Pears with Pecorino, Pistachios & Honey

February 21, 2015

 

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Holy frozen tundra has it been COLD for the past week. I know, I know…it’s winter. It is supposed to be cold. And yes, I am the person who detests hot weather. And yes I will be complaining much more loudly and often once that sultry Virginia weather kicks in this summer. Still…it was been awful freaking, record-breakingly, bitter cold recently. Perhaps that is why I have found myself thinking fondly back on a trip that we took to Italy last October. That was where I had my first taste of Pears with Pecorino & Honey. I saw it served both as an appetizer and as a light dessert. The juicy ripe pears combined with the salty Pecorino cheese and the sweet honey was just sublime.

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Fresh, simple. locally sourced…seems to describe everything we ate on that holiday. And I can truly say, we didn’t have a bad meal the whole time we were there, whether we were dining in a fancy pants restaurant or a little local trattoria. Except for the bread that is…what a disappointment. In my visions of Italy I would always be sipping wine at a little table with some lovely cheese and a loaf of bread. Well, truth be told, I did have a few where I was zipping around on a Vespa with a bottle of wine and a fresh loaf of bread in tow (Ciao!) … but anyway, my expectation for the bread was way high and it tasted pretty abysmal. Well, in Tuscany proper anyway. Tuscan bread does not have any salt in it. Bleck! Apparently back in the day, their old enemy Pisa, set up a blockade of sorts which made it difficult to acquire salt. So the Tuscans started making bread without it and have kept up the daft practice even though salt is readily available. Talk about fearing change… But besides the bread, it was a fantastic trip. I have been dying to tell you all about, so I think I will take advantage of this weather which certainly brings hibernation to mind, to stay put (under a mound of blankets…) for a few moments and take the time to do just that over the next few posts.

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We arrived in Florence mid-October which meant the majority of the flood of summer tourists had subsided. The weather was absolutely fantastic, still warm during the day but a bit chilly in the evenings, though in light of recent weather around here, perhaps I will revise my opinion to say it was a bit “balmy” in the evenings. We rented a car and drove north to the Italian Riviera portion of the Ligurian region where we planned to spend 3 days visiting Cinque Terre. Cinque Terre, the “five lands”, is made up of the five towns of Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza and Monterosso al Mare which seem to cling precariously to steep cliffs jutting up from the sea.

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The towns, along with the surrounding hillsides and coastline make up The Cinque Terre National Park which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. No car traffic is allowed in the villages but no worries, it is easy to travel between them by train or boat taxi. We had booked a room in the lovely Luna di Marzo hotel which is located in Volastra, a really small village, still in the park, located just up the cliff from Manarola. The views from the room were simply breathtaking!

 

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The husband and I were really psyched because not only was Cinque Terre amazingly beautiful, but the park has hundreds of miles of hiking paths which shoot dramatically skyward, wind through the hillside vineyards and olive groves and descend steeply to twist along rugged coastal footpaths. We love hiking and couldn’t wait to hit the trails and take in all of that the area had to offer.

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Luckily I had heard about Pall Forloney, the Trekguyd and was able to hire him to take us on a trek of all five towns and I’ve got to tell you this was the highlight of our holiday! Originally from Rhode Island, Pall has been living in Riomaggiore for over 10 years. I would say that he has all the knowledge of a “local”, which he certainly does, but it is more than that. He is so enthusiastic about the area and has been traversing it for so long, he certainly knows more than the average local. He proved invaluable to us during our visit.  Not only did he expertly guide us (and yes there is a “right” and a “wrong” way to hike it…or perhaps I should say a “savvy” vs. a “clueless” way…) on a small, personal, day long trek through all five towns and the surrounding hillsides,

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but he was also a fount of information on everything from local history,

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Saw lots of churches in Italy. But when Pall took us to The Black Church in Monterossa al Mare, it definitely stood out.

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It is the chapel of the Brotherhood of Death and Prayer and is filled with “momento mori”.

 

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The Brotherhood saw to the welfare of orphans, widows, shipwreck victims and the destitute.

 

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You could also have a burial mass said for folks who had been excommunicated here as well.

