Pears are one of the great treats of autumn. They can be eaten when slightly tart and crisp. . A little riper and the flesh takes on a texture that is at once creamy and mealy. They come in a variety of colors on the outside – brown boscs, green Bartletts, mottled green and pink skin with bright red polka dots on Forellos, and on and on. Inside, they are a soft off-white that drips with clear juices that taste at once tart and honeyish.
Pear and Grilled Cheese Sandwich:
All varieties of pears are perfect for eating raw by themselves. They are a terrific accompaniment to cheeses. The most classic combination for pears is served with blue cheese and walnuts. My favorite midnight snack this time of year is a pear and grilled cheese sandwich.
1 slice rye, sourdough, or other flavorful bread- coated lightly with cooking spray, olive oil or butter on one side.
1/4-1/2 pear, peeled, cored and cut into thin slices from stem to blossom end. Slightly firm pears rather than very ripe pears work better here.
1 T walnut chopped
1 or 2 T of blue cheese – crumbled
Yellow or dijon mustard to taste, or mayo, or olive oil.
On a cookie sheet lined with aluminum foil place bread with the coated side down in 350 degree oven. Let cook until fragrant and the top is just starting to brown around the edges. Remove from oven and change oven setting to broil.
If you like the bite of mustard, spread the bread with a light coating of mustard. If you do not like mustard use a light coating of mayo or olive oil on the bread. (This is less about flavor and more about keeping the bread from getting soggy from pear juices.)
Lay the pear pieces on top of the bread. It’s okay if they overlap slightly.
Sprinkle with chopped walnuts and cheese.
Pop the sandwich back into the oven and cook until the cheese begins to melt and bubble.
This is a great mid-night snack. I also find this is a great alternative to the traditional grilled cheese of my childhood when eating tomato soup.
If you prefer this as a closed-faced sandwich, consider adding a little radicchio or other bitter green to elevate it further.
For meat eaters, consider the addition of a slice of prosciutto to this one.
While any cooking application that works for apples will work for pears, somehow using pears tends to elevate things. My favorite crockpot applesauce is a whole different thing when made with pears.
4 pounds very ripe pears, quartered, peeled and cored
1-2 cups sweetener – sugar, brown sugar, maple syrup, brown rice syrup or honey are all good choices. (if desired)
2 T frozen lemonade concentrate, or orange juice concentrate or apple juice concentrate
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground clove
Put pears and juice concentrate into a crockpot. Add just enough water to cover the bottom until the pears start to break down. Cook covered on high for 30 minutes. Run through a food mill, mash with a potato masher, or process roughly using an immersion blender. Add in sweetener and spices to taste. (Go easy on these as you can always add more later.) I tend to not use any sweetener when I make this for myself as I like a tarter flavor.
Turn heat down to low and continue cooking uncovered until pears are reduced by a third.
I love to eat this warm by itself or spooned as a topping over cinnamon or vanilla ice cream. I’ll also use this, some plain yogurt and some granola to make a very tasty parfait.
A neighbor child likes to toss raisins into his.
My omnivore friends like this as an accompaniment to pork chops.
I will sometimes replace the cinnamon and cloves with cardamom and white pepper for a richer, holiday taste.
I will cook this down further to make pear butter and then give that as a holiday gift along.
Baked Pears with Vanilla Yogurt
My absolute favorite pear recipe gets me lots of ooohs and ahhhs when I serve it and is stupidly easy. It’s also low in calories and costs next to nothing. (Don’t you love those kinds of recipes?)
1/2 medium pear per person, or one whole pear if small – pears should be ripe, but firm.
1 container low or no fat vanilla yogurt
Preheat the oven to 375. Cover a baking sheet with aluminium foil Spray lightly with cooking spray.
Cut the pears in half from stem to blossom. If possible to keep the stem intact, do. If not, no big deal. Core the pears.
Using a sharp knife, cut layers into the pear from the blossom toward the stem end. Do not go all the way, but leave about 1/2″ or so intact. (Again, if it breaks, no big deal). Leave layers together so it just looks like half a pear.
Place prepared pear halves on a baking sheet cut side down. Cook for 30 minutes or until fork tender
Take yogurt and stir until it becomes thin and runny.
Take pears and place on individual dessert plates cut side down. Press gently on top of pear to make layers fan. Drizzle vanilla yogurt on pears and sprinkle with cinnamon. Serve warm.
If I want to add a little more color to the plate, I will drop a few fresh raspberries on the plate. Then I will split the yogurt into two cups. I will add a little raspberry juice to half the yogurt (and maybe a drop or two of red food coloring if I really want to go for a stronger color). I will drizzle first one kind of yogurt, then the other.
Another alternative is to add a little orange juice and zest to half the yogurt. Do the same as before.
For valentine’s day, I forgo the yogurt and drizzlle a chocolate sauce on the pears.
All the other stuff:
As said before, consider pears where you normally use apples. Pear pie is delicious as are pear dumplings.
Pears juice well. If you don’t have a juicer, just grate a pear onto a piece of cheesecloth, and then twist and squeeze. You will be amazed at how much juice you can get out of a ripe pear. Pear juice is good on its own, or consider making hot pear cider instead of apple cider. Change around the spices – nutmeg, cloves, cinnamon, mace, allspice and cardamom all go well with pears. Pear flavor is really brightened by alcohol. Mix the pear juice with vodka and pomegranate juice, or make a champagne cocktail with a shot of pear juice at the bottom of a champagne flute and top with your favorite bubbling wine.
Pears dry well in a dehydrator and then are great additions to Moroccan couscous or to granola.