Tag Archives: pear

Pear and Prosciutto Salad with Mint and Anise

It all started at my favorite place to shop: Costco. Most people know me as the one who gets overly excited by Costco and its high-quality foods in large quantities and discount prices. I think it’s because I’m from Costco’s home turf – Kirkland, Wash. is right outside Seattle, so everyone in Washington State feels a little ownership over our big-box baby.

On a recent trip, I spotted nearly a pound of prosciutto (domestic, alas) for $8. We all know it costs more than $20 per pound at the regular grocery store. I bought it, then regretted it because how could I possibly eat that much prosciutto by myself?

Oh, friends. Of course I could!

First, I made this wonderful dish that I adapted from Bon Appetit. Juicy, ripe pear is drizzled with a light anise-seed vinaigrette and mint. Then, you layer ribbons of prosciutto on top and add extra mint (clipped from the garden, naturally). It’s a new twist on the melon-prosciutto combination that so many people love.

The mint adds a fresh brightness and the anise seed give you a little crunch of delicate licorice flavor (but not too much, because I hate licorice).

Pear and Prosciutto Salad with Mint and Anise Seed

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons good pear nectar (or juice)
  • 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon aniseed, lightly crushed (I just pinched between my fingers)
  • 2 tablespoons sliced fresh mint, divided
  • 1 unpeeled very ripe pear, halved, cored, each half cut into 6 wedges
  • Thin prosciutto slices

Whisk oil, nectar, vinegar, and aniseed in small bowl; stir in 1 tablespoon mint. Season to taste with salt. Arrange pear wedges on plates; drizzle vinaigrette over. Top with prosciutto. Sprinkle with cracked black pepper and remaining 1 tablespoon mint.

A lovely snack or first course to enjoy in the back garden or front porch. I believe we enjoyed ours with a crisp white wine.

Enjoy, friends! xoxo

Buttermilk spice cake with pear compote

A man once told me, “There is no word quite as lovely as buttermilk … it conjures up such warm and lovely feelings.”

As many of us discovered at an early age, buttermilk’s taste does not live up to that soft and sweet name. Instead, it tastes quite sour and will always remind me of the assisted-living home I worked at in high school (the residents ordered it with pepper sprinkled on top!).

This cake is not sour in the least. Instead, I believe the buttermilk adds a moisture and slight tang to balance the sweetness.

Adding lime zest, allspice, ginger, black pepper and ground star anise (which you’ll have to grind yourself) makes it just delightful, especially paired with a simple pear compote made with Boscs, sugar and lime juice.

The recipe recommended a dollop of creme fraiche on top, but I think it is fine without it. My only real complaint is that I don’t have a 1/8 tsp measure, so I don’t think I added enough of the spices and they were overwhelmed by the vanilla beans. Still quite tasty, I just recommend not skimping on the spices.

This recipe comes to you from Bon Appetit…

Buttermilk Spice Cake with Pear Compote

Ingredients:

For pear compote —

  • 2 T sugar
  • 1 T fresh lime juice
  • Large pinch of salt
  • 3 Bosc pears, peeled, quartered and cut into cubes

Method:

Mix sugar, lime and salt in heavy saucepan. Add pears and toss to coat. Cover and cook over medium-low until pears are just tender, 10-12 min. Transfer to bowl and set aside.

For spice cake —

  • 1 c. plus 1 T flour
  • 1/4 c. cornstarch
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/8 tsp ground allspice
  • 1/8 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/8 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1/8 tsp ground whole star anise (or anise seeds)
  • 1/2 c. unsalted butter (1 stick) at room temperature
  • 3/4 c. sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 three-inch piece of vanilla bean, split
  • 1/4 tsp grated lime zest
  • 3/4 c. buttermilk

Preheat oven to 350. Butter and flour 9-inch cake pan and line bottom with parchment paper.

Sift first nine ingredients into medium bowl. Set aside. In large bowl or Kitchenaid, beat butter until fluffy, then add sugar, beating until smooth. Beat in eggs 1 at a time. Scrape in seeds from vanilla bean and add lime peel. Beat to blend. Beat in flour  mixture alternately with buttermilk, in four additions. Scrape down bowl and mix thoroughly. Transfer batter to prepared pan and bake until browned on top and a tester comes out clean, approx. 30 min. Cool completely on wire rack.

