Archives for posts with tag: pears

Friday morning I was invited to a Hobbits’ second breakfast in Piedmont. I saw no reason not to go. Second breakfasts work for me because I get up before dawn most days and can eat my first breakfast before 6:00 AM — by 11:00 I might be a little hungry, by noon I have to eat again. Plus, I love breakfast food: eggs, waffles, pancakes, bacon, cinnamon rolls, leftover pie, home fries, fresh fruit.

Original ink and watercolor painting shows people around breakfast table.

Second Breakfast at Vicki’s. 12″ x 12″ ink and watercolor pencil. Sharyn Dimmick.

Unlike most of the events I go to this breakfast was not billed as a potluck, but I asked Vicki if she wanted me to bring something and she said I could if I wanted to. I had been eying a recipe for Brown Sugar Pecan Pear Muffins and had actually printed it out. This morning I took it into the kitchen with me. I peeled and chopped six small pears and then I started messing around: I saw the two large peaches on the counter that needed to be eaten and thought, “Why not put them in with the pears?”

The original recipe calls for a cup of canola oil. I do not like canola oil and I do not like recipes that call for a cup of oil either (a cup of butter is different, somehow, and I use a cup of vegetable shortening in my pie crust, which is probably worse for you, but a cup of oil produces an oily texture in quick breads). I substituted a cup of plain yogurt, raising the protein content of the muffins.

Then I looked at the 3 cups of all-purpose flour. Um. Too gummy and too white for me. I am out of whole wheat pastry flour, but I need to healthy this up a bit, especially since I am going to indulge in the entire cup of brown sugar it the recipe calls for. So, I used a cup and a half of unbleached flour, a half cup of regular whole wheat flour and a cup of rolled oats.

After that I followed the recipe as written, except I don’t use non-stick cooking spray, so I slathered the muffin tins with Crisco, and I didn’t have any pecans so I substituted pistachios.

Here is the modified recipe:
Peach-Pear-Pistachio Muffins with Brown Sugar
Preheat oven to 350.

Grease 2 12-cup muffin tins.

Peel and dice 6 small pears or four large ones.

Dice two large peaches and combine with pears

Shell 1 cup pistachios and add to fruit.

Beat 2 large eggs with 1 cup of plain yogurt, 1 cup packed brown sugar and 1 cup of oats (quick or rolled oats are fine, instant not), plus 1 tsp vanilla.

Measure 1 and 1/2 cups unbleached flour, plus 1/2 cup whole wheat flour.

Add 2 tsp baking soda and 1 tsp baking powder to flour mixture, along with a touch of salt. Add 1 and 1/4 tsp cinnamon and 1/4 tsp cardamom.

Fold liquid ingredients into dry ingredients. Fold in fruit and nuts.

Spoon muffin batter into greased muffin cups

Bake for 25-30 minutes, depending on how dark you like your muffins to be.

Makes 2 dozen muffins.

Food Notes: These muffins are sweeter than my standard multi-grain muffins, but they are not so sweet that they make your teeth hurt. They make a nice treat on cooler mornings and evenings. When the cardamom hits the liquids it sends up a glorious aroma — it’s worth making them once for that alone. If pears and peaches are long gone in your neck of the woods, try using apples and fresh figs, or use dried fruit that has been soaked in a little rum or juice to re-hydrate.

I took half of these muffins to the Hobbits’ Second Breakfast, a delightful affair where we ate bacon, sauteed mushrooms, shirred eggs made in muffin tins, toast, butter, lemon curd, artisan jams, pumpkin bread and pots of black tea, with chamomile for those that don’t indulge. The table was all set with matching place settings, flowers from someone’s garden, thick, white woven napkins. We spent the meal largely discussing singing and cooking — what’s not to like?

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I am still working my way through the pears from my friend Margit’s tree. Because we picked them green and I stored them in the back of our refrigerator in a paper bag they have been holding up nicely.

Original watercolor shows salad of pears, arugula, cranberries, feta, pistachios.

Pear-Arugula Salad. 6″ x 6″ watercolor pencil on paper. Sharyn Dimmick.

