Category Archives: pears

Ravoli w/ Gorgonzola & Pears

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It’s Fast Friday again and time for another fast and fabulous dinner suggestion. If you are anything like me, by the time Friday rolls around the last thing I want to do is cook a big meal yet we all still have to eat. The dishes featured in this series aren’t necessarily fancy but they bring together simple ingredients most people already have in their pantries or have easy access to and allow you to put a real meal on the table in between 30 and 45 minutes. Enjoy and if you have your own fast recipes you want to share, please send them my way and I will in turn share them with all of my readers.

There is nothing like a perfectly ripe pear. Sweet and juicy, for me, eating one is a special treat. The only thing that makes a pear better is coupling it with a bit of salty and pungent gorgonzola cheese. In fact, I love this combination so much that both pears and gorgonzola cheese are kitchen staples. So these ingredients were my inspiration for my latest quick and easy “experimental dinner”. (“Experimental dinners” are what I affectionately refer to when I’m pulling together a dish for the first time). And after eating this dinner my entire family agreed that this meal was a success. Not only was it delicious but it was truly fast–as in I was able to pull all of the ingredients together and have dinner on the table in less than 15 minutes.

RAVIOLI w/ GORGONZOLA & PEARS

12 ounces fresh 4-cheese ravioli, cooked according to package instructions

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 shallot, thinly sliced

1 ripe pear, thinly sliced

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

dash freshly grated nutmeg

4 ounces gorgonzola cheese, crumbled

  • While the ravioli is cooking, heat the butter and olive oil in a large skillet set over medium-low heat.
  • When the butter has melted add the shallot and saute, stirring occasionally for 3 to 4 minutes or until the  shallots are beginning to soften.
  • Add the pears and stir gently taking care not to break the slices. Saute for an additional 3 to 4 minutes or until the pears are soft.
  • Add the cooked ravioli to the skillet and cook until heated through, 1-2 minutes.
  • Season with the salt, pepper and nutmeg.
  • Divide the ravioli between four serving dishes then sprinkle with the gorgonzola cheese.
  • Serve immediately.

Serves 4

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Duck & Pear Wontons 

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I recently found myself craving wontons and decided that the best way to find ones I liked was to make them myself. I had always been intimidated by the prospect of making these bite sized morsels but much to my surprise, and delight, while time consuming, they are incredibly easy to make.

As wontons are small items and you want to experience each of the flavors and ingredients in every bite, you want to make sure each of the ingredients is finely chopped. Never one to waste a delicious ingredient, I used my rendered duck fat as the oil for sautéing the remaining ingredients. If you don’t have duck fat you can substitute vegetable oil. (But I think that duck fat adds more flavor to the dish). Because the wontons taste best when they are freshly steamed, you can make them ahead of time then cook them when you are ready to eat.

And now that I’ve made them, they are sure to make a regular appearance in my kitchen. Simply put, they are delicious.

 

DUCK & PEAR WONTONS

2 skin-on duck breasts

2 tablespoons vegetable oil (or duck fat)
2 pears, peeled cored, and diced small
1 cup Chinese cabbage, finely shredded
1 teaspoon Chinese five-spice powder
2  cloves garlic, minced
4 green onions, minced
2 teaspoons chopped fresh cilantro leaves
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
40  wonton skins

1/2 cup of your favorite soy or dipping sauce

  • Place the duck breasts, skin side down, in a cold cast iron skillet set over low heat.
  • Slowly render the fat off of the duck breasts until the meat is medium rare. Remove the duck from the pan and allow to cool.
  • Heat the duck fat in the skillet set over medium-high heat. If you don’t have enough fat add additional oil to total 2 tablespoons.
  • Add the diced pears, Chinese cabbage, garlic and green onion to the pan and saute for one minute.
  • Sprinkle the mixture with Chinese five spice mixture and cook for an additional minute.
  • Remove from the heat and add in the cilantro and season with salt and pepper.
  • When then the duck is cool enough to handle, remove the skin from the meat and dice the breast.
  • Add it to the cabbage mixture and stir well to combine.
  • Working with one wonton wrapper at a time, place a small amount of the duck mixture in the center of each wrapper.
  • Moisten the edges of the wrapper with a small amount of water then bring the edges together to form a pocket, pinching the edges to seal.
  • Set aside and repeat until all of the wonton wrappers have been used.
  • Working in batches, (be careful not to crowd the wontons) steam the wontons in a steaming basket until the wontons are translucent. This should take about 4-5 minutes per batch.
  • Serve immediately dipped into your favorite sauce.

