Pear “Toasts”

Pears sliced lengthwise topped with delicious toppingsYou’ve probably noticed how trendy the idea of toast has become, with food magazines, cooking shows, and restaurant chefs across the country coming up with enticing toppings for a humble slice of bread. There are even entire cafes dedicated to the concept. But what happens when you have the wacky idea to exchange a slice of pear for the bread? Magic!

Here are four delicious ideas for topping pear “toasts” at home. Consider this a jumping off point for coming up with your own creative combinations, using whatever variety of pear you have ripening on the counter, and any tasty toppings sitting in your fridge or pantry. The options are practically endless, since pears taste amazing with both sweet and savory flavors. These quick creations are a yummy snack for kids and adults alike, whether the craving strikes after school or at the office. But really they are great anytime of the day, from breakfast on the go to a midnight snack.

The first step is to slice a ripe USA pear lengthwise, cutting on either side of the core to create 1/4-inch thick planks. Next, get topping!

Toast 1:
USA Green Anjou Pear
Almond Nut Butter
Banana Slices
Honey Drizzle
Cinnamon Sprinkle
Poppy Seeds

Toast 2:
USA Bosc Pear
Roasted Red Pepper Hummus
Cucumber Slices
Crumbled Feta
Chopped Kalamata Olives
Dill Sprigs

Toast 3:
USA Bosc Pear
Gorgonzola Dolce Cheese
Salami Slices
Chopped Hazelnuts
Chopped Parsley

Toast 4:
USA Red Anjou
Vanilla Greek Yogurt
Chopped Dried Apricots
Mint Leaves
Black Sesame Seeds

Pickled Pear and Irish Cheddar Toasties in a Bread Basket

Little grilled cheese and pickled pear snadwiches stuffed inside a hollowed out bread loaf on a green plateLittle toastie sandwiches, filled with melting Irish Cheddar and piquant pickled pears, are (adorably) presented right in their own hollowed out bread loaf. This recipe makes 2 pints of sweet and tangy pickled pears perfumed with caraway and bay. You won’t need that much for the toasties, so you’ll have pickled pears in your fridge for a month, if they last that long! Enjoy them with cheeses and charcuterie, in salads and sandwiches, or as a tasty snack.

Makes 8 toasties; serves 4 (because everyone will want 2!)

Caraway Pickled Pears
2 medium ripe or slightly underripe Bosc pears
1¼ cups apple cider vinegar
1 cup water
6 tablespoons honey
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 teaspoons caraway seeds
2 bay leaves

For the Toasties
1 unsliced loaf of hearty whole-grain sandwich bread (AKA a “Pullman” loaf)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
7 ounces Irish cheddar cheese, sliced and at room temperature
16 slices Caraway Pickled Pears

To make the pickled pears: Halve and core the pears, and slice each one lengthwise into 1/8-inch-thick slices. Pack the slices into 2 wide-mouth, pint-size glass canning jars, or other heatproof container(s). Bring the vinegar, water, honey, salt, caraway seeds, and bay leaves to a boil over medium-high heat in a small saucepan, stirring until the honey and salt are dissolved. Boil for about 2 minutes. Pour the hot brine into the jars, completely covering the pears. Cover the jars with lids and set aside to allow the brine to cool to room temperature as it pickles the pears. When completely cooled, use right away or refrigerate the pickled pears for up to 1 month.

To make the toasties: First preheat the broiler.

loaf of bread on a cutting board with the crust and top intact, but the middle removed in a blockUsing a bread knife, saw off the top crust of the bread, just where it begins to dome (if it is a flattop loaf, then just saw off about ½ inch of the top crust); set the top aside. Now cut out the inside of the bread in one giant rectangle, so that you will basically have a crustless smaller loaf within the outer shell of crust. Here’s how to do that: Saw around the perimeter of the bread parallel to the long and short edges of the loaf, leaving about a ½-inch border on all edges and without cutting all the way through the bottom crust. Now cut a slit through one of the long edges of the crust that runs parallel to the bottom crust, about 1/2-inch from the bottom of the loaf, leaving about a ½-inch border on either end of the loaf so as not to completely slice off the bottom crust; this will free the inside bread rectangle, leaving a long slit toward the bottom of the bread bowl (but that won’t matter, it’s a secret!). Carefully remove the now crustless interior rectangle of bread and cut it into 16 slices.

