Looking for a taste of spring? Pair yourself up with a pear.
A fruit known for its rich, buttery, slightly grainy interior, this member of the rose family is an amazing source of fibre (six grams per pear) and a great source of vitamin C, and only 100 calories per fruit.
Pears are considered one of the oldest fruits known to man and can be eaten fresh, poached, pureed, baked or barbecued. The Pear Bureau Northwest (www.Usapears.com) notes that pear pre-dates Christianity by 2,000 years and arrived in North America with European settlers in the 1700s. Apart from being such a portable treat, they're a wonderful addition to many dishes, from soups to sandwiches, salads and desserts.
Here's a delightful selection of delicious dishes courtesy of the Pear Bureau Northwest (Usapears.org). If you have your own favourite pear dishes — please dish! I'd love to see what you do with a pair of pears. Share your favourites with me by emailing your photos to email@example.com or by tweeting @SunMediaLife or instagramming your photo with the hashtag #ritastable. I’ll chose my favourite photos to appear in an upcoming column.
Until then, enjoy the following:
Balsamic-Glazed Pear and Goat Cheese Crostini
A new favorite recipe for pear lovers, this appetizer is incredibly delicious...and can be prepared in a snap. The balsamic glaze is the perfect complement to the sweet pear and salty goat cheese.
2 pears such as Bartlett, Bosc, or Anjou
3 Tbsp. (45ml) balsamic vinegar
1 Tbsp. (15ml) butter
1 tsp. (5ml) honey
24 baguette rounds, toasted
½ cup (125ml) spreadable goat cheese
½ cup (125ml) slivered almonds, toasted*
Ground black pepper, if desired
Slice pears stem side up into 12 quarter-inch width vertical planks. Cut large slices in half lengthwise for a total of 48 slices. Heat vinegar, butter, and honey in large frying pan over medium heat for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring constantly, until reduced by half, about 2 Tbsp. (30ml). Add pear slices and continue cooking for 1 minute, turning once. Place 2 pear slices on each baguette round and top with 1 tsp. (5ml) goat cheese. Sprinkle almonds over cheese and garnish with fresh pepper, if desired. Makes 24 pieces.
*To toast almonds, place in heavy frying pan and toast over medium heat, stirring constantly, for 1 to 2 minutes or until tan with toasted aroma.
Braised Pears with a Soy-Ginger Glaze
Serve this savory dish with grilled pork tenderloin or chops. It would also be delicious with roast or grilled chicken or even with simple steamed rice.
4 Tbsp. (60ml) unsalted butter, melted
3 Tbsp. (45ml) soy sauce
1 Tbsp. (15ml) grated fresh ginger root
½ cup (125ml) packed golden brown sugar
¼ tsp. (1ml) cayenne pepper
4 firm but ripe pears, such as Bartlett, Bosc, or Anjou, peeled, halved lengthwise, and cored
2 Tbsp. (30ml) unseasoned rice vinegar
In a large saute pan over medium heat, melt butter. Add soy sauce, ginger, sugar, and cayenne pepper. Stir until sugar is melted and ingredients are well combined and then reduce heat to medium-low.
Add pears, cut side down, and simmer, basting frequently, until pears are tender when pierced with a knife, about 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer pears to a serving dish. Bring liquid in pan back to a slow boil and add the vinegar. Simmer sauce until it is thick and syrupy, about 3 minutes.
Pour the sauce over the pears and serve immediately.
Breakfast Pear and Bacon Grilled Cheese Sandwich
This is a hearty, perfect breakfast sandwich for families on the go. It even works great as a quick suppertime meal with a warm bowl of soup. Cook the bacon in the microwave to save time and clean-up.
4 slices sourdough, whole wheat, or white bread
4 slices of Cheddar cheese
1 firm but ripe Bartlett, Anjou, or Bosc pear, peeled, halved lengthwise, cored and cut into 4 thick slices
4 slices cooked bacon
2 Tbsp. (30ml) butter, softened
Place 2 slices of bread on a work surface and top each slice with a piece of cheese. Arrange 2 slices of pear on top of each piece of cheese. Add 2 slices of bacon, and then top with another piece of cheese. Place a slice of bread on top and butter the top slices of bread with half of the butter. Preheat a griddle or large skillet. Place sandwiches buttered side down on hot griddle or pan. Butter topside of sandwiches. Grill until nicely browned on one side and then flip and brown other side. Cut each sandwich in half and serve immediately.
Makes 2 sandwiches
Nourishing muffins that are great for a snack, a weekday breakfast, or even to keep everyone happy on a road trip!
1 cup (250ml) all-purpose flour
1 cup (250ml) whole wheat flour
¾ cup (175ml) granulated sugar
2 tsp. (10ml) baking soda
1 tsp. (5ml) salt
2 tsp. (10ml) cinnamon
1 large firm, ripe pear (about 1-¼ cup/300ml grated)
1-¾ cups (425ml) grated carrots
½ cup (125ml) dried cranberries
½ cup (125ml) toasted walnuts, coarsely chopped (optional)
½ cup (125ml) unsweetened coconut
â cup (150m) vegetable oil
1 tsp. (5ml) vanillla
Preheat oven to 350F (180C). Line a standard-size 12-cup muffin tin with paper liners or lightly grease it, then dust with flour.
Combine all-purpose and whole wheat flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon. Stir well or sift together if lumpy.
Measure grated pear and carrots into another bowl and add cranberries, nuts, if using, and coconut.
Whisk oil, eggs and vanilla together until slightly lighter in color.
Add wet ingredients to dry, folding in gently until they are completely moistened and well distributed. Scoop batter into muffin liners.
Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until slightly darker around the edges.
Makes 12 muffins