 

to Sciacchetrà wine production,

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on to general hiking tips and even recommendations for the best restaurants that the 5 towns had to offer. He took us to the best gelateria in all of the five towns! Not to mention he is a truly fascinating guy and great fun to hang around with. All park passes, train tickets and boat taxi fares were included in the price of his tour.

Relaxing on the boat taxi headed back to Riomaggiore after our trek.

Relaxing on the boat taxi headed back to Riomaggiore after our trek.

 

Having booked with Pall on our first day in Cinque Terre, we were able to benefit from all of his knowledge and make the most of our next two days there. Even after Pall’s tour was officially over, he was still trying to make sure we had a great visit. So, when the husband and I let him know we had never tried the local Sciacchetrà wine, he arranged to have us meet a friend of his, Roberto  who owns the Terra di Bargòn vineyard.

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For those of you who might be unfamiliar with Sciacchetrà wine, it is the white wine that has been cultivated and produced in Cinque Terre for many years. It is odd that there even is wine production in this area. Remember, the towns are situated on rather steep cliffs. Those industrious Cinque Terre dwellers from long ago literally carved out the terraces on which the vineyards grow and then undertook the backbreaking challenge of harvesting the grapes, carrying them on their backs down along the narrow, cliff’s-edge paths to town.

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But that wasn’t the end of the hard work for them. Then they had to dry the grapes. Sciacchetrà is a straw wine meaning that the grapes are dried to concentrate their juice. Though often thought of as a dessert wine, Sciacchetrà is considered a wine of meditation and is excellent paired with cheeses. We were very curious about it to say the least after hiking through the vineyards all day. With hardly any notice, just a quick phone call from Pall, Roberto was able to come meet us at his Cantina where the Terra di Bargòn Sciacchetrà is produced and cellared. What a treat! Roberto is quite a character. He told us all about the history of that rare wine, how his family came to produce it and gave us a first hand account of the labor intensive cycle of production.

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But better yet, he let us taste the Sciacchetrà of the year (there is a two-year fermentation) as well as a 2009 reserve and a 2003 reserve. It is difficult to describe the taste, but I would say sweet but not too sweet and silky smooth with hints of honey and apricot. All I can say is that it is unique, delicious and definitely something you should sample. (Sciacchetrà is not widely imported to the US. Terra di  Bargòn will ship to the US through their website if you are interested. Better yet….go visit them in Cinque Terre.) There are not a lot of folks in Cinque Terre today that are willing to do the kind of work that is required to make Sciacchetrà. Roberto is perhaps one of a dying breed. He offered us keen insight into a way of life which has been handed down for generations in Cinque Terre. Unfortunately this way of life and this special wine is in danger of being lost forever, but not if Roberto has anything to do with it. The authentic cultural experience of tasting the wine and meeting Roberto was essentially priceless!

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Cinque Terre was absolutely amazing. I am so glad that we decided to give it the time it deserved and did not try to do it as a “day trip” from Florence. It would not have done the slow-paced vibe of the place justice. Now, that being said, I do understand that in the Summer months, especially August, the place is over-run with tourists, so you might want to plan accordingly. What you must do is book a trek with Pall Forloney, the Trekguyd. While you are traversing the hills, he will have you up to speed and CT savvy in no time flat. And make sure you sample that Sciacchetrà wine while you still can. In the meantime, I hope you will enjoy this simple, yet elegant dish of Pears with Pecorino, Pistachios & Honey.

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It will have you dreaming of long and lazy, sun drenched days. When you gaze out your window, you won’t see a frozen, barren, arctic waste land. No. You’ll see a beautiful green and rugged coastline framed by the turquoise sea. Just make sure you don’t shatter the illusion by sneaking a peek at your thermometer!

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Pears with Pecorino, Pistachios & Honey

  • Servings: 2 - 4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients:

  • 2 pears
  • 3 Tablespoons Honey
  • 1/4 cup shaved Pecorino Cheese
  • handful of roughly chopped pistachios
  • freshly ground pepper

Directions:

For a Fresh & Light Spring/Summer Dish:

Core and slice pears. Scattered shaved Pecorino over pear slices. Warm honey and drizzle over pears and cheese. Sprinkle pistachios over the top. Season with freshly ground pepper if desired.

