Pears signal the coming of Fall. Pears come in all the shades of Fall leaves; crimson-red, minty-green, pale-yellow and dusty-brown. Pears are soft and juicy or firm and citrusy. I like to poach pears in a combination of spices, wine and port until they are succulent and just tender. I then remove the fruit and continue cooking the fortified wine into a syrup I serve over ice cream with the still warm poached pears; maybe a biscuit or two nestled along side for accompaniment .
Pears can also be cooked until they are soft and then puréed into a scrumptious pear sauce. Peeled, sliced and tossed with a bit of nutmeg, sugar and thickener, pears also may be made into an amazing pie filling. Substitute pairs for apples on a cheese plate. Pair pears with pecans for a healthy snack. Spread salted whole grain crackers with fresh goat cheese (chèvre) and top the cheese with thin slices of pear and serve with champagne for a romantic treat. (The crunch of the cracker and slight saltiness of the chèvre will bring out the lemony goodness of the pears and go perfectly with the tart and bubbly champagne. The possibilities are endless! A cook is only limited by a lack of imagination - so let yours run free!
One of my favorite ways to serve fall pears is as a Crisp.
Peel and core the pears and slice them into thin, 1/4-inch thick slices. Toss the slices into a pie pan or baking dish. Press the pears gently into an even layer and top them with your favorite Crisp Topping recipe before baking.
My favorite Crisp Topping recipe consists simply of: butter, flour, sugar, a pinch of salt and a bit of cinnamon. There are those of you out there who enjoy adding oatmeal to the crisp topping mixture but I am not one of them! If you are, add that too. (I think adding oatmeal to a Crisp Topping makes the topping taste like cooked mush! Yuck!) The Crisp Topping may be varied of course. Try adding a bit of almond meal and nutmeg to your Crisp recipe for a bit of a change. You could even top the Crisp with your favorite granola cereal for a SUPER quick Crisp! Whatever you decide to top it with, bake the Crisp at 375 degrees until the fruit gives up its juices, about 35-45 minutes.
A Crisp should be "all about the fruit." Don't add any sugar to the sliced pears. Allow the pear's subtle hints of lemon and the promise of cool autumn evenings to come be the focus. Each bite should shine. Each bite should be enhanced by thoughts of casual, colorful strolls down leaf-lined avenues. You should think of cool, brisk mountain hikes or riding a bike by a stream path as leaves rain down on you and your dog. You could even be thinking of possibly jumping into piles of crunchy leaves; perhaps with a wet sucker in your mouth? Your choice, YOUR Crisp.
The Pear Crisp, pictured above, can also be made into individual servings in little oven proof custard cups or even muffin tins. (Just be certain to grease the metal muffin tin first and adjust the baking time to between 20 and 25 minutes.)
Avid home cook and passionate instructor