Real maple syrup is essentially boiled sap graded for color and intensity of flavor; the rule is that the darker the grade, the bolder the flavor, and a bottle of the good stuff can run between $7 and $20. It can last up to a year in the fridge, though, and can be so much more than a pancake and waffle topping. It goes in everything from salads and glazes to cocktails -- even sport drinks.
Give flavor to white, tasteless strawberries by using them atop a robust bread with onions sautéed in Grade A very dark maple syrup and balsamic vinegar. When baked, the strawberry flavor intensifies, while the syrup and vinegar add a balancing tartness terrific when paired with goat cheese. This recipe gives instructions to make focaccia from scratch, but you can cheat with a store-bought loaf.
Swiss chard can be limp and heavy when just tossed in a pan. Toasted cashews and raisins (for texture) and sherry vinegar and maple syrup (for extra zing) give delightful complexity to these winter greens. Try a Grade A very dark syrup for even more intense flavor.
Tahini, made from ground sesame seeds, is a protein, mineral, and fiber powerhouse. There are even some beauty-enhancing claims for hair and skin in suggesting this mix of orange juice, lemon juice, and maple syrup as a dip for apples, bananas, kiwi, or other fruit.
Recipe: Feeding Your Beauty
This natural sweetener can add flavor to beverages too -- try swapping out sugar with maple syrup for a new twist on an Old-Fashioned -- though very light or light syrups are best. A DIY sports drink combines orange juice, lime juice, maple syrup, and a pinch of salt with cold water for a post-workout refresher.
Recipe: Pure Canada Maple