Every precious, sustaining bite of food that we take is the result of a team effort. Many people worked to plant, raise, ship and process each and every ingredient. But one of the most important team players is the honeybee. Pollinators make plant foods possible.
Our pollinators are in trouble. In 2014 alone 40% of the bee population died. Lack of open spaces and flowers to feed on, pesticides called neonicotinoids, and mites are all contributing to the loss of bees. The White House recently announced a plan to help save the bees, and I posted a video of it below.
I had the privilege of visiting the White House last Spring, and saw the White House bee hive and garden up close. It’s a small hive, but it makes a statement.
What can you do? My personal effort has been to plant large swaths of my yard with pollinator-friendly plants, all neonic free. For people with yards or decks or balconies, this is a fantastic way to help the bees. It’s also incredibly rewarding. We enjoy the profusion of flowers, the native plants grow with very little help, and we get to spot visiting butterflies, bees, and birds.
I even hatched out a Monarch in my office, and then set it free.
But back to the bees. We need them, and one of the reasons we raise and care for them is the honey. Humans have been in love with honey since pre-history. Honey would have been the first concentrated sweetness that people got to taste, in a world of small, not so sweet fruits and gnarly tubers that would eventually be bred to be sweeter. That explains a risky enthusiasm for climbing trees and courting bee stings. Our very first alcoholic drink, Mead, was probably an accident, a natural reaction of honey, water, and free-floating yeasts. That must have been a popular discovery.
So for my celebration of Honeybee Day, I made a summery, quick recipe that features honey. I buy local, raw honey, which has many nutritional bonuses that refined sweeteners lack. I do boil the honey in this recipe, which mutes some of its health benefits, but the Vitamins and Minerals will remain.
Investing in honey from small operations with hives on farms throughout the region is a way to vote for the bee. These farmers keep the bees in small colonies, allowing them to fan out over the surrounding area. That is good for everyone, including the honey lover.
When we buy good, raw honey, we get all the terroir of a good wine, since the bees infuse the flavor of the plants they pollinate into a concentrated elixir. This sweet, fruity summer roll is a vehicle for the subtle flavors of honey, alongside some tangy-sweet, juicy plums. I bought the plums from the same Farmer who sells me honey at the Farmer’s Market. It’s entirely possible that the honey came from the bees who pollinated the plum blossoms.
I like this technique for glazing the tofu, because it is easy and fast. Instead of marinating, you just heat the oil and honey in the pan, and roll the tofu around in it as it cooks down to a golden glaze. I used salt, instead of soy sauce to keep from covering up the pure honey flavor, but for an Asian umami boost, you could try some shoyu or tamari in the glaze, instead.
Fresh mint, and tender rice noodles with a kiss of honey and lemon, and some pea shoots made up the rest of the filling. I stirred up a honey and peanut sauce with some red pepper flakes, for a simple and easy dip.
Honeybee Day is a good time to think about what you can do to help the pollinators. There are so many good causes, and many issues that need our attention, I know. But we need our sweet, hardworking bees, and they need our help.
If you want more info on what you can do to help honeybees, click on this link to National Honeybee Day.
Honey Glazed Tofu and Plum Summer Rolls with Honey Peanut Dip
The Summer Roll, with a tender rice paper wrapper, is fragile. Once you make your rolls, you should cover them with a wet towel, and eat right away. If you must wait, put the rolls in a wide storage tub, with space between them, and cover them with wet paper towels, then cover tightly. They will last up to 24 hours.
Makes 12 Rolls
14 ounces firm tofu
2 tablespoons canola oil
1/4 cup honey
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup honey
2 teaspoons red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons grated ginger
1/4 cup tamari soy sauce
1/4 cup smooth peanut butter
4 ounces rice noodles
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 bunch fresh mint leaves
12 small plum
12 9 inch rice paper wrappers
Bring a pot of water to a boil for the noodles. Wrap the tofu with a towel and press to take out the excess moisture. Slice the block in half into two rectangular planks, then slice both into six strips. Reserve.
Pour the canola oil and honey into a large saute pan and heat over medium high flame until it starts to bubble. Carefully place the strips in the pan and use a metal spatula to move them gently so they don’t stick. Turn the pieces every couple of minutes, until the honey is covering the tofu and starting to brown. Reduce heat as needed to keep from burning. When golden brown, transfer to a plate and let cool.
In a small saucepan, heat the honey with the pepper flakes and ginger until it bubbles. Whisk in the tamari and peanut butter and bring to a simmer, then transfer to a bowl. Reserve.
Cook the rice noodles, then drain and wrap in a smooth towel to dry. Transfer to a medium bowl and toss with a tablespoon of honey and lemon.
Prepare a lasagna sized pan by filling it halfway with hot water, and place a towel next to it on a cutting board.
Tear the mint leaves from the stems, and cut the plums in thick slices.
Soak two rice paper wrappers. When they are just softened, transfer to the towel. On each, place a few mint leaves in a line along the center. Place sliced plums alongside the mint, and put a slice of tofu on the mint. Place a small handful of rice noodles on top, and a few sprigs of pea shoots. Fold in the sides and fold up the bottom, and roll up each summer roll. Place on a plate. Keep going until all twelve are done.
Cover the finished rolls with wet towels until serving.
Serve rolls with the peanut sauce.