Pears Pair Well with the Holidays!

Red Wine Poached Pear with Mascarpone and Candied Almonds

Happy holidays and happy National Pear Month! The USDA touts December as National Pear Month because the greatest varieties of pears are available right now, and the holidays wouldn’t be as joyous without these succulent and versatile treasures! The northwest United States is home to ten varieties of pears, thus recipes and ideas abound for the holidays. Why not make your holiday table healthier and happier with pears?

Pears lend a festive flair to any dish, and since they’re a healthful fruit, they add nutrients and fiber that keep you feeling full while you’re shopping or tempted by the sweets table at holiday parties. One of my favorite dishes to serve for the holidays or bring to gatherings is poached pears, particularly the delicious and tender red wine poached pears with mascarpone and candied almonds. The addition of mascarpone and almonds lend bite plus a sweet and savory flavor profile to the buttery mouthfeel of poached pears. Indeed, poaching pears in diluted juice also makes for a delicious and festive breakfast! Enjoy your pears and have a happy, healthy holiday!

Mint-Poached Bosc Pears

I’m visiting the markets in Mexico this week, and attended a recipe demonstration that is, coincidentally, perfect for St. Patrick’s Day!

Ingredients

8 Bosc USA Pears, peeled, cored, and cut in half

1 ½ cups sugar

1 ½ cups water

1 teaspoon green food coloring

¼ cup mint liquor

Directions

Boil water in pot, add sugar and pears and cook for 15 minutes at a rapid boil.

Turn down heat and allow to cool.

Add food coloring and liquor, covering the pears. Refrigerate 1 hour before serving. Serve with chocolate sauce, if desired.

yield: Serves 4
preparation time: 25 minutes
difficulty: easy

Love Infusion with Anjou Pear

The winners of our annual recipe contest in Hong Kong were recently announced.  We received over 60 food and drink recipes competing for supermarket gift cards to help the winners buy – what else – more USA Pears (but other groceries, too).  The entries were judged by a popular magazine in Hong Kong based on the recipe’s creativity, tastiness and nutritional value.

One of the winning recipes below sounds delicious – but also quite interesting.  And with a name like this, I’m only sorry that I didn’t have it in time to make for Valentine’s Day.  It’s easy to make – give it a try at home and let us know how it turns out!  I’m interested to hear about the milk/cream/sugar concoction and what flavor it adds to the recipe.  You can tell everyone that you’ve prepared an authentic recipe from Hong Kong!

USA Pears HK Recipe Contest

Winning dish: Love Infusion with Anjou Pear (Caramel Chocolate Anjou pear)

Winner: Leung Choi Hung

Ingredients

1 Green Anjou USA Pear

10 squares of a chocolate bar

1/4 cup crunchy rice cereal

2 teaspoons sugar

1/4 cup milk

1/4 cup cream

Directions

1. Boil milk with cream and sugar. Place pear into this mixture and keep refrigerated for 2 hours.

2. Heat the chocolate until completely melted. Place the cereal on a plate or flat surface.

3. Remove the pear from the fridge; coat with melted chocolate.

4. Roll the chocolate-covered pear in the cereal until coated.

5. Wait for chocolate to become firm; serve and enjoy!

Will you be my Valentine?

February is American Heart Month. According to the American Heart Association, heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States; it’s no wonder Valentine’s month is devoted to the heart! The best way to love your heart is to eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, exchange saturated fats for unsaturated fats, exercise, and manage weight and stress. From my personal experience in nutrition, most of us eat too many processed foods and not nearly enough plant foods packed with heart-healthy nutrients, fiber, and antioxidants. Certainly, we don’t have to cut out foods we love; we simply need to creatively come up with healthier, more natural alternatives.

Do something sweet for your heart this Valentine’s Day. Instead of an extravagant, high-calorie dinner, opt for a romantic dessert at home. Combine dark chocolate, rich in phytonutrients that may improve heart health called flavonoids, and fruit rich in heart disease fighting antioxidants. Give it a try! Melt 1.5 ounces of dark chocolate and drizzle over cut pears, walnuts, and strawberries for a decadent treat lower in calories than most restaurant desserts and higher in nutrients for a healthy heart.

A Simple Pear Crisp

pear harvest

Last week I made a trip to Hood River, in the heart of one of USA Pears’ four growing regions, for the Hood River County Fruit Loop Pear Celebration.  Although it was overcast, which prevented the spectacular views that you’ll see on a clear day, the orchards were loaded with the new season crop of USA Pears in every variety.  Harvest is a few weeks late this year, but lucky for me, I was still able to pick up fresh Bartlett and Starkrimson pears at the many fruit stands on the loop.