Two nights ago I wanted a light dinner. I had some arugula I needed to use. I had pears. I decided to make a salad. I washed and spun the arugula in the salad spinner. Then I went out to pick a ripe Meyer lemon from our tree. Returning to the cutting board, I squeezed both halves of the lemon into the bowl and then cored and sliced three greenish pears lengthwise, leaving the skins on. I tossed the pears with the lemon juice to prevent browning. Then I added a small splash of olive oil and tossed the arugula and pears again. Next I shelled some pistachios and grabbed a handful of dried cranberries.

I was thinking of shaving Parmesan or Pecorino Romano into the salad, but feta won out: I crumbled a small block of feta over the greens, fruit and nuts, then tasted to adjust seasoning. The only thing it needed was a bit of honey to bring out the sweetness. I drizzled a little on top and tossed the salad again.

This is a wonderful salad for the first few days of fall weather when it is sometimes warm enough to eat a salad for lunch or dinner. I served it again last night as a side salad with a dinner of turkey chili, cornbread and Gravenstein apple pie. The second time I made it I used roasted pistachio oil instead of olive oil. By the time I cooked and ate I didn’t have enough time to finish my painting, which is why this post is a day later than usual.

If you should live somewhere where pears and arugula are available in late November, this would make a lovely Thanksgiving Day salad. If not, make it and eat it while pears and arugula are to be had.

I still have a lot of pears in the house from my friend Margit’s tree, sitting in a brown bag in the back of the refrigerator so that they will stay as green as possible for as long as possible: my mother only eats pears when they crunch — I’ll eat them slightly softer than that, but I do not enjoy pears that have turned yellow (It’s that mushy texture).

Yesterday I pulled out the pears and found about five yellow ones, two large and three small. I had volunteered to make a dessert last evening — my mother has a sweet tooth and is eating soft foods until her current round of dental work is over. Plus, I had done something that made her uncomfortable and needed to work my way back into her good graces.

Original watercolor painting shows pear clafouti, dried cranberries, pears.

Pear Clafouti with Cranberries. 6″ x 6″ watercolor pencil on paper. Sharyn Dimmick.

What to make? I could roll out pie crust and make another pear tart tatin. But Johnny once said he wanted to elope with that when I served it at Ballad group, so it would be better to make that when he is around to enjoy it. Carly Sullivan had posted a recipe for clafouti that I had saved. I took a look at it again, and then adapted it for ingredients we had. Basically, I used white sugar instead of honey, milk and half and half instead of buttermilk, omitted the vanilla and added dried cranberries to the fruit layer, browned the butter and cooked the pears in it, throwing the sugar on top to caramelize, cooking it down until the mixture was fairly dry, giving the pears time to absorb butter, sugar, lemon, ginger and cranberry flavors. The cranberries made it pretty, too.

To make the clafouti I just made:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Select 2 large yellow pears (or 3 smaller ones). Core and slice them thinly, but do not peel them: the skins help hold the pear slices together.

Melt 2 Tbsp butter over medium heat in a skillet, allowing the butter to brown, but not burn, before adding the sliced pears.

Sprinkle about 1/4 cup sugar over the top and jerk the skillet a few times so that the sugar gets distributed among the pears.

Allow mixture to cook down until the pears have released their liquid and the liquids have reduced to a thin caramel.

Turn off heat.

Add the juice of half a lemon, a generous grating of fresh ginger (use your microplane and grate directly over the fruit), a small handful of dried cranberries.

Pour the fruit mixture into a tart pan or pie plate.

Now make the batter:

Crack 3 eggs and whisk them.

Add 1/3 cup granulated sugar and whisk again.

Whisk in 1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour

Add 1/4 cup half and half and 3/4 cup milk*

Add vanilla extract (I poured it into the cap from the vanilla bottle and used about half a capful).

Whisk until just blended.

Pour batter over prepared fruit in pan.

Bake for thirty-five minutes. Serve warm or cold, cut in pie-like wedges.

* Our standard milk is 1%. If you have whole milk, like Celi, just use a cup of whole milk — I added the half and half to make the milk richer, but you can make it with any kind of milk you have, including soy milk, nut milk or coconut milk.