Yields: 40 wontons

 

Potato Pancakes w/ Rosemary Infused Pears

This is an oldie but goodie that has become a family favorite.

The most memorable meal during our recent trip to Bavaria was an impromptu lunch eaten on the top of the Zugspitze.  We had taken shelter from the snow squall in a glass walled cafe and ordered off of a poorly translated menu.  Much to my delight this is what the waitress brought to our table:

My inspiration eaten at the top of the Zugspitze

The potato pancake was light and crispy and smothered in melted Gruyere cheese.  The sauteed pears that accompanied the pancake had been infused with fresh rosemary.  I immediately began to think about how I could recreated this dish at home.  Although it isn’t exactly the same, my resulting dish was just as tasty.  To appease my meat loving family I served this with some leftover spiral cut ham that I fried in a bit of olive oil.  I also reheated the previous night’s Swiss cheese fondue and served a dollop of the melted cheese on top of the pancakes.  Served with a sparkling white wine, the resulting meal was a perfect light dinner.

POTATO PANCAKES WITH ROSEMARY INFUSED PEARS

For the pears:

4 large ripe (but not too soft) pears
3 large sprigs fresh rosemary
3 or more tablespoons apple or pear juice, or water
Pinch of salt
Pinch of nutmeg

  • Peel, core, and slice the pears.
  • Place in a medium, heavy bottomed saucepan
    with two tablespoons of juice or water.  Add
    the rosemary and salt.
  • Cover the pot and cook over medium heat
    until the pears are fork tender –or cooked to
    your likeness.  Watch the pot carefully, adding more liquid as necessary to keep the fruit moist.
  • When done, remove the rosemary sprigs from the pan.  Sprinkle with the nutmeg.

For the latkes:

1 lb potatoes

3 tablespoons olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

  • Using the largest holes of a box grater, shred the potatoes
    into a large bowl.
  • Add the salt and pepper, toss to combine, and let the
    potatoes sit for 5 minutes.
  • Using your hands, squeeze all of the liquid from the
    potatoes.
  • Heat the oil in a large non-stick or cast iron skillet.
  • Once the oil is shimmering, drip the potato mixture by large
    handfuls into the oil.  Quickly spread the potato mixture to
    form a flat pancake.
  • Cook for 10-12 minutes or until the potatoes are crisp and
    brown.  Adjust the heat to make sure the potatoes don’t cook too quickly.   Using a spatula, flip the pancakes over and continue to cook for an additional 6-8 minutes.
  • Remove from the pan and place on a wire rack in a 250 degree oven until all of the pancakes have been cooked.

 

My version

Morning Glory Muffins

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Morning Glory muffins will always take me back to my childhood.  Growing up, the local bakery produced these giant muffins filled with lots of flavors and textures–from carrots and coconut to raisins and nuts or even fresh fruit, these were my favorite bakery treat.  In hindsight they were probably a lot less healthy than I thought they were at the time.  Somewhere along the line these muffins seemed to drop off of bakery menus in favor of new trends but I still love them.

This recipe is an adaptation of one from King Arthur Flour and is a formula rather than an exact recipe.  If you don’t like dried cranberries you can substitute whatever dried fruits you prefer.  The pecans can be omitted entirely or switched with almonds, walnuts, or additional sunflower seeds.  Be creative; you won’t be disappointed with the results.  As my son says, these muffins are yummy in the tummy!

