The first pears have arrived in markets and, when perfectly ripe, they are delicious when eaten out-of-hand. And yet, as the weeks go by, you may long for even more from this fall favorite.
A fertile pear tree keeps my supply of this heavenly fruit overflowing for months. One unusual and-little known fact about pears is that they don’t ripen on the tree; they only do so after they are picked. The ones I’m intimately familiar with are about 1 to 2 pounds each and very hard. They are Bartletts, and they grow it abundance each year. Once picked, the pears go into paper bags in the garage until they start to ripen.
Other varieties readily found at most groceries and farmers markets are Anjou, which come in both green and red; the crisp Bosc; the buttery Comice; the voluptuous Starkrimson; and, in some places, the crunchy Concorde.
Often my pears all ripen at the same moment. When this happens, I experiment with ways to get more pears into meals, which has helped me discover how amazingly versatile they are. Here are some ideas on ways to cook and serve them.
Pear and Brie bruschetta: Spread several crostini or a large piece of toasted levain with a thin coat of soft, runny Brie. Lay a very thin slice of prosciutto over the Brie and top with arugula leaves. Cover with thin slices of pear (no need to peel), drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle on coarse sea salt.
Pear and blue nirvana: Halve and core 2 pears and put each half onto a small plate. Place a generous wedge of blue cheese into the core cavity and sprinkle candied pecans over the pear.
Toss thinly sliced pears with hearty greens, such as torn kale, baby spinach and arugula. Mix in fresh raspberries and toasted hazelnuts. Serve with balsamic vinaigrette.
Mix arugula with quartered fresh figs, thinly sliced firm pears and toasted pumpkin seeds. Toss with a light dressing made with lemon juice, olive oil and honey.
Make a sauce for roasted pork or poultry. Start by peeling, coring and quartering 3 pounds of pears and putting them into a saucepan with ¼ cup St. George Spiced Pear liqueur or pear brandy, 2 tablespoons of brown sugar and a pinch each of ground cloves and salt. Cook over medium heat, stirring often, until the pears are soft. Mash with a potato masher to a chunky consistency. This sauce is also good with gingerbread.
Grill firm quarters of pears and serve with teriyaki chicken, barbecued pork, spicy sausages or grilled duck breast. The grilled pears are also good on a day-after-Thanksgiving sandwich with roast turkey and cranberry sauce.
Poach pears by peeling them and submerging, either whole or cored and quartered, in wine or sugar syrup flavored with cinnamon sticks, vanilla beans, whole cloves or citrus peel. Cover the pan and cook until the pears are tender, about 30 minutes. Serve as is with some of the syrup, over ice cream, alongside a wedge of pound cake or with biscotti.
Make a crisp with peeled, cored and diced pears tossed with dried cherries and a squeeze of lemon juice. Top with your favorite crisp mixture and bake until tender.
Quarter and core pears and toss with melted butter and maple syrup, just enough to coat the fruit. Roast in a 400F oven until tender, about 20-25 minutes depending on pear variety and ripeness. Serve with crème fraiche, as part of a cheese course or with butter cookies or ice cream.
Find further inspiration in the recipes below.
Creamy Lamb Korma With Pears
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 1 hour 20 minutes
Total time: 1½ hours
Yield: Makes 4 to 6 servings.
8 cloves garlic, peeled
1-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and coarsely chopped
2 ounces slivered almonds
⅓ cup water
3 tablespoons ghee or olive oil
1½ pounds lamb stew meat, seasoned well with salt and pepper
1 medium onion, peeled and chopped
2 tablespoons Indian curry paste
One 14-ounce can reduced fat coconut milk
3 medium pears (Bartlett or Anjou), peeled, cored and diced
½ cup frozen peas
Fresh grapes or raisins for garnish
Toasted, slivered almonds for garnish
Basmati rice for serving
1. Put garlic, ginger, almonds and water into a blender, and puree to make a paste. Set aside.
2. Heat ghee or olive oil in a 4-quart saucepan or Dutch oven over high until shimmering. Add lamb, in batches if necessary, and brown on all sides. Remove to a bowl.
3. Turn heat to medium and add onions; sauté until tender and golden.
4. Add curry paste and stir until aromatic.
5. Mix in meat, incorporating all ingredients until well combined.
6. Add coconut milk, bring to a boil then lower heat to a simmer. Put lid on and cook for 50 minutes to 1 hour until lamb is fork tender.
7. Fold in the pears and peas and cook for 10 more minutes to incorporate the flavors.
8. Serve over basmati rice, sprinkling the top of the curry with halved grapes or raisins and roasted almonds.
Upside-Down Pear Cornmeal Cake
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 40 minutes
Total time: 1 hour
Yield: Makes 6 to 8 servings.
2 tablespoons butter
½ cup brown sugar
1 large Bartlett pear, cored and thinly sliced
1 cup all-purpose flour
½ cup cornmeal
1½ teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup butter, softened
¾ of a cup of sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla
¾ cup of buttermilk, shaken
Whipped cream for serving
1. Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 350 F.
2. In a 10-inch ovenproof, nonstick skillet or well-seasoned cast iron skillet, melt 2 tablespoons butter. Add the brown sugar and stir into the butter.
3. Cook for a few minutes until sugar starts to melt. Arrange pears in a pinwheel design in the brown sugar, remove from heat and set aside.
4. Sift together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda and salt on a piece of waxed paper.
5. Cream butter with sugar until fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating after each addition. Mix in vanilla. Add buttermilk alternately with dry ingredients, beginning and ending with flour mixture.
6. Pour into the prepared skillet and bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until the top springs back and a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.
Main photo: Upside-Down Pear Cornmeal Cake. Credit: Brooke Jackson