For a Warm & Comforting Fall/Winter Dish:

Core and slice pears. Place on broiler rack. Scatter shaved Pecorino over pear slices. Broil until cheese is melted and slightly browned. Warm honey and drizzle over pears and cheese. Sprinkle pistachios over the top. Season with freshly ground pepper if desired.

Pears with Pecorino, Pistachios & Honey brought to you by: Runcible Eats (www.leaandjay.com)


Poached Pear Tart with Lemony Cream

February 14, 2013

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The second I saw this Poached Pear Tart I knew that I had found the perfect Valentine’s Day dessert for the husband. I’ve already confided in you his “strange” preference for all fruit filled desserts over all decadent chocolatey offerings. I know….bizarro! But at least I’ve accepted and internalized this knowledge and can apply it when I’m trying to come up with a sweet indulgence made just for him.

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A Pear Tart would not be my Valentine’s choice, but I’m not baking for me. My husband knows what to get me (cupcakes!), so I will leave it to him. But back to this tart,  I could tell from his perspective this dessert has it going on! I mean, he absolutely LOVES tarts, anyone who knows him will tell you that about him without hesitation… (snicker, snicker) and this one has wine poached pears baked in lovely lemony cream! Seems like it was a recipe crafted just with him in mind. A perfect Valentine’s treat!

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I must admit though, I really don’t like working with pears at all! It’s not that I don’t like them, I really do. It’s just that I can never tell if they are ripe or not. So I spend an eternity in the store, gently touching every pear on display, like some sort of pear whisperer, hoping that the mysterious fruit will take pity on me and push the ripe ones of themselves into my basket. Yet that has never happened, so I finally give up and just pick a few to cart home with me. Of course they are not the perfect ripe ones, so I try to accelerate the process by placing them in paper bags with other ripening fruit. Yeah. They remain rock hard until I turn my back for like 5 minutes and I come back to find them ripened into a pile of mush! Don’t know if that happens to you or not, but it sure happens to me. Though this time, I really wanted this dessert to work out for Valentine’s Day, so I held vigil by these little devils until they were ready! Yup. It’s true I love my husband that much. I braved the pears and actually won on this time!

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There are quite a few steps involved in making this tart, but the good news is that you can break them up over several days if necessary. I poached the pears and made the pastry on one day and then completed the recipe on the following day. Making this tart was definitely worth the time investment because it not only looks beautiful but tastes amazing. Refreshingly light.

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I served each slice with a scoop of simple vanilla ice cream drizzled with a scrumptious syrup reduction of the pear poaching liquid. And don’t forget the champagne of course! Happy Valentine’s Day!

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Poached Pear Tart with Lemony Cream

recipe from: Elra

yield: one 11″ tart

Ingredients:

For the pastry dough:

  • 1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons chilled unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 1  1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup confectioner sugar
  • a pinch of salt
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
For the poached pears:
  • 3 ripe but still firm Bosch pears
  • 750 ml (1 bottle) good quality white wine of your preference
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • vanilla bean, scraped
For the lemony cream:
  • 1/4 cup (30 g) sugar
  • 4 tablespoons (50 g) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • lemon juice from 1 lemon
  • 1/4 cup (50 g) all-purpose flour
  • 1/8 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt, optional

Confectioner’s sugar for dusting

Directions:
Peel, and cut the pear in half, using melon baller core and discard the seeds. Place them in a large pot,  pour in white wine, add sugar and vanilla bean. Place the pot over medium low heat, simmer until pears are slightly tender, about 30 to 40 minutes. Turn off the heat, cool completely in the liquid.
In the mean time, begin to make the pastry. Put all ingredients, except lightly beaten egg onto food processor. Pulse use 1 to 2 second pulse until most of the butter is the size of a peas. Add lightly beaten egg and pulse again until the dough just starting to form a small clump.
Transfer the dough onto a lightly floured work surface. Knead lightly a couple of times. Gather the dough into a disc, wrap in plastic. Refrigerate for at least  30 minutes.

Generously grease an 11-inch removable bottom tart pan with butter.

