There’s an old large pear tree on Maggie’s property that produces abundantly—-we don’t know its proper name—Maggie says she just known it as a country pear, or canning pear. The skin is tough, a bit mottled, blemished; the interior firm, large-celled—very open to accepting and marrying other flavors.
Last fall, which was Maggie’s first year to experience the pear harvest, was (like many fruit harvests of 2008) overwhelming. Pears everywhere! A preponderance of pears.
I went totally overboard, bringing home a hundred and some odd—-making pear butter, pear vinegar, pear coffeecake, pear pie, pear chutney—-and still having pears to spare. They took over the kitchen!
This year, I have vowed to be more balanced. For my first pick, I brought home 20 pears. Now, that’s manageable! These country pears are most amenable to poaching; you can take them in any flavor profile direction you’d like. Try fresh ginger, brown sugar, and star anise. Or red wine, nutmeg, and cinnamon. Or vanilla beans and rum.
I had some local wildflower honey that was intensely floral; I was convinced it would add something unique to a pear dish. It went into my poaching liquid, along with a little white wine and orange zest.
A pleasing result—still very “peary” but with subtle layers of citrus and lavender.
These poached pear slices melded nicely in a brown sugar-walnut-ricotta layered tart using phyllo dough. Simple, crisp, and not-too-sweet—the sort of treat that you can throw together, in a trice, and enjoy with a cup of coffee.
But these same poached pears would be rather elegantly partnered on the savory end, served with roast chicken or pork:all good food for the season.
More pear recipes to come……
peeling pears in Maggie’s kitchen
Honey Poached Pears
4 cups sliced pears
1/2 cup white wine
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup wildflower honey
zest and juice of 1 Orange
2 t. Vanilla
These are “shallow poached.” Place all ingredients into a large skillet, stirring and tossing so that everything is well mixed. Cook on medium heat, covered, stirring occasionally for 40 minutes. Pears and zest will soften. Uncover and reduce heat, allowing liquid to thicken, and poach for another 15 minutes.
Poached Pear-Ricotta-Phyllo Tart
2-3 cups Poached Pears
1 cup Ricotta, whipped until very smooth (immersion blender or food processor)
1 cup ground walnuts
1 stick melted butter
2 T. brown sugar
Phyllo Dough–thawed, so that it is maleable
8×8 baking pan
In a small bowl, mix ground walnuts, brown sugar and melted butter together. Open up roll of phyllo dough and brush it with this butter-walnut mixture and place it into the baking pan. Repeat with successive layerings, about 8 times, until a frilly crust is formed. Don’t worry if it doesn’t look even or pretty.
Layer in smooth ricotta.
Top with poached pears.
Garnish with walnut pieces.
Bake in 325 degree oven for 25-30 minutes, until phyllo crust is golden brown.
Serve warm or room temperature.
With its layers of phyllo, and ground walnuts with brown sugar, it is vaguely reminiscent of baklava. The ricotta adds a nice bridging layer between the crisp phyllo and the fruit.