Credit: Left photo: Janet Hudson on flickr | Right photo: Dave Leonhardt (GlassDharma.com on flickr) / Both are licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic
Pears are one of the most underappreciated fruits in the produce section. Often they are overlooked for apples with better-looking skins.
For some reason, Bosc (aka Kaiser) pears, which are fabulous for poaching, take a backseat to Bartlett pears.
I think we've been somewhat conditioned that pears should be predominantly yellow. Yet the more adventurous types out there (like me) are discovering that other varieties of pears are well worth trying out.
The thing is, I've been more disappointed by apples that look good on the outside but are underripe or mealy on the inside. Pears at their peak have a creamy, mild, sweet taste that is less acidic than apples. And pears have a refreshing minty aftertaste.
Since pears are one of my all time favorite fruits, I thought I'd create a few new recipes for all the pear lovers out there.
How to Choose Pears
If you have a pear tree, it's important to pick the fruit at the right time. When you press down on the skin near the stem (while it's still attached to the tree) it should feel slightly soft, not hard. Obviously you leave the ones that are rock hard on the tree and pick the softer ones. Then, as strange as it sounds, you should chill the picked pears to "even the ripening."
The following short 1:20 video by Garden Time TV explains:
Growing your own?
Know when to pick them
Pears at the Grocery Store
However, if you are at the mercy of whatever is in the produce section, you'll need some more info. Half the time, pears are rock hard near the stem when picked. In this case, you'll need to allow them to ripen at room temperature.
Bartlett pears are perhaps the easiest to recognize when ripe. Their skin (like bananas) changes from green to yellow. With other pears, you can't rely on their colour and will need to feel them and examine their skin near the stem.
A ripe Bosc pear is soft and slightly wrinkly near the stem. The following video by California Pears explains how to pick or ripen the Bartlett variety (depending on when you intend to use them). NOTE: At the 1:40 minute mark, the other 6 types of pears are also addressed.
Picking the Perfect Store-Bought Ones
Since I often end up with rock hard pears (my man-servant does the shopping), I wanted to know more about ripening them at room temperature and found this next tip helps.
I put my pears in a paper lunch bag and check them daily to see if they have softened around the stem. Laney Smithson, a Superfresh Grower, published a quick 29 second video about it (next).
How Do I Ripen Them?
Why does the paper bag work?
The ripening process is caused by ethylene gas released by the fruit. A bag simply "contains" the gas. A paper bag is ideal since it's porous and allows for some exchange of air and prevents condensation (or too much moisture) around the fruit. Purportedly, pears should be picked to induce ripening. Those left on trees tend to rot (if not picked at the appropriate time).
Credit: Janet Hudson on flickr / Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic
Rose's Pear, Arugula & Goat Cheese Salad
Serves: 4 - 6 | Prep: 15 mins | Total: 20 mins
I loosely based this recipe on one I found online from Whole Foods Market titled Spinach Salad with Pears, Walnuts and Goat Cheese.
Since I had leftover arugula from making my watermelon, arugula and avocado salad, I decided to substitute the spinach for arugula. I also used pecans and walnuts (since I had both on hand). And I used Canadian maple syrup (Grade A Light Amber) instead of honey.
I enjoy red onion in my salad, however my daughter prefers shallots (they are milder and sweeter tasting). So I used those instead (gotta keep these kids eating healthy, whatever it takes).
3 Bosc, Anjou or Comice pears
5 oz. arugula (or 3/4 lb. spinach, torn into bite-size pieces)
3 - 4 shallots, sliced thinly (or 1/4 red onion)
1/2 cup pecan or walnut halves (toasted)
4 oz. goat cheese (crumbled)
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil (good quality)
1/4 cup white wine vinegar (red wine vinegar also works)
1 tbsp. German mustard (I use Lowensenf medium mustard)
1.5 tsp. maple syrup (Grade A Light Amber preferably)
Wash your pears and arugula (or spinach) and set aside to dry. Peel and chop only one pear (the other two can have the skins left on, if you wish).
In a blender, combine one chopped pear with olive oil, vinegar, mustard, and maple syrup and puree until smooth. (If it seems too thick to pour easily, add up to 2 tbsp. of water).
In a small saucepan, without oil, toast walnut or pecan halves (see video further along, if need be). Set aside to cool.
Slice your remaining two pears (with or without skins) and then slice your onion(s) thinly.
In a large bowl, combine arugula (or spinach), sliced pears, toasted walnuts (or pecans), onion, and goat cheese. Pour dressing from blender over salad and gently toss to coat everything.
How to Toast Nuts
Lowensenf Medium Mustard
Sometimes this German mustard is hard to find
Lowensenf Medium Mustard
Lowensenf Medium Mustard
Lowensenf Medium Mustard, 8.45 oz (250g) Jar
Amazon Price: $5.50
(price as of Dec 5, 2015)
Top quality ingredients from a well known brand of German mustard. Lowensenf also makes Sweet, Medium Hot, and Extra Hot varieties. For my purposes, I find the medium one the most practical (otherwise I have a hard time using up different types of mustard). Ingredients: water, brown and yellow mustard seeds, distilled vinegar, salt, sugar, and herbs.