Food Notes: This made a easy, delicious dessert, creamy and custardy with crisp, buttery edges. Cooking the fruit first on the stove meant no watery flavors. This would make an excellent Thanksgiving dessert if you are not utter traditionalists like we are, having to have pumpkin pie with whipping cream, made from the recipe on the Libby’s can, slightly modified. (We also make fruit pie of some description, cherry or apple or blueberry or mixed berry, depending on what is around).

The Lauren Project: Lauren is back in Santa Fe, still cooking up your recipes. Please be patient: we will announce the prize winners by the end of this month.

Friday I called my friend Margit to ask her something or other and she said, “Oh. I forgot to tell you — the pears are ready for picking.” She has a backyard tree.

After lunch I walked down the hill, borrowed a tall kitchen step stool and began to pick pears. Most were green (good pears ripen off the tree), a few were yellow. I took a large bag home and revised my plans for making a large Gravenstein apple pie for my ballad group on Saturday, deciding instead to make a Pear Tart Tatin. This time around I added a jigger of dark rum to the pears after I cut them and sprinkled a few grains of crushed cardamom over the pears and caramel before I laid on the crust.

Original watercolor shows pain perdu with carmelized pears on plate.

Pain Perdu with Pears. 6″ x 6″ Watercolor pencil on paper. Sharyn Dimmick.

When the tart tatin was in the oven I noticed that I still had rum in the pie plate where the pears had been. You know I hate to waste things, so I went fishing for the yellowest pears I had, the ones that would not keep another day. I peeled them, cut away the cores and stems and any brown, mushy spots. I plunked them into the rum. After I finished flipping the tart tatin onto a plate I poured the pears and rum into the cast iron skillet and set it in the still warm oven. I hoped the pears would start to cook from the residual heat and perhaps soak up some caramel flavor from the pan.

This morning I wrote and read and listened to music for awhile before breakfast, perhaps a bit too long. I knew I wanted coffee and I knew I needed to cook the pears, but what would I do with them? I didn’t want to take the time to make a pot of oatmeal. Ah. Pain perdu, “lost bread,” aka French toast. Because I was only feeding myself I took 1 long slice of sourdough sandwich bread, cut it in half and toasted it in the toaster oven. While it toasted I beat 1 egg in a shallow pan, added about 1 and 1/2 Tbsp of sugar and a splash of vanilla. I put the bread into the egg mixture, turning it over once.

Meanwhile I set the cast iron skillet on low heat. I heated the pears, rum and leftover caramel for a few minutes, then pushed the pears to the side to continue cooking and added just a smidgeon of butter, perhaps a teaspoon to prevent the bread from sticking. I turned the heat up to medium and cooked the bread on both sides before removing it to a plate and spooning the pears and caramel on top of it.

Food Notes: This made a lovely breakfast as is, but I could imagine adding some ricotta, quark or yogurt for the contrasting flavor.

Other Notes: The Lauren Project is cooking right along. Several people have submitted recipes to the contest. Some people have sent us more than one. But those of you who have not submitted anything yet still have some time: the contest deadline is August 31, 2012, 12 midnight, Pacific Time. After that, Lauren will review (and perhaps test cook) some of the recipes and we will begin awarding prizes. In case you have forgotten, or are new to this contest, the prizes will consist of one red chile pot holder, one signed seasonal cookbook with paintings by Sharyn Dimmick, one copy of Sharyn’s music CD “Paris,” and one Kale Chronicles’ painting of your choice. One prize per person, please. When Lauren chooses her first winner I will contact that person to ask which prize they want and then we will move to the second winner and so on until we are out of prizes. All persons in the USA or Canada who submit recipes will be eligible for free shipping on any Kale Chronicles painting they purchase through the end of 2012.

Painting shows pear-ginger muffins and ingredients

Pear Ginger Muffins aka “Brown Study” 12″ x 12″ gouache and watercolor pencil. Sharyn Dimmick

The Daring Bakers’ February 2012 host was – Lis! Lisa stepped in last minute and challenged us to create a quick bread we could call our own. She supplied us with a base recipe and shared some recipes she loves from various websites and encouraged us to build upon them and create new flavor profiles

Neither Lisa nor I had any idea just how challenging the Daring Bakers’ Challenge would be for me on my maiden voyage. The parameters were simple enough: make a quick bread, either in muffin or loaf shape. Post paragraph one above to begin the blog post.

