Oct 17, 2012

Beyond Com”pear”

Juicy and sweet, with a soft, grainy texture, the pear is one of your best sources of dietary fiber.  And the good news for the millions of pear lovers out there is that now is the best time of year to enjoy this tasty fruit.
Botanically, pears are members of the rose family and are related to the apple and the quince. Pears generally have a large round bottom that tapers towards the top. Depending upon the variety, their skins can either be yellow, green, brown, red or a combination of two or more of these colors. Like apples, pears have a core that features several seeds. But unlike apples, pears are sometimes eaten in their entirety along with soft core.  Here are the species of pears with which we are most familiar.  Try them all to find your favorites.
Yellow Bartletts, available from August to January are often used for canning or cooking because their dense flesh holds its shape during cooking. Bartletts are extremely aromatic pears, and have that definitive "pear flavor." Red Bartletts are another variety to choose from. Aside from color, there are virtually no differences between the two Bartlett pears. Together, red and yellow Bartletts make a striking counter or table-top centerpiece.  The red color of the red Bartlett is only skin deep and will not change the color of the pear if cooked without its peel.
Anjou pears, whether green or red are available all winter long.  They are picked and shipped before they ripen to prevent bruising. They do not change color as they ripen so check for ripeness by pressing gently near the stem. When they yield slightly they’re ready to enjoy.  Much firmer than Bartletts, Anjous are recognizable for their egg-shaped appearance. 
Bosc pears are an elegant variety, with distinctive characteristics that set them apart from other pears. Bosc eaters appreciate their more crunchy flesh and their sweet-spiced flavor. The rough brown skin hides a delicious, spicy and slightly firmer flesh. Bosc pears are best September through April so you can enjoy these pears all winter long.  They are highly aromatic as they ripen but can be quickly turn mushy or mealy.  They will not soften when ripe like other pears so use your nose to judge. 
Comice pears are the sweetest and juiciest of all varieties, and are a favorite in gift boxes and baskets. Their flesh is very soft, and can best be described as creamy in texture, dripping with juice, and super sweet. For many pear lovers, Comice are the pinnacle of pears. Comice pears are almost never cooked or canned as they offer the ultimate pear flavor when eaten fresh.  They are most often green in color, and sometimes have a red blush covering part of the skin surface. Known officially as Doyenné Du Comice, this French variety of pear was first propagated near Angers, France in the mid 1800's. 
“Good things some in small packages” might have been written just for the tasty Seckel. The smallest of all commercially grown pears, Seckels are also the sweetest. So sweet in fact, that the near bite-size morsels are sometimes called "sugar pears." They are available: September through February and make the perfect lunch box snack.  These tiny pears with their ultra-sweet flavor, they make wonderful a salad garnish. They are found in maroon and olive green and will not change color when ripe.
Seckels are believed by many to be the only natural American variety of pear. Unlike other varieties developed in the U.S. from a cutting of other European tree, Seckels are thought to have originated as a wild seedling near Philadelphia.
Forelles are one of the few varieties of winter pears that do change color as they ripen. They are considered the most beautiful of all pears as their pretty red freckling remains visible while the green skin turns bright yellow as they ripen. This small variety is available from September to February.  Forelles are a very old variety, and are thought to have originated in the 1600's in northern Germany.
Try tasty pears this season in of our mouth-watering recipes!

¼ cup canola oil  
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons honey
2 large ripe Bartlett pears, peeled and cored
6 tablespoons margarine (3/4 of a stick)
1½ cups flour
½ cup sugar
1½ teaspoon baking powder
¾ teaspoon cinnamon
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup apple juice
1/4 cup Amaretto or other flavored liqueur
whipped cream
¼ cup sliced almonds, toasted
               Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. grease and flour six 7-8 ounce ramekins.
Over a  medium flame, heat oil in a small saucepan.  Add brown sugar and honey; cook over low heat for about 5 minutes until mixture no longer separates. Divide mixture evenly between prepared ramekins. Cut each pear into 12 wedges and place 4 wedges in the bottom of each dish; set aside.
In a medium bowl, beat remaining 6 tablespoons margarine until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs and vanilla. In a separate bowl, combine all dry ingredients. Combine juice and Amaretto in a bowl. Add half of the dry ingredients to the margarine and sugar mixture, then half of the liquid, beating well after each addition. Repeat until all ingredients are combined. Pour batter into the six prepared dishes, smoothing the top. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until cooked through. Remove from oven and cool for 10 minutes. Carefully flip each dish over onto serving plates to remove from dish. Serve immediately with whipped cream and toasted almond slices.

For the salad:
2 Comice pears
4 cups fresh mixed greens, washed and checked
2 cups pomegranate seeds
1 bunch finely diced scallions
1 cup sliced almonds, toasted
½ pound smoked turkey breast, sliced thin and cut in strips
For the pomegranate vinaigrette:
3/4 cup finely chopped shallots
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
                                             1/4 cup pomegranate juice
                                             ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
Directions:Core the pears and slice thinly. Sprinkle with a lemon juice. Place in a large salad bowl.  Add mixed greens and pomegranate seeds.
Whisk together shallots, salt, freshly-ground pepper, wine vinegar and pomegranate juice in a small bowl.  Add oil in a thin stream, continuing to whisk until thoroughly combined. Pour dressing over salad and toss to coat. 
Divide the salad among four plates. Toss the turkey slices with a little vinaigrette.   Arrange the turkey strips on the salad. Sprinkle with diced scallions and sliced almonds. Grind a little fresh black pepper on each salad. Serve at once.

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