MORNING GLORY MUFFINS

1/2 cup dried cranberries

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup packed dark brown sugar

2 teaspoons baking soda

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

3/4 teaspoon ground ginger

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 cups peeled and grated carrots

1 pear, peeled, cored, and grated

1/2 cup sweetened coconut

1/2 cup chopped pecans

1/3 cup sunflower seeds

1/3 cup wheat germ

3 large eggs

2/3 cup vegetable oil

1/4 orange juice

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

  • Preheat the oven to 375.  Line a muffin tine with papers and coat the papers with non-stick spray.  Set aside.
  • Place the dried cranberries in a small bowl and cover them with hot water; set aside to soak.
  • Whisk together the flour, sugar, baking soda, spices, and salt in a large mixing bowl.
  • Stir in the carrots, pear, coconut, nuts, sunflower seeds, and wheat germ.
  • In a separate bowl beat together the eggs, oil, orange juice, and vanilla.
  • Add the wet mixture into the flour mixture and stir until evenly moistened.
  • Drain the cranberries and fold into the batter.
  • Scoop the batter evenly into the prepared muffin tin.  The cups will be very full.
  • Bake for 25-28 minutes or until a cake tester inserted into the middle of a muffin comes out clean.  Remove the muffins from the oven and allow to cool in the pan for 5 minutes.  Turn them out onto a wire rack and allow to cool completely.

Yields:  1 dozen muffins

Ravioli w/ Gorgonzola & Pears

IMG_4183

It’s Fast Friday again and time for another fast and fabulous dinner suggestion. If you are anything like me, by the time Friday rolls around the last thing I want to do is cook a big meal yet we all still have to eat. The dishes featured in this series aren’t necessarily fancy but they bring together simple ingredients most people already have in their pantries or have easy access to and allow you to put a real meal on the table in between 30 and 45 minutes. Enjoy and if you have your own fast recipes you want to share, please send them my way and I will in turn share them with all of my readers.

There is nothing like a perfectly ripe pear. Sweet and juicy, for me, eating one is a special treat. The only thing that makes a pear better is coupling it with a bit of salty and pungent gorgonzola cheese. In fact, I love this combination so much that both pears and gorgonzola cheese are kitchen staples. So these ingredients were my inspiration for my latest quick and easy “experimental dinner”. (“Experimental dinners” are what I affectionately refer to when I’m pulling together a dish for the first time). And after eating this dinner my entire family agreed that this meal was a success. Not only was it delicious but it was truly fast–as in I was able to pull all of the ingredients together and have dinner on the table in less than 15 minutes.

RAVIOLI w/ GORGONZOLA & PEARS

12 ounces fresh 4-cheese ravioli, cooked according to package instructions

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 shallot, thinly sliced

1 ripe pear, thinly sliced

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

dash freshly grated nutmeg

4 ounces gorgonzola cheese, crumbled

  • While the ravioli is cooking, heat the butter and olive oil in a large skillet set over medium-low heat.
  • When the butter has melted add the shallot and saute, stirring occasionally for 3 to 4 minutes or until the  shallots are beginning to soften.
  • Add the pears and stir gently taking care not to break the slices. Saute for an additional 3 to 4 minutes or until the pears are soft.
  • Add the cooked ravioli to the skillet and cook until heated through, 1-2 minutes.
  • Season with the salt, pepper and nutmeg.
  • Divide the ravioli between four serving dishes then sprinkle with the gorgonzola cheese.
  • Serve immediately.

Serves 4

 

Roasted Sweet Potatoes & Pears

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In preparation for Thanksgiving, I’m showcasing some of my favorite holiday recipes this month.  Some of them are family recipes while others are my own creations but each of them always has a place on my dining room table.  This fall I had the opportunity to be profiled by Albanian Living magazine as a part of their “traditional American Thanksgiving” article.  All of the recipes I’m sharing were a part of that Thanksgiving table.

For me, sweet potatoes are a classic fall dish and are a must for any Thanksgiving dinner table.  Much to my horror fresh sweet potatoes were impossible to find in Albania when we first moved here two plus years ago.  (In my opinion, canned ones are simply not an acceptable substitute).  A trip to the U.S. Navy commissary in Naples, Italy solved my problem but two overnight ferries make for an inconvenient shopping trip.  Fortunately times have changed here and although expensive, sweet potatoes are now readily available in the larger grocery stores in Tirana.