I have cerebral palsy, which may or may not give me altered bone density. I have had all month to think about the baking challenge and to fantasize about what I would make. Should I make a coconut bread with fresh coconut and coconut milk? Should I concoct some kind of Nutella swirl thing in honor of Margit’s birthday month? Should I make something with limes, having scored a bag from the rotting rack at Canned Foods?

I mulled these choices over while I walked along Franciscan Way, going to Margit’s to feed her cats on Thursday morning. My left foot began to hurt insistently. I sat down on the verge to take off my shoe, thinking that my two-day old shoes were not fitting well. I ran my hand inside my shoe and straightened my sock, found nothing and resumed walking in some pain. Franciscan is a lonely stretch of roadway, abutting the Sunset Cemetery where my grandparents are buried. I fed the cats, cleaned their box, walked uphill to the Kensington Library, returned books, looked for job listings and went home for lunch.

My mother and I often have tea together in the afternoon in the upstairs library. She sits on the love seat and I sit on the matching dark red leather armchair with my feet on a black leather ottoman. When I removed my shoes, owing to the warm day, I saw that my little toe was blue and there was a bruise on the heavily calloused outside section of my left foot where the pain was. Uh-oh. The last time I had bruising like that I had broken my hand in two places.

By Friday I had called my foot doctor and requested an appointment and started to minimize any weight-bearing and to sit with my left foot elevated whenever possible. I brought a cutting board into the breakfast room and did all the chopping, slicing and peeling for soup that I could do sitting. By Sunday morning, I felt ready to tackle the muffin challenge. I pushed a light chair into the kitchen to encourage me to stay off my feet, maneuvered myself around as much as possible using the edges of counters and hopping carefully on my shod right foot. When I had to put my left foot down, I did my best to put my weight on the heel and avoid the front part of the foot.

I decided to make a variation on Mollie Katzen’s Spicy Gingerbread from The Enchanted Broccoli Forest, incorporating some finely diced pears with the sauteed butter and grated fresh ginger, and making the resulting batter in a standard 12-muffin tin. I began by whisking my dry ingredients together in a large mixing bowl:

1 cup unbleached flour

1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour

1/2 cup whole wheat flour

1 and 1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp ground cloves

1/2 tsp dry mustard

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1/4 tsp kosher salt

generous grating of fresh nutmeg

Then I microwaved about 1 Tbsp of butter in a glass liquid measuring cup, swirling it in the cup to coat the sides to the 1/2 cup mark, before pouring it off into the muffin tin, a few drops in each cup. I then measured

1/2 cup honey

1/2 cup molasses into the pre-buttered measuring cup and poured them into a small bowl, to which I added

1/2 cup plain yogurt and

1 large egg.

I preheated my oven to 375 and put the butter-smeared tin into it to heat.

I whisked that together as I began melting 1/4 cup butter on very low heat in a small skillet. While the butter melted I peeled and chopped

2 small Bosc pears into a small dice

I then took a hand of fresh ginger from the freezer where we store it and grated three small knobs into the melted butter (about 3 Tbsp), added the diced pears and cooked it for awhile and turned off the heat while I rescued the tin from the hot oven.

I was all set to combine the ginger-butter-pear mixture with the honey, molasses, yogurt and butter and moved toward it, managing to knock both the bowl of wet ingredients, the whisk, the measuring cup and a rubber scraper onto the flour. I let out a cry, though not a swear-word, and righted the bowl to save what I could. The cry brought Mom from the upstairs to tackle the floor while I measured out another half cup of yogurt and a half cup of honey to replace what had been lost,  and added them to what remained in the bowl. I then moved my chair out of the mess, combined the pears, butter and ginger with the remaining molasses, honey, egg and yogurt, stirred the wet ingredients into the dry, swiped the now-cooled muffin tin with some Crisco that Mom got down from the cupboard for me and hoped for the best as I filled the tin and set it in the oven. I then stalked off  on my heels to make some coffee and set down morosely to let the muffins bake and the coffee water boil.

