field data in a wide array of microclimates and conditions,” suggests David Tarpy, Ph.D., the state apiculturist and an associate professor of entomology at North Carolina State University…”
“If the bee disappeared off the surface of the globe, then man would have only four years of life left. No more bees, no more pollination, no more plants, no more animals, no more man.”
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