Pear Madness

by Matt on October 12, 2006

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I’m going to let you in on a little secret:  I go overboard.

Being born with an obsessive compulsive fanatical impassioned gene isn’t really all that bad, though. It allows me to focus on things so acutely and really dive into subjects that might otherwise not have interested me. It allowed me to learn how to rollerskate in the 70s, leaving all the other kids biting my dust (or maybe it was my purple satin shorts, which for a 7-year old boy is probably the fast track to neighborhood ridicule, but so what, I ask?) It’s kept me interested in my job for this long, helped me wrangle and eat my own snails, and allowed me to learn how to play a handful of musical instruments.

It’s also the reason I have found myself up to my eyeballs in pears.

Now, a pear isn’t something you always have around like an onion or a lemon. They’re a truly seasonal fruit and best enjoyed when mother nature tells us they’re ready. And because of this I don’t really think of pears throughout the year. It’s not like I find myself grilling in the middle of July and then suddenly scream out “OH MY GOD THIS RIB SOOOOOOOO NEEDS A PEAR RIGHT NOW!”  If anything I’ll scream out because my cocktail is empty. But that’s a whole ‘nuther blog.  But my point is this: when I taste that first early fall pear I know I’m on a collision course with that powerful strange facet of my personality.

Could you blame me? Each pear has its own flavor, ranging from tart to sweet and syrupy. And then there’s that texture, so soft and buttery. If I’m looking for a crunch I’ll go after Asian pears, but you’ll never hear me complain about the softer fruit. They’re just like candy. I’ll happily eat 2 or 3 at a time and never get tired of them. Obviously.

This past week has particularly crazy for me. Stacks of gorgeous pears have begun to arrive at the market and like a zombie from the Thriller video I shuffle over and pick up half of dozen every time. And then I eat them instantly, racking up the pear count to a whopping 40-something over the past week alone. One track mind, I tell ya.

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At least I’m getting my fiber, nutrients and a whole mess of vitamin C and potassium. Which is good, because once they’re gone I can rest easily knowing I made my health quota for the year. Wait, it doesn’t work that way, does it?

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When I’m not stuffing pears into my face and trying to catch pear juice dripping down my arms and onto my desk I actually like to cook with them. Baked, poached, sauteed, sliced, I’ll never turn down a pear anything.

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Pears poached in red wine

6 pears, peeled and sprinkled with the lemon juice to prevent browning
1 lemon, squeezed for juice
peel of 1 orange
2/3 cup sugar
2-1/4 cups of water
1 bottle of red wine
1 stick of cinnamon
1 peppercorn
1 pinch of salt

1. Stand the pears in a pan, not touching each other.

2. Sprinkle with the sugar. Add the salt and wine. Then add the orange peel, cinnamon, and peppercorn.

3. Bring the pears to a boil over high heat.

4. Gently lift the pears from the syrup with a slotted spoon, place on a serving platter or bowl and set aside.

5. Boil the juice down until it is reduced by half. Set aside to cool.

To serve: When the syrup has cooled, spoon it over the pears and chill until ready to serve.

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Pear Tart

My pal Melinda calls this a Pear Pizza. Why? Because it’s round. But I can’t bring myself to call it that. It’s not a pizza. And knowing me I’d probably put pears on my pizza. With blue cheese. But I digress.

1 sheet puff pastry
about 6 ripe pears
1/4 cup sliced or slivered almonds
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon, ground cinnamon]
1/4 teaspoon, freshly grated nutmeg
2 to 3 tablespoons, unsalted butter, melted

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees, and set rack on the middle level.

On a lightly floured surface, roll out the thawed pastry into a 12 1/2-inch square. Then, using a 12-inch plate (or other circle) as a guide, trace around the plate with a sharp knife – to cut a 12-inch round of pastry. Carefully transfer the round to an ungreased pizza pan or baking sheet, at least 12 inches wide. With a fork, prick the dough all over, except for a border (about 3/4 inch wide) all around the edges. Freeze the uncovered pastry round on its pan for at least 10 minutes – or up to an hour or two.

When the dough is frozen, transfer it, on its pan, directly into the preheated oven, and bake for 8 minutes or until dough is slightly puffed and lightly colored. Place the pan on a wire rack to cool the pastry crust, andgently flatten the pastry inside the border with a spatula.

Peel and halve the pears. Remove the cores of each pear half with a melon baller. Cut each half into three or four lengthwise slices. Arrange the slices on the crust. Evenly sprinkle the almonds over and around the pear slices.

In a small bowl, mix together the sugar and spices. Brush the pears and almonds with the melted butter and evenly sprinkle over the sugar mixture.

Place the pizza back into the hot oven and bake for 20 minutes or until the crust is a golden brown, and most of the pear juices are cooked off. Cool the pizza slightly, on its pan, on a wire rack. Slice with a sharp knife or pizza wheel and serve very warm – alone, or with creme fraiche, ice cream or whipped cream.

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Pear and Salad

There’s really no recipe here,  as you can add just about anything to mixed greens and it will taste good. We love this salad, which includes sliced pears, crunchy candied walnuts and raspberries with a drizzle of dressing.

4 tablespoons hazelnut or walnut oil
1 tablespoon champagne vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 small garlic clove
pinch of sea salt
fresh cracked pepper

Mix it all up. Yum.

Recipe credit: D. Weber, poached pears  and Melinda Lee, Pear, um, Pizza. Yea.

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Amy Sherman October 12, 2006 at 7:41 pm

Pears with a dollop of ricotta and a drizzle of honey. Yum.

burcu October 13, 2006 at 8:48 am

Your poached pears look absolutely fantastic. Beautiful picture, beautiful recipe. I know what i’ll be looking for at tomorrow’s farmer’s market.
Why did I discover your blog so late?

Anne October 13, 2006 at 10:53 am

This all looks so beautiful- your blog photography reminds me of Kuiadore! That pear tart looks divine.

Liz October 13, 2006 at 1:57 pm

The poached pears are next on my list- just another excuse to go to the store and buy creme fraiche!

If you like white wine Espiral’s Vinho Verde white wine (Portugal) is very pear-y. It’s good in white sangria.

Cheers!

Ari (Baking and Books) October 15, 2006 at 5:50 am

Boy am I lucky to have found your blog this morning. I just so happen to have four pears sitting on my counter, waiting to be made into something scrumptious!

Tana October 17, 2006 at 1:04 pm

Those are fake pears, aren’t they? You sprayed them with glycerine and model car paint, didn’t you? And you can’t eat them, right?

RIGHT?

: D

hd connelly October 21, 2006 at 8:20 pm

I *love* pears and this summer I learned to make a pear, almond and cream cheese torte. [swooooon] Before the pears are all gone I’m hoping to make poached pears or pears stuffed with plums.

…but first I have a ripe mango ready to become salsa.

love your blog as always Matt – you’ve inspired me to get back into the kitchen! :)

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