With my bounty, I decided to make a pear crisp, one of my favorite ways to kick off autumn.  I combined several different recipes to come up with a crisp that’s just how I like it – feel free to experiment and make your own adjustments!

pear crispA Simple Pear Crisp

Ingredients

4 USA Pears, peeled and sliced thinly (Bartlett works great)
1/6 cup water
Juice from 2/3 of a lemon
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup oats
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 tablespoon cinnamon
1/4 cup butter, melted

Directions

Place sliced pears in pan (I used a 9 x 9 inch square pan) with water and lemon juice.  In a bowl, stir together flour, oats, brown sugar, and cinnamon for topping.  Pour in melted butter, mixing well.  Spread topping evenly over pears and bake at 350 for 45-55 minutes. I like to serve mine à la mode!

Difficulty: Easy
Preparation time: 20 minutes
Yield: 6 servings

pear crisp

Show Your Love with USA Pears

It’s almost Valentine’s Day! I decided to round up some unusual gift ideas involving, of course, USA Pears. First, you could go the obvious route and give, well, pears. Red Anjou pears are in season now, and with their pretty red skin and light citrus notes, they’re a lovely gift for any girl or boy.

Harry and David has some fun Valentine’s Day-themed gift sets. I especially like this Fondue for Two with their signature Royal Riviera Pears.

If your sweetie has a knack for cooking, why not splurge on a Le Creuset dutch oven? Every cook I know covets one if they don’t own it already. And in bright, vivid red, it’s a fitting reminder of the romantic holiday.

Or if you’d rather focus on the experience, why not make your Valentine a delicious dessert? Poached pears turn decadent when they’re drizzled with chocolate sauce, as seen here. Looking for something lighter? Roasted Pears with Strawberry Relish will be sure to please your partner!

Whatever you choose, make your Valentine’s Day especially sweet with fresh USA Pears!

National Chocolate Cake Day

It’s National Chocolate Cake Day! What are you waiting for?!

If you haven’t yet celebrated, don’t worry. I’ve dug up three delectable chocolate cakes that just so happen to include the lovely, complementary, ever-so-sweet pear. Get to baking!

First up, Smitten Kitchen’s rustic Bittersweet Chocolate and Pear Cake. You know you want to dig into that.

Next, we have an Upside-Down Pear Chocolate Cake from the cookbook Rustic Fruit Desserts: Crumbles, Buckles, Cobblers, Pandowdies, and More. (This cookbook is delightful—we gave away a copy last year in an e-newsletter contest!)

And behind door number three, the symmetrical, gluten-free Flourless Chocolate and Pear Cake at BBC Good Food. The measurements are metric, since it’s a British recipe, but you can find some help with that online.

So, celebrate! Today you can have your cake and eat it, too!

Pear Almond Tart


“If you are in need of something to end a meal with a lot of ‘WOW’ factor, but don’t have hours to spend in the kitchen, this is the dessert for you,” says recipe creator Carol Kicinski. Bosc pears are a great choice for this tart, as they hold their shape when baked, and their honey-sweet flavor shines in combination with the almond paste.

Ingredients
Crust
1 cup superfine white rice flour
3 tablespoons potato starch
1 tablespoon tapioca starch
½ teaspoon xanthan gum
(Or substitute 1¼ cups of all-purpose gluten-free flour for the above ingredients)
½ teaspoon kosher or fine sea salt
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cold and cut into small pieces
Up to ½ cup ice cold water
Tart
1 8-ounce can Solo Almond Paste (not marzipan)
¼ cup powdered sugar
2 tablespoons melted butter
2 large eggs
3 large Bosc Pears
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 tablespoon apple, pear, or red currant jelly, melted – optional

Directions
To make the crust:
Place the flour, starches, and xanthan gum (or all-purpose gluten-free flour) in the bowl of a food processor along with the salt. Pulse a few times to combine. Add the butter and process until the mixture looks like coarse meal with a few larger pieces of butter in it. With the machine running, add the water, a little at a time, just until the dough starts to form a ball around the blades. The dough should be soft but not sticky.

Gather the dough into a ball and wrap with plastic wrap. Flatten the ball into a disk and refrigerate for an hour. Can be made several days ahead at this point and stored in the fridge. If refrigerated for more than an hour, remove the dough from the fridge about 10 minutes before rolling to let it soften a bit.