Roll out the pastry to fit the size of tart pan, transfer into the pan, and trim off the excess. Prick all over with fork, cover with plastic wrap, and place it back in the refrigerator for at least 20 minutes, or up to a day in advance.
On baking day, preheat oven to 375° F. Remove the pastry from refrigerator. Place a piece of parchment paper, or aluminum foil directly on top. Add dried beans, or pie chain, directly on top of paper of foil, then bake in the middle rack for 15 minutes. Remove pastry from oven, remove the paper, or foil including the beans. Quickly and lightly brush the pastry with egg white, this process will prevent the pastry from becoming soggy. Return pastry to the oven, continue to bake for another 10 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and let it cool in the pan on a wire rack.
Turn the oven up to 400° F. Set the racks in the lower third and upper third of the oven.
Remove pears from their poaching liquid, blot dry with paper towel, and set them aside. Place reserved poaching liquid in small heavy bottomed saucepan and set over medium to medium high heat to reduce. This takes about 20 minutes or so and you will end up with 1/4 to 1/3 cup of syrup.
Using a hand whisk, large wooden spoon or stand mixer, beat together butter and sugar until pale and creamy, add egg, and vanilla extract, beat  to blend. Mix in lemon zest and lemon juice. Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt, add it to the cream mixture, and mix just enough to incorporate the ingredients. Using small spatula, spread the batter into the bottom and sides of the cooled tart shell. Arrange poached pears over the filling. Bake the tart on the lowest rack for 25 to 30 minutes. Take the tart out from the oven, sprinkle with 2 tablespoons granulated sugar, taking care not to get sugar on the pastry, which could cause it to burn. Return the tart to the oven, and place it on the top rack. Continue to bake for another 15 minutes, or until pears starts to caramelized, and the crust is dark browned. Remove the tart from the oven, and transfer it onto cooling rack to cool completely. Using a kitchen torch, lightly char the pears, to get that slightly burnt and rustic look on your tart. Right before serving, dust the tart with confectioner’s sugar. Serve with fresh whipped cream, vanilla ice cream or simply drizzled with the reduced pear poaching syrup.
Enjoy!

Honey-Glazed Pear Breakfast Crisp

April 2, 2011

Keeping with my recent pear theme, I was thinking you just might have some of those little devils left over from the Caramelized Pear & Rosemary Conserve you made after seeing my previous post. So, I’ve got another wonderfully mouth-watering pear dish for you, Honey-Glazed Pear Breakfast Crisp. This really is quite a treat! I’m not kidding. Breakfast will quickly become your favourite meal of the day. It’s very easy to make and you can even prepare the Granola or “Crisp” part ahead of time, so that it comes together even quicker on the morning you wish to serve it. I must say, this granola just barely takes a back seat to the Honey-Glazed Pears in this dish. My husband generally doesn’t even care for Granola and he couldn’t stop sampling it. (“quality control” don’t you know) It’s a bit sweet, nutty, salty and crunchy. YUM! I had a bit left over and ate it sprinkled on top of yogurt in the morning and it was absolutely outstanding.

Mmmmmm! Crunchy goodness!

But then there are the Honey-Glazed Pears. Oh my stars, these are unbelievable! After being gently cooked, these pears are tossed in the pan with warm honey, butter and vanilla and seasoned with cinnamon, cardamom and a hint of salt.

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Need I say more?! Combined with the granola crisp it is a match made in heaven. I found this recipe on Spoon With Me. Make sure you take a look at it there. The pictures Jennifer takes are truly gorgeous. She serves her Honey-Glazed Breakfast Crisp with Pomegranate seeds sprinkled over the top. Alas, I had none on hand and served mine with a dollop of vanilla yogurt. Fantastic! I can’t wait to try the Pomegranate seeds next time.

Honey-Glazed Pear Breakfast Crisp

Recipe from Spoon With Me

Serves 4-6

The granola can be made up to three days in advance, and re-crisped in a 275˚ oven for 15 minutes.