Rose's Almond, Pear & Spinach Smoothie
Serves: 3 - 4 | Prep: 7 mins | Total: about 2 hours
Based on the Glass Dharma flickr photo (shown as part of my intro photo), I checked out the accompanying recipe on their blog.
The original recipe titled Almond-Pear Smoothie with Raisins didn't entirely appeal to me. (Not too keen on dates or raisins - blah). And I'm far too lazy to soak them.
So I tweaked the recipe, doubled it, and I even added a bit of spinach, a banana, cinnamon, and maple syrup. What's more, this is an ideal smoothie for those who cannot tolerate cow's milk or are vegan.
TIP: Prepare the pears the night before and freeze them so you can make this smoothie within minutes.
4 medium pears (peeled, cubed and frozen)
2 cups unsweetened almond milk (or other non-dairy milk)
1/4 cup almonds (chopped)
1/2 - 3/4 cups tightly packed spinach (or other mild leafy green)
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 - 1 tbsp. maple syrup or honey (to taste)
Optional garnish: brown sugar, cinnamon and/or nutmeg sprinkled on top
Wash, peel, and cube pears then store them in the freezer (in a ziploc bag or airtight container) for at least 2 hours.
Wash spinach (or other leafy green) and place in blender along with almonds. Pulse to grind up almonds (the spinach prevents them from becoming a paste).
Add pears and almond milk in batches (I use the ice crusher mode). Lastly, throw in the banana, cinnamon, and maple syrup (or honey) and puree until desired consistency is reached. If too thick, add more almond milk or water.
Bodum Pavina Double Wall Thermo Glasses
I love to serve up smoothies in these bad boys
Bodum Pavina Double-Wall Thermo Glasses, Set of 2
Bodum Pavina Double Wall Glasses
One of Fortune Magazine's Best 25 Products (2004)
Bodum Pavina Double Wall Glass, 15-Ounce, Set of 2
Amazon Price: $40.00 $18.99
(price as of Dec 5, 2015)
What's so great about these? Plenty, they retain the temperature of your drink (whether hot or cold) and you no longer need coasters. The double wall prevents condensation (as well as cold, wet hands). Nothing's worse than someone offering to shake your hand when you're holding onto a cold, wet glass. Made of borosilicate glass, these are both dishwasher and microwave-safe and backed by a 1-year limited warranty.
A Gorgeous Bosc Pear
Credit: Michael Patterson (michaelnpatterson on flickr) / Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic
Keith Snow's Poached Bosc Pears
My written version follows this video
Poached Pears with Red Wine Sauce
Serves: 4 - 6 | Prep: 12 mins | Total: 50 mins
I was most impressed by Keith Snow's video recipe (plus I love to watch a man cook). I find cloves a bit strong, so I used 4 instead. Sometimes I cut the pears in half when I serve them, since some guests don't have room for a whole poached pear.
4 Bosc pears (not quite ripe) NB: Keep pears whole, do not slice
3 cups water or enough to cover 1/2 to 3/4 of the pears sitting upright in pot
1 cup red wine (high quality)
1 bay leaf
1/4 cup sugar
1 tbsp. cornstarch for sauce
Wash and carefully peel whole pears. Slice the bottoms so that each pear can stand upright in a dutch oven or large pot. (Stem off or on doesn't much matter).
Add about 3 cups of water (or the amount needed to cover about 2/3 of the way up the pears). Pour in red wine, add bay leaf and place cloves in different areas of the pot. Lastly, carefully pour sugar over the surface of the water as evenly as possible. (The cornstarch is for the red wine sauce).
Simmer pears in pot (standing upright) until soft but firm. (Mine took 30 minutes - but check after 20 minutes). Remove pears with tongs and set aside to cool.
Next, make the red wine sauce. Remove cloves and bay leaf from the pot and reduce remaining liquid on med-high heat for 5 - 7 minutes (or until reduced by half). Then thicken sauce with about 1 tbsp. of water mixed with 1 tbsp. of cornstarch. Set aside to cool.
Then Keith Snow adds caramel sauce (I'm too lazy to make another sauce). So I chose to pour the red wine sauce over the pears (why waste it on the plates). Sprinkle the coated pears with toasted pecan or walnut pieces, if desired.
Credit: David Blaine on flickr / Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic
Staub Enameled Cast Iron Cocotte with Lid
Staub Dark Blue Enameled Cast Iron Wide Round Oven with Lid, 4 Quart
The cast iron pot preferred by chefs
This Staub cocotte is featured in Keith Snow's video
Staub Wide Round Oven Shallow Cocotte, Dark Blue, 4 qt. - Dark Blue
Amazon Price: $371.00 $259.99
(price as of Dec 5, 2015)
Staub's cocotte is the ideal pot for poaching pears. Enameled cast iron maintains and distributes heat evenly (which comes in handy for preparing the red wine sauce). Whenever you cook with fruit, sugar, and alcohol, you'll need a thick pot that can maintain a constant temperature. A highly prized feature of Staub pots are their snug-fitting lids which keeps moisture in (helps to baste roasts).