Slide knife around edges to loosen, then invert on rack, peel parchment off and invert onto serving plate. Dust with powdered sugar.

To serve, slice a big piece of the moist cake and spoon pears on the side. Top with creme fraiche, although I think I prefer it without.

Num. Enjoy, friends! xoxo

Wine-poached pear tart

No kitchen is complete without Julia!

I have a theory, after reading Martha Stewart Living for many years, that she has simplified her gourmet recipes. I call it the Rachael Ray effect – modern cooks want great-tasting meals without all the gourmet techniques. And then Julia happened. Oh, Julia. Julia, Julia. After a certain blog-turned-book-turned-movie came out, who hasn’t been attempting Julia Child’s wonderful pastries and roasts in their so-not-French kitchens? I must say that Julia was not writing for the at-home cook. Or at least not the modern cook, who wants easy, healthy and fast recipes dumbed down to a 4th grade level.

Today will be known as the day I attempted my very first Julia Child recipe. Julia’s Pear Tart, which I found at another blog. It was written long and in a confusing order. I re-worked the recipe a bit, but I must warn you that this still took me ROUGHLY FOUR HOURS. From start to finish. Perfect for the holidays, if you are looking for an excuse to spend time away from the family. Also perfect for a free Sunday morning.

Julia Child’s Pear Tart, adapted by WriteGal

Make the sugar crust:

1 1/3 c. flour

7 T sugar

1/8 tsp baking powder

5 T butter, chilled, diced

2 T shortening

1 egg beaten with 1 tsp water

1/2 tsp vanilla

Whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder. In food processor, add butter and shortening, pulsing, until it resembles oatmeal flakes. Add egg and vanilla until dough forms a ball. Flatten into a disk and chill until firm, 1 hour to 3 days (if making ahead).

For the frangipane (I had never used this cooking method before, so I really had to trust Julia!):

1/2 c. toasted almonds, pulverized in food processor

1 large egg

1 egg yolk

3/4 c. sugar

1/3 c. flour

1 c. whole milk

3 T butter

2 tsp vanilla extract

1/4 tsp almond extract

Whisk egg and yolk in large bowl (KitchenAid) until combined. Gradually add sugar and beat until  pale yellow – 3 min. Beat in flour.

Heat milk in medium pot until scalded, temper into egg mixture, then pour all into egg bowl, whisking vigorously.

Pour milk-egg mixture back in the saucepot over moderate heat. Stir slowly until mixture thickens and coagulates into a stiff paste. NOTE: You will think you are doing this wrong because you’ll scrape up big globs from the bottom of the pot. Just keep stirring until it looks like some sort of gummy paste. Mom said it was like wallpaper paste. Beat vigorously with a whisk over low heat for 2-3 min. to cook the flour. Your arm will be sore! Take it off the heat and mix in butter, vanilla, almond extract, almonds. Let cool to room temp. Cover with a buttered parchment paper to prevent a skin from forming.

It looks like peanut butter!

Now, bake the crust. Heat oven to 375.

On a floured surface, roll out chilled dough to 1/8 in. and transfer to false-bottomed tart pan (8 or 9 inches is fine). Press into corners and fold 1/2 in. over the edges. Trim excess.

Line tart with buttered foil and fill with uncooked rice, beans or pie weights. I used barley. Bake for 10-15 min. until just set and not sticky (mine took about 20 minutes, I couldn’t believe it!). Remove foil and weights, then cook another 7-8 min., or until lightly browned. Remove from oven to cool COMPLETELY.

For the pears:

2 c. red wine (I used merlot)

2 T fresh lemon juice

3/4 c. sugar

1/2 tsp cinnamon

3-4 rip-firm pears (Mine were totally not ripe)

1/4 c. red currant jelly or other dark preserve

In a sauce pan over medium heat, combine wine, lemon, sugar and cinnamon. Bring to a boil. Meanwhile, peel, half, stem and core the pears (melon baller is helpful). When liquid is boiling, add the pears and simmer until tender. Mine took 20 min. because they were so unripe, but yours might take 8-10 min.

The pears will become a rich ruby color and your house will smell like mulled cider. Let the pears cool in the liquid for 20 min. and then drain on a rack.