Spray a 10- or 11-inch tart pan with removable bottom lightly with gluten-free, non-stick cooking spray. Roll the dough between two pieces of parchment paper or plastic wrap to about ¼-inch thickness and a little larger than your tart pan. Remove the top piece of paper and flip the dough into the tart pan then remove the other sheet of paper. Gently push the dough into the pan to fill it and remove any excess. If the dough splits, just push it back together. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

To make the filling: Crumble the almond paste into the bowl of a food processor and pulse several times to break it up. Add the powdered sugar, melted butter, and eggs. Process until the mixture is smooth. Pour the mixture into the tart crust and smooth the top with a spatula.

Peel the pears, cut them in half and remove the core and the bottom end with a melon baller or paring knife. Lay each pear half flat on a cutting board, cut side down, and cut into ½-inch slices. Gently push the slices down with your hand to fan them out a bit. Slide a large spatula under the sliced pear half and place it on the filling with the top of the pear half facing the center of the tart. Repeat with remaining pear halves. Brush the pears with the lemon juice and sprinkle the granulated sugar on top.

Bake for 40–45 minutes or until the filling is set. Brush the tops of the pears with melted jelly if desired. Let cool in the tart pan, then remove the outer ring and serve.

yield: Serves 8–10.

Pear Ghosts

Scary, I know…

To get into the spooky spirit, I decided to create some pear ghosts for Halloween. They were really simple to make, and they would be adorable as party centerpieces. They’d also make a sweet treat for your trick-or-treaters!

To make my Bosc pears ghostly, I whipped up some vanilla frosting. I learned how to make simple homemade frosting from my mom – put powdered sugar in a bowl with half a stick of softened butter, add some milk and vanilla extract, and whip it. I omitted the vanilla this time – I wanted bright white ghosts. You could also use candy coating or maybe white chocolate for an extra-decadent ghost.

Once the frosting was smooth, I put it in the microwave for 30 seconds to melt it a bit. I stuck a wooden skewer into each pear (near the stem) and then dunked each pear into the bowl of frosting. I used a spatula to cover the pear with frosting and even out the coating.

Next, I melted some chocolate chips in the microwave and put the smooth, melted mixture into a small Zip-loc bag. I closed the bag and cut the tip off of one bottom corner. I used the baggie to make my ghosts’ eyes and mouths. Can you tell I started with the guy on the right and finished on the left? The first pear’s scream is more of a goatee. Oops.

I set them out to dry on a paper bag, and voila! Spooky yet sweet Halloween décor.

Boo.

Gluten-Free Pear Almond Cake

Pears and almonds have a natural affinity for one another, and this cake lets it shine. The cake somehow winds up being amazingly buttery, even though it is completely dairy-free and does not even use a dairy-free butter substitute. It’s best served warm, and great with coffee!

Ingredients

4 ripe but firm USA Pears, divided

1 ¾ cups plus 2 teaspoons granulated sugar, divided

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

3 ¼ cups finely ground blanched almond meal

8 large eggs

1¼ teaspoons pure vanilla extract, divided

1 tablespoon agave nectar or honey

1 tablespoon grapeseed (or other neutral tasting) oil

½ cup sliced almonds

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly spray a 9 or 10 inch springform pan with gluten-free nonstick cooking spray. Cut a circle of parchment to fit the bottom of the pan, place in the pan and spray it lightly with more cooking spray.

Peel and core the pears. Chop three of the pears roughly and slice the fourth into about ¼-inch slices. Take the chopped pears and put in a small, microwavable bowl with the lemon juice and 2 teaspoons of sugar. Cover and microwave on high power for 4 minutes. (Alternatively you can cook on the stove for 10 minutes over medium heat in a covered saucepan.) Mash the pears into a coarse puree with a fork or wooden spoon. Let cool.

Put the almond meal and 1 ¾ cups of sugar in a food processor and give it 4 or 5 long pulses. Add the eggs, 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract, and the cooked pears and puree the mixture. Pour into the prepared pan.

In a small skillet, heat the agave nectar or honey with the oil, stirring to mix until the mixture starts to bubble. Take off the heat and stir in the remaining ¼ teaspoon of vanilla. Add the pear slices and toss gently to coat.

Sprinkle the sliced almonds over the top of the cake. Add the pear slices in a spoke configuration and spoon the agave nectar or honey/oil mixture over the top of the cake.

Bake for 45–55 minutes or until the cake is nicely browned and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Check the cake after about 35 minutes; if it is browning too much, place a piece of foil over the top.

Let the cake cool in the pan for about 30 minutes, then remove the sides of the pan and transfer to a serving platter (removing the parchment is optional, but recommended).

yield: Makes 12 slices