Warning: this is a February whine. But there is food at the end!
I must confess I am so happy that we have said goodbye to the month of February... because February kicked my butt.
February: the pretty, pink square on the calendar. It looks deceptively innocent and sweet. It promises silliness with a rodent on Groundhog's Day. Romance and chocolate on Valentine's Day. A sense of history and pride with President's Day. Mardi Gras beads! Chinese New Year! Shrove Tuesday! Whoo-hoo, February is a non-stop party! And it is a short month. It's almost like getting out early for a long weekend.
Well, this year the party was eclipsed by the presence of repeated stomach/head/throat colds, infections, and bugs (I was surrounded... I work in a school.) A flu-type bug got me and sapped my energy for two solid weeks. We also had unending zero or double-digit below-zero temperatures, which for me means double layers of every piece of clothing on me. I felt like Anna from the end of Frozen. And in our area we were actually lucky: our families in southern Vermont and Massachusetts had the cold as well as record-breaking snowfall to deal with.
Cabin fever is real.
Ugh. No - more than ugh. More like I want to give February one of my daughter's classic, intimidating death stares, with arms crossed while muttering, "Seriously?" in the most sarcastic and icy voice that I can muster. After that I would unfollow February on Twitter.
The hardest thing about this evil February was that I did so little here. I love working and posting on this blog, but my energy and spirit were drained and I was completely unfocused. So frustrating! Each day, then week that passed with nothing new to show for it just gnawed at me.
As Evil-Feb finally drew to a close, little changes started to pop up here and there. Beautiful, bright colors in the stores at the mall. One ridiculously sunny Saturday where 30 degrees felt tropical. Gardening catalogs in the mailbox. Realizing one evening at 5 o'clock that it was still light out. A tuft of grass (albeit frozen) visible in the yard. Evil-Feb has left the building and Spring is chipping its way through. Frozen Anna is finally starting to thaw out.
This recipe came to me quickly one recent afternoon while trying to think of an appetizer to bring to a Poker Night gathering. It was a relief and a pleasure to feel some inspiration returning! It is a simple, smooth onion spread made sweet with maple syrup and hot, caramelizing action. (Can't resist a vague MST3K reference.)
It also has a bite from a dose of black pepper. We had it as a dip with crackers. The next morning I had it on a toasted English muffin with oozing, melted cheddar on top! This spread would also make a great sauce on pork or chicken.
Maple syrup season is another reliable and exciting nod to Spring. By the time the sap is running Vermonters are so ready to get rid of the snow that we are willing to eat it away... as long as it has maple syrup poured over the top!
I hope you like this recipe, and please tell me: how was YOUR February?
Makes approx. 1-1/2 cups
- 24 oz. (about 5-6 medium) yellow onions
- 2 TB vegetable oil
- dash of salt
- 1-1/2 tsp. black pepper
- 5 TB Vermont maple syrup
- Peel the onions and slice into uniform rings or chunks.
- Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onions to the pan and stir to break them up and coat them with the oil. Cook at medium-high heat for about 3 minutes, stirring.
- Pour the maple syrup over the onions. Sprinkle the black pepper over the top and stir to combine the ingredients. Cover the pan and reduce the heat to medium-low. Cook covered for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally until the onions are very soft and amber-brown. Remove the cover and cook for 2-3 minutes more to cook off some of the moisture. Remove from heat and allow to cool for about 5 minutes.
- Spoon the onions and liquids into the bowl of a food processor. Blend them until pureed and smooth.
Serve the spread immediately while warm. Leftovers can be refrigerated for up to one week.