Let’s Cook: A Perfect ‘Pearing’
Each time that I see beautiful pears in the store, I have to pause and admire them — especially the ones that are as warm colored as the late marigolds of September. When looking closer at them, you can see the warm blush of autumn. The round belly of the pear is playing host to a lovely shade of coral pink and beneath lays the mild-mannered sweetness of a late summer pear.
Pears are a favorite in our home, and I am safe to saying that we would swap out a night on the town for a lovely box of golden pears. After enjoying one or two, the remainder would be given a simple sugar bath and put to rest in canning jars. Here they would slumber until the middle of winter reappearing on the dining room table in a lovely crystal bowl. The snow and cold are kept at bay as gathered dinner guests recall the sweetness of summer through home canned pears. How exhilarating is this?
Now I could go on about pear pie, pear butter, pear cobbler with lemon custard sauce or even spiced pickled pears — but I won’t. Instead let us connect pears to salad greens. I was recently lucky enough to purchase some pears that were raised in Washington, picked and trucked here by a fruit vendor. They were perfect and so delicious. This makes understanding “The Odyssey” by Homer much clearer as this Greek poet laureate lauds pears as a “gift of the gods.”
There are many pear varieties that are available in our stores summer, fall and even winter.
Anjou: Comes in both red and green varieties and it available all winter. Mild is their flavor, fairly firm and sweet. A fine feature of the Anjou is that it stores well and is good in salads or simply sliced and eaten. They also are ideal for baking as they hold their shape.
Bartlett: Has mild, aromatic flesh, and the common yellow or red is good for both eating and cooking. It tends to be a late-summer and fall pear — just in time for canning. The Bartlett does not keep well and should be enjoyed within a day or two of being ripe.
Seckel: You probably have seen these cute little pears. Their small size makes them the perfect treat in lunchboxes for children and adults who don’t want a full-size pear. They are intensely sweet, and tend to keep well. This American native is also good for canning. It is interesting to note that pears from this family are grown in North Dakota with success.
My purchased pears were so sweet that pairing them with vinaigrette was the first thing that came to mind. In the recipe that follows you will find that the sharpness of the vinaigrette plays off the sweetness of the pear in beauty harmony. It can be made with prosciutto or with prosciutto that had been married with mozzarella cheese. I prefer the latter as it gives a soft creamy texture to the salad. This is the perfect salad if you are looking for light lunch or supper that doesn’t have you spending hours in the kitchen. Serving this with flat bread is ideal.
Mixed Greens, Pear, Cranberries with Vinaigrette
If you like sharp dressing, then vinaigrette is for you. This vinaigrette can be made with olive oil or walnut oil. This is also good with the oil and vinegar dressing that one would use on coleslaw. When using the latter, I would suggest adding ¾ cup of mandarin oranges to the greens. So if you not a fan of vinaigrette, you can opt for a sweeter oil dressing of your choice.
2 to 3 cups of mixed greens
2 firm, ripe pears (I used Bartlett)
¼ pound thinly sliced prosciutto
½ cup finely grated Parmesan
½ fresh cranberries or dried
3 or 4 green onions
3 tablespoons rice vinegar
4 tablespoons olive or walnut oil
Salt and pepper, to taste
Rinse greens and dry thoroughly. Halve pears, and remove the core with a knife or spoon. Slice the pear halves into medium or thin wedges. Arrange on bed of greens and sprinkle with cranberries.
Prepare the vinaigrette. Combine the green onions with vinegar in blender and let set for 5 minutes. Blend until smooth. With the blender running slowly drizzle oil into this mixture until a medium thickness is reached and dressing becomes pale. Season to taste.
Pour dressing over greens, pears, and cranberries. Sprinkle with grated parmesan. Serve.
This will yield 4 medium servings.