Arrange the slices in a single layer on a large, rimmed baking sheet and brush the top sides with butter. Place them under the broiler, about 4 inches from the top heating element, until nicely toasted. Flip and toast the slices on the other side. Remove them from the oven, and now preheat the oven to 400˚F.

Top 8 of the toasted bread slices with a slice of cheese and then 2 slices of pickled pear. Place the other 8 bread slices on top, creating 8 little toastie sandwiches. Stuff the toasties back into the hollowed out bread “basket.” You will likely only be able to fit about 6 of them inside, so set the other 2 aside for now. Replace the top of the bread. Wrap the entire loaf in a sheet of aluminum foil and place it on the center oven rack. Bake until the cheese is melted, 30 to 40 minutes. Place the remaining 2 toasties on a small baking pan and heat them in the oven a few minutes before the big loaf is done, just until the cheese is melted.

To serve, place the bread basket and extra toasties on a large platter, and enjoy while the cheese is hot and melty!

The Time is Ripe for Pears: Chicago

From Philadelphia, we headed west to the chilly city of Chicago on our sixth stop in The Time is Ripe for Pears Tour. The city’s trademark wind was in full force, but so was the enthusiasm of local pear fans!

On our first night in Chicago, I was treated to a delicious local delicacy: a pizza pot pie. Yep, that’s right; it’s all the tasty toppings of a pizza—plum tomatoes, peppers, garlic, whole mushrooms, sausage—wrapped up inside a doughy bundle and set inside a dish to bake. When it’s finished, they bring it to your table inside the dish and gently coax it out onto your plate. It’s so good! If you’re ever in the Windy City, check it out: Chicago Pizza and Oven Grinder Co. And order the Mediterranean Bread!

On Thursday, we enjoyed a wonderful lunch at the impressively sleek Blackbird Restaurant. Chef David Posey (below) treated us to a meal just as impressive. My favorite course was the Seared Bass with Clams, Glazed Parsnips, and Pears (also below). Luckily for you, I get to share the recipe here!

That evening, we bundled up to head to Pastoral Artisan Cheese in the Loop, where we sampled Bosc, Anjou, and Starkrimson pears along with some complementary cheese choices, courtesy of our friends at Pastoral. The pairings were excellent, but don’t take my word for it! Check out this video to see what these tasters had to say. And note: I’m not the only one who uses, er, cheesy pear puns!

 

They also drew this darling little sign to spread the word. Curious to learn more about which cheeses you should pair with pears? Watch this short video to see what we sampled in Chicago, and click here for more pairing inspearation.

All in all, we had a great trip to Chicago — and we’re very excited for our last two stops here in the Pacific Northwest! If you’re in the area, make sure you visit us! We’ll be here in Portland on Friday and sampling at Beecher’s Cheese in Seattle the following week. More info here.

Pasta con Peras y Queso

Stumped about what to have for dinner tonight?  Try this quick and easy recipe – just pick up some fresh, new season USA Pears at the store – the yellow of a ripe Bartlett and bright red Starkrimson add beautiful color to this dish from Mexico!

Pasta with Pears and Cheese

Pasta con Peras y Queso (Pasta with Pears and Cheese)

Ingredients

2 USA Bartlett pears, ripe & chopped
2 USA Starkrimson pears, ripe & chopped
6 ounces penne pasta
2 tablespoons butter
½ cup grated parmesan cheese
¼ cup crumbled gorgonzola cheese
½ cup cream
½ cup milk
1 tablespoon chicken bouillon granules
Salt, chopped onion, garlic, and olive oil as desired to season pasta while cooking

Directions

Boil the pasta in water with some salt, onion, garlic, and a little olive oil.  When the pasta is al dente, drain the water and set pasta aside.

In a skillet, melt the butter, then add the parmesan, gorgonzola, and cream. Poor the milk in slowly and still in the chicken bouillon. Let the mixture simmer on low heat for 5 minutes or until the cheese is melted and the sauce begins to boil.  Add the pasta and pears to the same skillet, mixing with the sauce and heating through, reserving some chopped pears for garnish.