Ingredients For the Granola:

  • 2 cups rolled oats (not quick cooking)
  • 1 cup pecans, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup ground flax seeds
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar (packed)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Ingredients For the Pears:

  • 4 medium pears (ripe, but not overly soft), peeled, halved, cored, and thinly sliced
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons mild honey, such as clover, to taste (depending on the sweetness of the pears)
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • a pinch of kosher salt
  • vanilla yogurt to top with

Directions For the granola:

Preheat the oven to 300˚F.  Combine the oats, ground flax, and pecans in a medium bowl and set aside. Heat a small saucepan over medium heat. When hot, add the butter, honey, brown sugar, vanilla, and salt. Stir and cook until the butter is melted and the sugar has dissolved.

Pour the butter mixture into the medium bowl with the oats. Stir well, until the oats are coated.

Spread the oat mixture onto a large baking sheet. Bake for 15 minutes. Stir, and then cook for an additional 15-30 minutes, or until golden and crisp (note: the granola will continue to crisp as it cools).

Directions For the Pears:

Heat a large frying pan or saucepan over medium-high heat.  Add the pears, and cook for 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the pears release some of their liquid and the edges begin to take on a transparent appearance.

Push the pears to one side of the pan.  On the empty side of the pan, melt the butter together with the honey and vanilla extract. Toss to coat the pears in the honey mixture.  Sprinkle the cinnamon, cardamom, and salt over the pears and stir to combine.

To Serve:

Scoop some of the granola into small bowls.  Top with the pears.  Add a dollop of vanilla yogurt. Sprinkle a little more granola over the top.


Caramelized Pear & Rosemary Conserve

March 24, 2011

Both my husband and I love pears. They’re great anytime of the year really. So when I saw this recipe for a Caramelized Pear & Rosemary Conserve on The Serendipity Diary blog I just couldn’t resist! This recipe is fantastic for so many reasons. First and foremost is that it is very easy to make and tastes amazing! Furthermore, it really enhances whatever food you choose to pair it with. We have put it on toast, oatmeal, scones, served it with a cheese tray and used it as a spread on various sandwiches. Yum, yum, yum!

Jarlsberg and Smoked Gouda Cheese Tray with Pear Conserve

The hardest thing about this recipe is the pears themselves. Let me clarify that, catching the pears at the exact millisecond that they are ripe. You know what I mean. You buy some lovely pears at the market and can’t wait to eat them, but they are hard as little rocks. So you put them in your fruit bowl and remind yourself that patience is a virtue. You check them diligently for days, or even hours if you’ve dealt with these little devils before. Nevertheless, they seem to go from little rock, to ripe, to pile of mush in mere seconds! Makes you feel like you just can’t take your eyes off of them!

Me vs. Pear in staring contest

I’ve tried the trick where you put them in a closed brown paper bag to accelerate ripening, with mixed results.

It's a mystery!

I tell you it is maddening! But if you can catch them at just the right moment they can be absolutely dreamy! Once you have your ripe pears, you just throw them into the pot with some sugar, molasses, lemon juice, rosemary, cinnamon and nutmeg.

Ingredients ready to go!

Then you simply let them all cook down until you have this delicious concoction. So set out to make this conserve today. Or if you’d love to try some, but are not feeling particularly motivated, buy yourself a jar from Serendipity Jams, which they sell in their etsy store.

Caramelized Pear & Rosemary Conserve

recipe from  The Serendipity Diary

Ingredients:

1 1/5 lbs. ripe buttery Pears-like Bartlett or Warren’s

1/3 Cup sugar

1/8 Cup lemon juice

1 tsp. molasses

1 sprig of fresh Rosemary (approx. 4 inches in length)

Dash each of ground cinnamon and freshly ground nutmeg

1-2 Cups of water on hand to use during cooking

Directions:

Wash, core, de-stem and cut the pears into about 2″ pieces.

In a small to medium stock pot over medium heat combine pears, lemon juice, spices, and sugar and molasses. Give the mixture a good stir and let the pears begin to soften and caramelize. (Approx. 10-15 minutes)

Add about 1/2 Cup water and the rosemary to the pot, bring the pears to a gentle boil and continue stirring.

Continue adding water to the pears when most of the moisture has evaporated, continuing until the pears have broken down and are soft and spreadable.

Once the desired consistency is reached, remove and discard the rosemary.

Ladle conserve into clean, sterilized jars. Let the jars cool and then keep them in the refrigerator for 2-3 weeks.


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