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A pecan pie to mark MLK Day

Pecan pie. | David Hammond photo

Pecan pie. | David Hammond photo

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Updated: March 7, 2014 1:23PM

Martin Luther King, Jr. enjoyed a good meal. He was especially fond of traditional Southern cooking, including greens, fried chicken, and pecan pie, according to various sources. To celebrate his day on Jan. 20, we’re making a pie of pecans.

The pecan is indigenous to many Southern states, and the United States produces upwards of 90 percent of all pecans in the world.

If you’ve ever picked through a can of assorted nuts, you’ve probably noticed that pecans vanish early on. (That’s because they’re so tasty.) However, they’re actually not even nuts. Pecans are “drupes,” a type of fruit — like cherries and apricots — with a seed growing within a fleshy sheath, like cherries and apricots, which also are drupes.

Pecans are full of protein and omega-6 fatty acids. The Journal of Nutrition reported more than a decade ago that eating a handful of pecans daily can reduce cholesterol to levels associated with cholesterol-lowering medication.

Pecan pie frequently calls for corn syrup, but we prefer the depth of flavor provided by a mix of dark molasses and maple syrup.

“Put pecans on the bottom of the pie,” suggests Julia Fitting of The Boarding House (720 N. Wells). “Then pour the filling over them so the pecans float up, settle on top, and stay interspersed.”

1. Combine ½ cup each dark molasses and maple syrup; whisk with 6 eggs, ½ cup brown sugar, ¼ teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon each vanilla and cinnamon.

2. Spread 1 cup each whole pecan halves and chopped dates onto bottom of uncooked pie shell (no shame in using store-bought).

3. Pour egg mixture over pecans and dates and bake at 350 until a knife inserted 1-inch from edge comes out clean.

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