Grilled Stuffed Pears

Pears grilled and stuffed with quinoa and cheeseWhen it comes to summer grilling, pears are often overlooked. But the fact is their hardy texture is ideal for standing up to the intensity of the grill, and as they cook, their delicious flavor is enhanced by the smoky flames. Grilled pears can be prepared in both sweet and savory ways: think grilled pear halves topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream for dessert, or sliced grilled pears tossed in a summery salad. Here they are cooked on the grill until just tender and juicy, with a quinoa salad stuffing that evokes flavors of the Mediterranean. Extra-virgin olive oil, Spanish-style chorizo, and fresh mint add a bold, summertime flare, while white balsamic vinegar adds a sweet, fruity tang to complement the flavors found in the grilled pears. Serve these at your next backyard barbecue, for an outside-the-box appetizer or entrée.

Serves 4 as a main course, or 8 as an appetizer

4 USA Anjou pears
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2/3 cup quinoa, rinsed and drained
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
2 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar (sometimes labeled “golden” balsamic vinegar)
1/3 cup chopped dry-cured Spanish chorizo
1/4 cup sliced or coarsely chopped almonds, toasted
1/4 cup thinly sliced scallions
2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
1/2 cup crumbled feta
8 cups baby arugula

Put the quinoa in a small saucepan and add 1 1/4 cups water and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Bring it to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to maintain a gentle simmer, cover, and cook until the water is absorbed, about 15 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and set aside, still covered, for 5 minutes. Uncover and fluff the quinoa with a fork. Drizzle in the olive oil and vinegar, and sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. Toss the hot quinoa to coat evenly, then spread it out on a platter to cool to room temperature. Once cooled, add the chorizo, almonds, scallions, and mint and gently toss to incorporate. Taste and adjust the seasoning.

Prepare a hot fire in a gas or charcoal grill, or preheat a stovetop grill pan until smoking hot. Grease the grill grates with oil.

Meanwhile, cut the pears in half. Using a round metal spoon, such as a tablespoon-sized measuring spoon or a melon baller, remove the core plus a little extra flesh. Rub the pears on all sides with a light coating of olive oil and sprinkle them with salt.

Grill the pears on the cut sides until deep grill marks appear, 3 to 5 minutes. Turn the pears over and fill them with the quinoa stuffing, piling it on in a big heap in the center of each one. Sprinkle the tops with the feta. Close the grill lid and continue grilling until the pears are tender when pierced with a fork and the feta topping is lightly browned, 10 to 15 minutes, depending on the ripeness of the pears. If they seem to be cooking too quickly on the bottom before they become tender within, simply move them to a cooler part of the grill and continue grill roasting, with the lid closed, until they are cooked through.

Serve the hot grilled pears over the arugula, finished with a drizzle of olive oil over the pears and greens.

Grill Master

grilled pearsTo me, summer means sunshine, farmers’ markets and grilling. I personally love the flavors of grilled foods and regularly grill veggies as a side or base for meals. One of the greatest challenges I have faced in my years of counseling and teaching is that people have been trained to think they don’t like fruit and/or vegetables, and they don’t venture outside the norm for ingredients or culinary techniques. The remedy is simply to get a little creative in the kitchen – or backyard – and be okay with failing once in a while. I base most of my meals on produce, and in the summer that means adding a treat of grilled fruit at the end!

Grilling is probably one of the simplest culinary techniques for fruit and veggies. In the beginning, it’s a good idea to stay close to the grill to keep an eye on your food; err on the side of slightly lower heat so it doesn’t burn, then turn up the heat at the end for beautiful grill marks. Grilling infuses fruit with smoky and savory flavors and causes caramelization of sugars, leading to more color and flavor changes. It’s a whole new way to experience fruit! In my food science lab, we talk about how sugars in fruit, when exposed to high temperatures, start to melt: The sugars are inverted and water is released, resulting in sugar molecules rearranging and binding together to form chains. Organic acids and other flavor compounds also accrue, resulting in different flavors than the original sugars. Basically, the compounds are altered so we sense a unique flavor on our taste receptors.* Science is fun!

My favorite treat is to slice pears in half, set them on the top rack to soften, then pop it onto the heat for a bit at the end. I serve them drizzled with honey or chocolate sauce, then sprinkle with walnuts or a dollop of whipped cream. Delicious and a pretty presentation! Want more ideas? Check out a few of my favorite grilled pear recipes, including grilled pears stuffed with mascarpone and bacon, at USA Pears.
*McWiliams, Margaret. (2012). Foods Experimental Perspectives. New Jersey: Prentice Hall.

Grilled Pizzettas with Pears, Shaved Ham, and Fresh Basil

pizzetta

Cooking pizza on the grill is an excellent way to keep your house cool in the summer and still enjoy one of your favorite dinners—and it’s easier than you think! This recipe makes four individual pizzettas, so everyone can enjoy their very own. You’ll lightly crisp one side of the pizza crusts, flip them, top them, and cook them until they’re done to your liking. Fresh USA Pear slices, shaved ham, and fragrant basil make the perfect summer toppings for this lighter (but no less delicious) version of this beloved meal.

Ingredients
1 ball (16 ounces) store-bought pizza dough
Flour for rolling out dough
2 tablespoons olive oil
8 ounces mozzarella cheese, grated
4 ounces best-quality shaved ham
2 firm ripe USA Pears, such as Green or Red Bartlett
Several stems fresh basil leaves

Directions
About an hour before you’d like to eat, remove the pizza dough from the refrigerator and divide it into four equal portions. Gently shape each portion into a ball and set on a cutting board, covered loosely with plastic wrap. Let the dough soften for about 30 minutes before you proceed.

