By Kim Dannies
Pear, the comely little sister to the mighty apple, may appear demure, but it packs plenty of spunk when it comes to pairing flavors. Sweet, fleshy pears are exceptionally fine when matched with almond, cherry, pecan, caramel and bleu cheese.
Pears are one of the few fruits that taste best when ripened after harvesting. Purchase firm, blemish-free pears and set out on the kitchen counter to ripen. Each is ready for eating when the pear gives slightly to gentle thumb pressure at the neck.
The Bosc pear is a warm, earthy brown-skinned fruit with flavors of vanilla, caramel, and sweet spices. Because of the Bosc’s dense flesh, it’s the most dependable pear for poaching, grilling, and baking. Comice pears have a smooth, melt-in-your-mouth creamy flesh; a buttery richness and wine-like aroma makes this a desirable pear for the lunch sack. It is nicknamed ‘the Christmas pear’ for its extra-large round ornamental shape, and green-red coloring. Anjou pears are juicy and sweet with hints of lemon and spice. Egg-shaped, this pear does not change color as it ripens. Add these to cheese studded salads, or bake them when not quite ripe. The Bartlett pear is the quintessential pear: musky, herbaceous, buttery and sweet. The skin changes from green to golden-yellow as it ripens. These shine in chutneys and pear butters. The Red pear sports beautiful crimson skin and floral tones, and is a stunning show-off in salads and on cheese and charcuterie boards.
Pear Almond Crumble
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Working quickly, peel five pears of mixed variety, nick the top and bottom off. Slice each in half, and again in quarters. Slice off the tough spine of the core. Cut the pears in varying-sized chunks and add to a prep bowl. Fold in ½ cup apple cider, 2 T sugar, 1 T flour, 1 tsp. cinnamon, 1 tsp. almond extract, a pinch of salt, and 1 cup dried cherries. Pour into an 8×8-inch baking dish.
Crumble: combine 2 T cold cubed butter, 1 cup granola, 3 T flour, 1/2 cup brown sugar, 1/3 cup chopped almonds, 1 tsp. powdered clove. Top fruit with crumble. Bake 45 minutes. Serve with caramel-studded vanilla ice cream. Serves 6.
Kim Dannies is a graduate of La Varenne Cooking School in France. She lives in Williston with her husband, Jeff; they have three twenty-something daughters who come and go. For archived Everyday Gourmet columns go to kimdannies.com.