Rapidly boil the liquid down until the syrup starts to bubble like caramel, 230 degrees (I used a meat thermometer). Remove from heat and add preserves, stirring until dissolved.

Now, assemble the tart!

Paint the inside of the shell with the syrup. Fill shell with frangipane, smoothing with a spatula. Cut pears and place on top.

Lightly glaze pears with some of the remaining jelly. Serve chilled or at room temperature.

How did it taste, you ask? Very gourmet. The crust was perfectly flaky and flavorful, although some of the jelly baste dripped through and stuck to the underside. This can be remedied by simply putting buttered parchment on the bottom of the pan. The frangipane wasn’t too sweet, but had a rich nuttiness to it. The almond flavor was strong but not overpowering. In fact, the roasted almonds gave it an almost cocoa flavor, which surprised my guests to realize it had no chocolate in it. The pears tasted wonderful, just like mulled wine, and the jelly glaze was a wonderful finish. I recommend using the more tart red currant preserves because they match well with the sweetness of the other ingredients. A truly elegant dessert.

Enjoy, friends, and I hope everybody is having a happy and peaceful holiday! xoxo

Pear-almond cake with chocolate chunks

Almond Joy

At first I didn’t think I would like pear and chocolate together. It just sounded weird, somehow. But this cake is really tasty, especially when served cold. My only problem with the recipe is that the batter is thick and there isn’t much of it. I found it difficult to spread in two layers in my spring-form pan. Next time, I will put it all perhaps in one layer, with the pears on top. We’ll see. Also, you do not need a standing mixer for this.

You can find the recipe at RachaelRayMag.com. It is a basic cake batter layered with sliced pears, dark chocolate chunks and then drizzled with an almond glaze. Those almonds on top really pull it all together. I need to bake more with almonds. The pear is really moist and the chocolate adds a nice contrast. Plus, extra powdered sugar on top is always good.

The “rustic” cake is supposedly Roman in origin, so take that as you will. The result: a lovely cake for any occasion, with pears and chocolate and almonds. I’m a chocolate-pear convert!

IMG_4564

Enjoy, friends! xoxo

Apple and pear crisp

IMG_4218

Not that I would know, but sometimes you just feel snotty. Either your head is so congested that you just want to be deep under the covers or you feel disheartened that you haven’t found your dream job yet … snotty is as snotty does.

One of the reasons I watch so much Food Network is because it calms me. Watching people prepare beautiful dishes is nearly as comforting as doing the cooking myself. That’s why I love the soothing voices of Ina Garten and Giada over the too-harsh Emeril or Rachael Ray (I prefer the Rachael Ray magazine).

I recently watched the Barefoot Contessa make a yummy-looking apple-pear crisp and I thought, ‘Perhaps that’s just what the doctor ordered,’ if I had health insurance and could afford to visit the Dr.

It was nummy. The combo of apples and pears with spices will make your house smell like fall. The added citrus zests really give it a gourmet flavor, too. And that crust? Well, the secret’s in the crust, my friends!

Here’s how to make it…

2 lbs. firm pears, such as bosc, peeled, cored and cut into chunks

2 lbs. apples, such as gala, peeled, cored and cut into chunks

1 tsp. orange zest

2 T fresh orange juice

1 tsp. lemon zest

2 T fresh lemon juice

1/2 c. sugar

1/4 c. flour

1 tsp. cinnamon

1/2 tsp. nutmeg

Preheat oven to 350. Mix the above ingredients together in a bowl and pour into a baking dish.

For the crust, note: Her recipe made way too much crust and because I don’t have a KitchenAid, I did most of it in a food processor. So this is my interpretation:

Combine in food processor 1 c. flour, 1/2 c. sugar, 1/2 c. brown sugar, 1/2 tsp. kosher salt, 2 sticks of cold butter in cubes. Process until the butter is in small pieces. Transfer to a larger bowl and mix in 1/2 c. oats with a wooden spoon (or do this in the FP if you have enough room). Sprinkle this over the apple-pear mixture.

Put the dish on a baking sheet and bake until golden and bubbly, about 1 hr.

Serve steaming with vanilla bean ice cream over the top.

Jesse loves the addition of the pears with the apples (I usually make plain apple crisps), and I am just a huge fan of the crust. Enjoy, friends, as summer leaves us for fall!

What makes a crisp a crisp

What makes a crisp a crisp