What’s Cooking: Pears

Mmm, pears. Around here they’re picked in summer – and they taste spectacular grilled alongside that steak – but pears seem more suited to autumn meals and desserts. Something about the way they go with cinnamon, I guess.

Pears work in any course, from appetizers and salads, right through entrees and of course dessert. It’s also easier to pair wines with pear dishes – you don’t have the acids fighting each other like you do with some other fruits.

One thing to remember about pears: They’re picked before they are ripe, and usually sold that way, too.

Choose unblemished fruit and let it sit on the counter for a few days. Bartlett pears will turn yellow when they’re ripe. For most other varieties, including Bosc and Anjou, a slight softness at the stem end will tell you they’re ready to eat or cook.

Then use them quickly. As Ralph Waldo Emerson was quoted, “There are only 10 minutes in the life of a pear when it is perfect to eat.” But what perfection.


Pork chops with ginger and pear

Prep time: 20 minutes

Cook time: 25 minutes

Serves 4

In this quick sauté, vinegar and sugar are caramelized in the skillet, forming a deep, richly flavored base for the sauce. Ginger adds a spicy note that plays against the mild pork and pear. Recipe from Eating Well.


Four 4-ounce boneless pork chops, 1/2 inch thick, trimmed

Salt & freshly ground pepper, to taste

2 teaspoons canola oil

3 tablespoons cider vinegar

2 tablespoons sugar

2/3 cup dry white wine

1 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth

1 firm, ripe pear, such as Bosc or Anjou, peeled, cored and cut lengthwise into eighths

One 11/2-inch-long piece fresh ginger, peeled and cut into thin julienne strips (1/4 cup)

6 scallions, trimmed and sliced into 1/2-inch lengths

2 teaspoons cornstarch mixed with 2 teaspoons water


Season pork with salt and pepper. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add pork and cook until browned and just cooked through, 2 to 3 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate and keep warm. Pour off fat from the pan.

Add vinegar and sugar to the pan; stir to dissolve the sugar. Cook over medium-high heat until the syrup turns dark amber, 10 to 20 seconds. Pour in wine (stand back, as the caramel may sputter) and bring to a simmer, stirring. Add broth, pears and ginger; bring to a simmer. Cook, uncovered, turning the pears occasionally, for 5 minutes.

Add scallions and cook until the pears are tender, about 2 minutes more. Add the cornstarch mixture and cook, stirring, until lightly thickened. Reduce heat to low and return the pork and any accumulated juices to the pan; turn to coat with the sauce. Serve immediately.

Per serving : 237 calories; 5 g fat; 1 g sat; 2 g mono; 52 mg cholesterol; 13 g carbohydrates; 23 g protein; 2 g fiber; 286 mg sodium; 635 mg potassium.


Roquefort pear salad

Serves 6

The dressing here is based on a Trader Joe’s recipe. Leftover dressing can be refrigerated for up to 3 days.


1/3 cup olive oil

3 tablespoons red wine vinegar

1 1/2 teaspoons sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons powdered mustard

1 clove garlic, minced

1/2 teaspoon salt

Freshly ground black pepper

1 head butter-leaf lettuce, rinsed and dried, then torn into bite-size pieces

3 ripe Bartlett or Red Bartlett pears, peeled, cored and chopped (may leave unpeeled and cut into thin slices)

5 ounces Roquefort cheese, crumbled (may substitute Stilton blue cheese)

Flesh of 1 avocado, cut into dice

3 or 4 scallions, white and light-green parts, cut crosswise into thin slices (1/2 cup)

1/2 cup candied pecan halves, for garnish Roquefort pear salad


Combine the oil, vinegar, sugar, powdered mustard, garlic and salt in a jar with a tight-fitting lid. Close tightly and shake to form an emulsified dressing. Season with pepper to taste, shaking to incorporate.

Toss together the lettuce leaves, pears, cheese, avocado and scallions in a mixing bowl. Pour half of the dressing over the mixture – or to taste – and toss to coat evenly.

Transfer to a platter or divide among individual plates. Sprinkle with the pecans; pass the remaining dressing at the table.

Per serving: 250 calories; 18 g fat (6 g sat.); 20 mg chol.; 530 mg sodium; 18 g carb.; 5 g fiber; 9 g sugar; 7 g protein.


Italian pear tart

Prep time: 30 minutes, plus cooling time

Cook time: 45 minutes

Serves 8-10

This tart has an easy patted-in crust that’s similar to shortbread. A simple custard base is poured over the parbaked tart and returned to the oven.

The tart can also be made with a combination of apples and pears. If you like, switch out the almond extract for vanilla.

Adapted by Kathy Morrison from a recipe from “Ciao Italia With Mary Ann Esposito.”



2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

3/4 cup sugar, divided

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch pieces, plus butter for greasing pan


4 medium Bartlett or Anjou pears, not too soft, peeled, cored and thinly sliced

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

2 egg yolks

1 cup heavy cream

1/2 teaspoon almond extract


Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease with butter the bottom and sides of a 10-inch springform pan. (A high-sided tart pan with removable bottom also works.)

Combine the flour, 2 tablespoons of the sugar, the salt and baking powder in a medium bowl. Cut in the butter with a pastry blender or two knives until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Firmly pat the mixture evenly into the bottom of the prepared pan. (The flat bottom of a glass or measuring cup is useful for this.)

Arrange the pear slices on the crust, overlapped them slightly and filling in the entire surface. Combine the remaining sugar with the cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg in a small bowl, and sprinkle it evenly over the pear slices.

Bake the tart for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile whisk together the egg yolks, the cream and the almond extract. Pour cream mixture evenly over the pear mixture and bake the tart 30 more minutes or until the top is golden brown.

Remove tart from the oven and cool on a rack for 10 minutes. Run a knife along the edge of the tart and then carefully remove the pan ring. Cut the tart into wedges and serve warm. Refrigerate any leftovers. (It’s also good served chilled.)