This roasted dish is a sophisticated take on the classic sweet potato casserole that is ubiquitous with so many Thanksgiving dinners.  Pears add a sweet surprise while sage adds a savory touch.  The potatoes are good hot from the oven but taste even better when served at room temperature which makes this the perfect dish for those of us trying to make too many dishes with limited oven space.

ROASTED SWEET POTATOES & PEARS

1 pound sweet potatoes, scrubbed, peeled, and cut into 1-inch cubes

2 ripe pears, peeled, cored, and cut into 1/2 inch cubes

1 shallot, minced

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoons fresh minced sage

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  • Place the potatoes,pears, and shallot in a large bowl.
  • Drizzle with the olive oil then add the sage, salt, and pepper.  Toss to coat.
  • Pour the mixture into a large rimmed baking sheet.
  • Roast in the oven for 40-45 minutes stirring the mixture once or twice.  Roast until the potatoes are tender when pierced with a fork.

Serves 4

Pear & Brie Pizza w/ Prosciutto

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More pizza!  What’s not to love about such a simple yet complex food.  Basic pizza dough is a blank canvas just begging to be dressed with creative and flavorful toppings.  The possibilities are endless.  I love combining sweet, savory, and salty flavors and this pizza fulfills all of these requirements.  As with all cooking, make sure to select the best quality of ingredients you can find.  When you use as few as this recipe does, the flavor of each one really does matter.  And choose the ripest pears possible since their sweetness contrasts so nicely with the saltiness of the prosciutto.

For the pizza dough:

1 Teaspoon active dry yeast

1/2 cup warm water (105-115 degrees)

1 Teaspoon honey

1 Tablespoon olive oil

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 Teaspoon Kosher salt

4 Teaspoons olive oil

  • Dissolve the yeast in the water.  Stir in the honey and let stand until the liquid begins to bubble, 3-5 minutes; stir in 1 tablespoon olive oil.
  • Pulse the flour, salt, and remaining olive oil in a food processor fitted with a steel blade.  With the machine running, pour in the yeast mixture and process until the dough forms a ball around the blade.
  • Remove the dough from the processor and knead on a lightly floured surface, adding more flour as necessary, until smooth and elastic, 1-2 minutes.
  • Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled bowl; turn to coat.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until the dough stretches gently when pulled, 30-60 minutes.
  • Punch dough down and divide into four pieces; shape into balls and roll in your hands until smooth, about one minute.
  • Arrange dough balls on a baking sheet, cover with plastic wrap coated with non-stick spray, and let rise for 30-60 minutes more.
  • Press each dough ball out on a lightly floured surface.  Turn dough, pressing on its center, then roll each into a 7 to 8 inch circle.  Transfer the rounds onto a pizza peel generously dusted with cornmeal; brush each with 1 teaspoon olive oil, then add toppings.

Pizza toppings:

6 tablespoons olive oil, divided

4 ounces prosciutto, diced

4 ounces brie cheese, cut into bite sized pieces

1 ripe pear, cored and sliced into thin wedges

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

  • Place 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a small skillet and heat over medium high heat.
  • Add the prosciutto and saute until crisp, 5-7 minutes.
  • Drain on a paper towel and set aside.

To Assemble the Pizzas:

  • Drizzle one tablespoon of olive oil onto the top of each pizza.
  • Evenly divide the brie cheese and pear slices over the top of each pizza.  Add the prosciutto.
  • Sprinkle the salt and oregano over the top of each pizza.
  • Place the pizzas directly onto the pre-heated pizza stone (you may need to do this in batches if you are cooking several pizzas).  In order to keep the grill hot,  shut the grill lid during the baking process.
  • Bake for 15-20 minutes or until the crust is crispy and brown and the toppings are hot.  The amount of baking time may vary depending upon the temperature of your grill so watch the pizzas carefully so they don’t burn.
  • Carefully remove the pizzas from the grill and allow to sit for 5 minutes before slicing.

Makes:  4 individual sized pizzas

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