Before we were married, Charlie & I cooked an elaborate Thanksgiving feast for friends. As it turned out, it was the first of countless large meals we would prepare together through the twentysome years that have followed. Parties have never been my strong suit but I’ll have to say, together, we make a pretty awesome team.
It’s strange to look back and think about the little things that impressed me about my husband-to-be. His interest in cooking good food was evident from the start when he suggested roasting a black truffle turkey and a strangely wonderful spinach-pear puree as a side dish. I wouldn’t have ever come up with such unusual pairings on my own but he’s a mixologist at heart and not just at the bar. This is a guy who loves to mix it up and will try just about any combination of ingredients.
I was surprised how the poached pear adds a creaminess to the spinach making very much like one of my favorites that I rarely make — creamed spinach. It’s not only easier and healthier, if you’re trying to impress someone, all I can say is — it worked on me.
Spinach Pear Puree Recipe
1 lb fresh spinach, washed and stems removed (Whistling Train Farm is back at the University Farmers Market!)
1 ripe pear, peeled and cored ( Booth Canyon Orchard has some excellent organic, heirloom varieties)
Salt & pepper
Steam spinach in a steamer basket for about 3 minutes. Remove basket from pan, place spinach in cold water. Remove from cold water and squeeze out excess liquid.
Bring water in a small saucepan to a boil. Submerge pear, turn water down to a simmer. Poach pear until it’s tender but not falling apart — about 10 – 15 minutes.
Put spinach and pear in blender or bowl and use a hand blender. Add a big knob of butter and blend until smooth.
Warm gently, salt & pepper to taste and serve right away for the best green color. (and yes, I added more butter on top)
I found an ancient xerox of this recipe in our paper recipe file and it appears to be from Michel Guerard’s Cuisine Minceur — from what I gather this cookbook was all the rage in the 70’s and gave rise to healthier cooking by eliminating the butter and cream from traditional recipes. Obviously, the big knob of butter was my idea, not Michel Guerard’s.
An equally impressive pear side dish that works well with any roasted meat, is roasted pears. I saw recipes for roasting pears with parsnips or turnips, both sound lovely but I went with pure pears and drizzled some rosemary-honey-butter on top. One bite and I thought I’d died and gone to heaven. Everything delicious — crunchy, caramelized, sweet, savory, floral and piney.
Roasted Pears with Rosemary-Honey-Butter Recipe
4 pears, cored and sliced — figure about 1 pear per person
1 T honey
1 T butter
1 t fresh chopped rosemary
Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
Place sliced pears in a bowl. Splash in enough olive oil (about 2 T) to lightly coat the slices.
Place on cookie sheet lined with parchment paper, salt the slices.
Roast for 25 – 30 minutes, turning the slices over after about 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, place butter in small saucepan and melt. Add honey and chopped rosemary. Simmer for a few seconds and then remove from heat.
When the pears are done, place in serving dish and drizzle with rosemary-honey-butter. Try not to eat the entire bowlful before you get it to the table.
Thanks to Susie Middleton’s Fast, Fresh & Green for the inspiration for this recipe.
Once I got on a pear roll, I kept seeing different ways to use them and ended up feeling like I’ve been truly under-utilizing this versatile fruit. Sunset Magazine‘s November issue has a very elegant appetizer can be made by simply wrapping a pear slice with a piece of prosciutto. Drizzle on a little olive oil and a splash or two of sherry vinegar, salt & pepper and you’re done, ready to party.
For more ideas of delicious ways to Bring Pears to the Party, check out Sally’s post with pear upside-down gingerbread, pear ginger chutney and roasted pear blue cheese salad.