I needn’t have worried. The muffins came out gingery and delicious with small, soft chunks of pear glistening like jewels. They rose well. They browned well. I can now say that Mollie Katzen’s spicy gingerbread recipe is well-nigh indestructible, even if you drop the wet ingredients on the floor and spill half of them before incorporating your butter and ginger. Thank goodness. Now I will wait to see what the good doctor has to say this afternoon* while I consider the wisdom of taking on any further challenges than the ones I am already equipped with naturally.

* Sad to say my doctor’s visit was aborted by a sudden attack of norovirus. Today I switched to a walker until such time as I am allowed to darken his doorway. Projected visit: Friday morning.

Painting of a Pink Poached Pear

Dream Pears 7″ x 7″ Acrylic on Fabriano  Paper by Suzanne Edminster

Dear Readers and Cooks,

I am pleased to introduce my first guest post on “The Kale Chronicles.” My real-life best friend Suzanne Edminster is a painter who lives in Santa Rosa who teaches popular classes in acrylic painting techniques which you can find on her website, SaltworkStudio. What not everybody knows about Suzanne is that she is a talented hostess who can pull together delicious meals with skill and grace. Just for you, she painted the painting and wrote out the recipe. Enjoy.

Sonoma Pears Poached in White Wine and Blueberries

On an autumn night in Santa Rosa I was contemplating a bag of small Bartlett pears that had been carried too long in the car and were starting to bruise. I was longing for a sweet, elegant way to cook pears without messing with pie crust, cobbler or crumble. I developed this recipe as one that could, in the best of all possible worlds, be cooked with fruit from our garden, though I draw the line at keeping goats for cheese– four chickens are demanding enough.

We have two young pear trees in our urban backyard orchard, both Red D’Anjou. This was a mistake; we were given one of the two trees and was assured it was a Bartlett. Neither is bearing yet, as we’ve had to take young fruit off too-young branches to avoid breakage. Scott, my husband, planted 9 kinds of blueberry bushes in a raised bed, but between chickens, squirrels, raccoons and other poachers, we got a total of about five blueberries from the plants this year, although they are bearing well. Next year, bird netting goes over all and the humans of the house can eat the harvest. Eventually I’ll try this recipe with our own blueberries (self-frozen if need be) and our own pears.

At the end of the summer we had overbought on white wine and had not yet laid in the stock of red. My mother used to serve red warm cinnamon pears—yes, I think she used cinnamon drop candy on them and to make the sauce!– and I really wanted the pears to turn that glorious holiday crimson. What could I do to give the wine a color? We had small frozen organic blueberries that we keep on hand for cereal. I adapted Stacy Slinkard’s recipe for Red Wine Poached Pears that I found in About.com at http://wine.about.com/od/howwineismade/r/poachedpears.htm. The result was delicious, and the color of both sauce and pears, a deep red-purple, divine. Surprisingly, the blueberries held their shape through the longish poaching time. I used fresh lime juice from our lime trees rather than lemon, and I chose soft new Sonoma goat cheese to offset the brilliant sweetness of the pears in the sauce. Scott and I agreed that the white, tangy bite of goat cheese was perfection on the warm red pears. A bonus of this recipe is that the whole house smelled of pear-pourri!


Sonoma Pears Poached in White Wine and Blueberries

Ingredients:

4-6 halved, cored pears (peeling is optional and top stems can be left on)

1½ cups of white wine (your choice)

½ cup of granulated sugar

2 tablespoons of fresh lemon or lime juice, with optional zest

2 teaspoons vanilla

1 teaspoon cinnamon

½ to 1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries

Soft plain or new goat cheese

Combine all the ingredients, except pears and goat cheese, and bring to a boil. Let the sugar and wine combine, then add the pears face-down and simmer for about 15-20 minutes, turning once after about 10 minutes. Pears should be tender and easily poked through with a fork, but don’t overcook them. Remove pears and boil the wine/pear sauce until reduced by half. Serve pears warm in bowls with a small dollop of soft goat cheese in the middle of each half. Pour warm sauce over all. It’s excellent cold as well.

Painting Note: This slightly cosmic pear painting shows both the pinkish red of the sauce and the purple of the blueberries. It’s 7” x 7”, acrylic on paper. The pink-purple ranges from Alizarin Crimson to Fluorescent Magenta. You can see more of my paintings at www.saltworkstudio.net . Or visit my blog at http://saltworkstudio.wordpress.com/