After 30 minutes, preheat your grill to medium heat. While the grill heats, start working on the dough. One at a time, lightly flour each piece of dough and press it out into an approximately 6-inch disk with your fingers or a rolling pin. Set the dough aside until ready to grill. Next, get all of the toppings ready to go and in one place—you’ll want to have everything ready for topping the pizzettas. Place the olive oil in a small bowl with a brush, grate the mozzarella, and slice the pears. Now you’re ready to head out to the grill!

First, brush the grill with olive oil to prevent sticking. Now carefully lay the pizza dough out on the grill, either two or four at a time. Close the grill and allow the dough to cook for 3-4 minutes. Once the crusts are firm on the first side, flip them to the second side using a large spatula. Brush each crust generously with olive oil and top with the cheese, shaved ham, and pears. Close the grill cover again and allow the pizzettas to cook for 3-5 minutes more until done to your liking. Transfer the pizzettas to a cutting board and top with the freshly torn basil leaves. Slice and serve immediately.

prep time: 25 minutes
yield: 4 servings

Pear, Hoisin, and Sesame Glazed Beef

Pear and Sesame-Glazed Beef

This recipe is a riff on classic Korean barbecued ribs. Pears provide most of the sweetness for the marinade, with the toasty flavor of sesame oil and a hint of savory garlic coming through. If you can’t find cross cut ribs, this sauce is equally delicious on beef or pork kabobs. After marinating, grill these beauties over a hot fire and serve with steamed rice and a side of kimchi or a simple cucumber salad seasoned with rice vinegar.

Ingredients
12 beef ribs, kalbi-style (sliced across the bone)
¼ cup hoisin sauce
3 tablespoons rice vinegar
3 tablespoons mirin
2 ripe USA Pears, such as Bartlett or Bosc, quartered and cored
3 scallions, cut into 2-inch lengths
1 medium clove garlic
1 tablespoon sesame oil
For garnish
3 scallions, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds

Directions
Wash the ribs in cold water and pat dry with paper towels. Place into a large, shallow baking dish in a single layer. In a blender, combine the remaining ingredients and puree until smooth. Pour the marinade over the ribs, cover them with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for between 4 and 24 hours.

When you’re ready to cook the ribs, preheat your grill to medium high. Cook the ribs for 3 to 5 minutes per side, depending on thickness, or until they are nicely grill-marked and cooked through. Transfer the ribs to a platter and sprinkle with the scallions and sesame seeds.

prep time: 25 minutes plus marinating time
yield: 4 – 6 servings

Grilled Pork Chops with Pears and Rosemary Butter

Grilled-Pork-Chops-with-Pears-and-Rosemary-Butter

Here is a satisfying recipe that can be made outside on the grill in under thirty minutes. The pork, pears, and rosemary butter are all wrapped up into foil packets, which results in an incredibly tender pork chop that creates its own amazing sauce while it cooks. These grilled pork chops with pears would make a great summer dinner on a hot day alongside some grilled corn on the cob, but they will also make for an equally amazing meal this fall with roasted squash on the side.

Ingredients
3 tablespoons salted butter, softened
1 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary, plus four sprigs for garnish
4 bone-in pork chops, about 6 ounces each
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 medium red onion, sliced into ⅛ inch rings
2 firm ripe USA Pears, such as Anjou, sliced into ¼ inch pieces

Directions
Stir the softened butter together with the minced fresh rosemary and place in the refrigerator to firm up. Preheat your grill to medium heat. Place each pork chop onto its own rectangle of aluminum foil. Season the chops generously with salt and pepper on both sides. On top of each chop, layer a slice of onion followed by three or four pear slices. Add another layer of onion and then more pear slices on top.

Divide the rosemary butter between the chops, placing it on top of the onion and pear so it will melt down onto the pork. Top each stack with a sprig of rosemary. Carefully wrap the foil up around each chop and seal at the top. Place the packets onto the grill and cook for 15-18 minutes, or until the pork is cooked through. Transfer the chops to plates and pour over any liquid that remains in the foil packet.

prep time: 30 minutes
yield: 4 servings

 

Grill, Mastered!

grilled-pears-with-currants

It’s finally summer, my favorite season! I love summer because of all the fresh foods, the outside gatherings, and of course, the warm weather. Unfortunately, it’s only early June, and I’m already tired of the fatty fare available at picnics. Well, the grill isn’t just for burgers anymore! Try something delightful and healthy at your next outdoor grilling event. Grilled fruits and veggies are an excellent and delicious way to add color, variety, and nutrients to any backyard bash.

Ditch the potato salad and coleslaw and pop some festive veggie kabobs on the grill! You can use any vegetables you like, but seasonal, grillable options include peppers, eggplant, squash, tomatoes, and onions. Just brush them with olive oil and grill over medium heat, turning until tender and marked. But if you’re like me, you’re more interested in dessert! Try grilling fruit, the heat brings out the complexity and intense sweetness. Mouth-watering options are pineapple, peaches, pears, or watermelon, but experiment with your favorites. If it doesn’t slip through the grill, it’s a delicious, nutritious way to add a little flair and a lot of flavor to your next shindig!