How to Cook Pears Properly

This December, the growers of USA Pears are spotlighting a trio of clever pear preparations by top Pacific Northwest chefs. December has again been proclaimed National Pear Month by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), thanks to the abundance and variety of fresh pears in season and available nationwide.

“We’re so inspired by the thoughtful pear preparations popping up on top menus,” says Cristie Mather, communications director for USA Pears/Pear Bureau Northwest. “Even though these dishes originated in the kitchens of popular restaurants, home cooks of all skill levels can learn to pickle or dehydrate a pear.”

This National Pear Month, take a cue from the pros and experiment with these pear preparations:

Poach and Dehydrate

At Ox Restaurant in Portland, Ore., chefs Greg Denton and Gabrielle Quiñónez Denton take a patient approach. Their pear “prosciutto” is made by poaching halved pears in a savory mixture of sage, rosemary, red wine, salt and pepper – then dehydrating the pears for 18 hours at 125 degrees and slicing them. Served with foie gras terrine, pickled chanterelles, malted white chocolate and salted pear reduction, this Ox dish has locals lining up to indulge.

Pear Proscuitto
Pear Proscuitto

Pickle and Grill

Seattle restaurateur and chef Ethan Stowell’s take on pears will make you rethink your next pear salad. At Tavolàta, his double-treatment of pears – first pickling, then grilling – lends a sharp and satisfying flavor to a bed of healthy endive and frisée. Served atop a base of creamy goat cheese with a walnut vinaigrette, it’s clear this salad needs no entrée. (See recipe below.)

Mortar and Pestle

Pok Pok Restaurants owner and chef Andy Ricker uses a mortar and pestle to gently bruise slightly under-ripe pears in his version of Son Tam Phonlamai. One of Pok Pok’s signature recipes, this savory fruit salad aims to strike a balance between sweet and tart. Pick up Andy’s newly released book for the full recipe, or try it at Pok Pok’s Portland, Ore. and Brooklyn, NY restaurants throughout the fall.

Son Tam Phonlamai with Crisp Bosc Pears POK POK photo credit Austin Bush © 2013
Son Tam Phonlamai with Crisp Bosc Pears POK POK photo credit Austin Bush © 2013

For additional pear recipes and inspiration, including tips on selecting pear varieties, culinary applications, or how to tell when a pear is ripe, visit www.usapears.org, and follow USA Pears on Facebook at www.facebook.com/usapears and Twitter @USApears.

About Pear Bureau Northwest/USA Pears

The Pear Bureau Northwest was established in 1931 as a nonprofit marketing organization to promote the fresh pears grown in Oregon and Washington. Today, the United States is the third largest pear-producing country in the world, and Oregon and Washington comprise the nation’s largest pear growing region with 1,600 growers producing 84% of all fresh pears grown in the United States. Pears grown in these two Pacific Northwest states are distributed under the “USA Pears” brand. Pears are an excellent source of fiber (24% DV) and a good source of vitamin C (10% DV) for only 100 calories per medium sized pear. Sweet and juicy with no fat, no sodium, and no cholesterol, pears are a perfect choice for a snack as well as for any course of any meal of the day. Visit www.usapears.org for more pear facts and recipes.

 

Pickled and Grilled Bosc Pears with Endive, Frisée and Walnut Salad Recipe

By Chef Ethan Stowell (Seattle, Washington)

(Serves 4)

Pickled and Grilled Pears Salad
Pickled and Grilled Pears Salad

For the pickled pears:

4 Bosc pears, cored and cut in 8 pieces
3 cups water
1 cup red wine vinegar
2 T sugar
1 teaspoon salt
4 T pickling spice

For the walnut dressing:

1 cup walnut oil
¼ cup red wine vinegar
1 T Dijon mustard
Salt and pepper

For the endive, frisée and walnut salad:

32 pieces pickled Bosc pears
2 each Belgian endive, cut into bite sized pieces
2 heads of frisée, green leaves removed, cut into bite sized pieces and washed
1 cup toasted walnuts
1 teaspoon minced shallots
1 teaspoon minced chives
½ cup fresh goat cheese, at room temperature
Walnut dressing (see recipe below)
Salt and pepper

Pickled Pears:

In a medium sized stainless steel pot add the water, vinegar, salt, sugar and pickling spices. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and let cook for about 15 minutes to let the spices infuse. Add the pears and continue to simmer for 5 minutes. Turn the heat off and place the entire pot in the refrigerator to cool overnight.

Walnut Dressing:

Place all of the ingredients in a small clean glass bottle. Screw the cap back on the bottle or stuff a wine cork in the opening. Shake vigorously for 30-45 seconds or until all of the ingredients are perfectly combined. Set aside until ready to use. Shake vigorously before every use.

To make the salad:

Preheat a grill for the pears, preferably a grill that is heated by natural wood. Drain the pickled pears. Working in batches, grill all of the pear pieces for about one minute per side or until nice grill marks are seared into the fruit. Set aside at room temperature while you make the rest of the salad.
 
Lay out four entrée size plates to build the salads on. With the back of a spoon, smear the goat cheese across the bottom of the plate in a circle. It should be about a 4 inch across circle of goat cheese. Arrange the pickled pear pieces around the outside of the goat cheese to act as a border and a well to set the salad.
 
In a large metal bowl, toss the endive, frisée, walnuts, shallots and chives. Season to taste with salt, pepper and walnut dressing. Divide the salad between the four salad plates and serve immediately, preferably with a warm baguette.
 

~ Courtesy of Pear Bureau Northwest/USA Pears

National pear month

December was National pear month and my friends at Harvest PR and Marketing sent me a pear sampler box to mark the occasion. There are over 3,000 known pear varieties grown around the world, but only a handful of heirloom varieties have been cultivated. Up until recently, I didn’t even know there were so many varieties of pears available in US markets. All I paid attention to at my local grocery store was the red (Red Anjou) and the green (Bartlett) kinds, and the occasional small green ones (Seckel). Each pear variety has it’s own distinct flavor, growing season, food and cheese pairing. Check the USA Pears web site for detailed information on the pear varieties available to you. It’s quite fascinating!

Did you know that pear is one of those fruits that does not ripen on a tree? According to USA Pears 84% of pear shoppers don’t know how to determine ripeness. They recommend “checking the neck” to see if it yields to gentle pressure. Then you know the pear is ripe and juicy.

While there are countless recipes that can be prepared using pears, my favorites include serving them raw, pairing with cheese and incorporating in salads.  I love the fresh, juicy taste of a just-ripe pear. But here are some recipes is you like to get more creative. Many of them are internationally inspired and prepared by renowned chefs from around the country. See Alaskan king crab with pear tabbouleh salad, Braised Bartlett pear and chicken pastilla, Pulled pork and pear empanadas and much more.

A quick and easy recipe that would please any crowd is a Harvest Salad. Just add fresh chopped apples, pears, raisins, red onions with some lemon juice and keep aside. Spread on a bed of spinach leaves. Top crumbled blue cheese or Gorgonzola and chopped walnuts. Make a dressing by whisking olive oil, garlic powder, lemon juice, salt and Dijon mustard. Drizzle on top of salad.