Difficulty: easy
Preparation time: 35 minutes
Yield: 4 servings

Pears and Cheese

March seems to be the unofficial month of cheese. And as you know, pears and cheese happen to go together like peanut butter and jelly, like milk and Oreos, like…well, you get the picture.

We’ve been at three events in the month of March alone, sampling fresh pears along with a variety of Oregon cheeses. The Portland Boys and Girls Club held their annual Showcase of Wine and Cheese early this month, where we sliced succulent Taylor’s Gold pears, crisp Bosc pears, and juicy Anjous.

Mid-month, we traveled down to Willamette Valley Vineyards to slice up pears at their Wine, Pear & Cheese Jubilee, and last weekend, we went way down south to the famed Rogue Creamery for the Oregon Cheese Festival.

People had a great time sampling pears (the state fruit!) along with a variety of crumbly, creamy, rich and salty cheeses from around our lovely state. Are you hungry yet? Check out our website for ideas on how you can find your favorite pear and cheese pairings.

Cheers!

Go Packers!

It’s almost game time, and Pear Bureau Northwest is rooting for the Green Bay Packers. Lucky for us (or should I say them?) their colors just so happen to match the bright hues of USA Pears – particularly the Green Anjou and the (ripe) Bartlett.

If you’re hosting a Super Bowl party on Sunday, we’ll make it easy to score big with your guests. Here’s how you can pump up the excitement with pears:

• Fill baskets, trays, or a large glass vase with green and yellow USA Pears—the colorful centerpiece can double as a healthy snack!
• Place USA Pears in quesadillas—it’s the perfect Cheesehead tribute!
• Serve this Pear Mango Salsa along with your chips and dips. The fruity mixture is festive and delicious!

Visit our website for our complete green and yellow game day menu. Go Pack!

This Weekend: Wine, Cheese & Pear Jubilee!

wvv-057
If you’re going to be in the Willamette Valley this weekend, don’t miss the 7th Annual “Wine, Cheese & Pear Jubilee” at Willamette Valley Vineyards. You’ll have the chance to sample award-winning wines paired with local artisan cheeses and of course, Oregon grown pears! We’ll be there sampling ripe pears, so come on by and see us!

P.S. The $5 admission includes a free Riedel wine glass!

A Healthier Gift Worth Giving

gift-basket-1I love the holidays, but this year seems more stressful than past years. It’s getting down to the wire and I need a quick, thoughtful gift. I think I’ve got it – a personal gift from the heart that is useful, fun, and perfect for the new year! I’m a foodie at heart, so why not share my passion with all of the people I love?

Gift baskets have taken on a modern, fun twist in recent years. Here is my plan: take five flavorful and festive items, grab a basket or pretty bag, combine, and dress it up! My personalized gift looks like this: two or three comice, forelle, or red Bartlett pears, a fine wedge of cheese (I like bleu), a mini jar of jalapeno jelly, sesame crackers, and a bag of dried apricots, almonds, or walnuts. Try red and green pears for a festive centerpiece! The combination of items is purely enticing, and is one gift surely to be enjoyed through the end of the year; the bonus is that this gift doubles as a healthy appetizer or new year’s eve party dish! To save a few bucks I buy in bulk, and dress it up with tissue paper, ribbon, and fresh rosemary sprigs. But the best part of this gift is that it comes from the heart, full of things I want to share with my loved ones.gift-basket-2

Not into these items? Change it up to suit your personality; make it unique! Throw in your favorite kitchen tool, dried herbs, an apron, candle, bottle of wine, or a beloved book or recipe. If you love it, it’s sure to make your loved ones smile. Or if you’re drawing a blank, kitchen or finer food stores have varieties of fun items and delicacies to mix and match with pears as the festive focal point. For some ideas on foodie items to pair with pears, visit the pear, wine, and cheese pairing section of this website. Merry gifting and happy holidays!

Thanksgiving or Misgiving?

Stress, holiday blues, eating too much… I ask myself again this year, how does all of this spell thanksgiving?  If you’re like me, the holidays creep up on you when you’re already stressed and crunched for time, leaving you vulnerable to temptation! I know this is not the time of year to deprive myself, so I need a game plan to limit overindulgence and extra pounds.

pearsonscalesquareMy strategy for Thanksgiving this year is to grab the family for low-key physical activity and to have one or two food strategies in place before temptation strikes! Here are some ideas.

1. Start by eating a filling, balanced breakfast. This will help maintain blood sugar levels and fend off later splurging.

2. Start a new tradition! Take a walk instead of having brunch. Or, walk off the big meal!

3. Grab the family and play a rousing game, think football or tag with the kids. These activities are away from food and allow for family fun time. No matter how delicious the pie is, everyone will remember the fun!

4. Mentally rehearse before the big meal. Instead of planning what you will eat, plan to see some of your plate!

football115. Start with fruit or veggies. Think a salad, fruit and cheese plate, or crudités. Fill up ahead of time on nutrient-dense foods to control splurging.

6. At the big meal, only take a portion of your favorites or take a taste of everything. Or, start with a small portion of half of the foods. Then, when everyone gets up to have seconds of everything, try a small portion of the other half of the dishes!

Personally, I find that a filling up on fruits or veggies helps me stay on track. Try this simple, festive salad I’m making for Thanksgiving! Mix together leaf lettuce, sliced shallots and pears. Try a firm, festive pear, such as red Anjou or Bosc. Top this mixture with gorgonzola, walnuts, and balsamic vinaigrette. Delicious! If salads aren’t your style, put together a quick cheese and fruit plate. Grape bunches, sliced pears, and olives make a festive display when paired with a small assortment of cheeses, and the pear slices act as a cheese delivery device. Scrumptious! Depending on the type of pear you love best, USA Pears has a cheese pairing that is perfect for you. Happy merrymaking!

Nowadays, everybody’s keen on pears

It’s fall, and lot of people are doing a lot of wonderful things with pears right now.  Even though USA Pears are available nearly year-round, a lot of people still think of them as a “fall fruit.”  So if people like to cook with the seasons, and believe that pears are a fall fruit, it’s no surprise that the internet is EXPLODING with creative, delicious-looking pear recipes.

We have our very own USA Pears recipe collection, with time-tested (not to mention professionally-tested) appetizer, beverage, entree, dessert, and kid-friendly recipes, but we also like to pay attention to what’s going on out there in your kitchens.  Food blogs are all aflutter with incredible pear creations this fall, and I’ve rounded up a few of my faves for your enjoyment:

scarlet-poached-pear3

Scarlet Poached Pears from the blog “Zested” (http://zested.wordpress.com/)  This was sent to me from a fan in Washington State (ok, it was my sister) who happened upon this recipe that calls for 2 medium beets in addition to a cheap, robust red wine to create that amazing color.  Personally, I find that cool.  Another cool thing about this recipe is that it’s inspired by art- a stained glass Tiffany window at the Met.   Click here to read the post.

manque7webMini Manqué pear cakes with blackberry jam from the blog “Citron & Vanille” (www.citronetvanille.com/blog/)
The main thing I like about this lady is that she suggests you eat these cakes for breakfast!  Click here to read the post.

 

 

tart1Balsamic Goat Cheese and Pear Tart from the blog “Salt & Chocolate” (http://saltandchocolate.com/)
Katie, the genius behind Salt & Chocolate, is sort of a Michael Jordan of food blogging.  She gets nominated for awards and stuff, and I can definitely see why.  Does this look good or what?  Click here to read the post.

Which brings us to my final pick, also from Salt and Chocolate!

 

untitled-32Vanilla Cardamom Pear Turnovers by “Salt & Chocolate” (http://saltandchocolate.com/)

The best part about this post, besides the simple yet delectable recipe, is the comment from someone named Jen (not me).  It says, “I’ve been on a total puff pastry and cardamon kick, so I will definitely be trying this recipe.”  A total puff pastry and cardamom kick?  Jen, who are you and why don’t you have your own blog?

I feel it’s fair to say that if you’re not daydreaming about inventing your own creative pear dessert right now, you might want to start.  After all, it is fall.