Culinarily speaking, at the moment we are with pears, along with other autumnal morsels like apples, wild mushrooms, quince, and kale. Rain and our PNW foliage characterize the season too. Cheese, wine, pizza, salad, dessert, all have a delicious relationship with pears, but pears and cheese are classic. In Italy it’s Parmesan, in the PNW it’s often blue or cheddar.
My mom made a pear salad when I was a kid which I thought was lovely – well, it was the only pear salad I knew at the time. Iceberg lettuce on a small plate, topped with half a pear, grated cheddar cheese, and a dollop of mayo dusted with paprika. Spectacular I thought. I’m still a sucker for anything with a dollop of mayonnaise.
Reading about roasted pear crostinis the other day, I got to thinking about making pears central to a meal using focaccia, pizza or tortillas along with blue cheese, walnuts, rosemary and arugula. Not my mom’s pear salad or any pizza she ever made, but 2011-worthy. Or, a blue cheese & walnut spread with sliced pears or pasta. Pour a sip of wine and it’s Saturday night.
Recipe: Blue Cheese & Walnut Spread with Pears
This isn’t a precise recipe, but a way to get going with this. Use these proportions, change them, double the recipe, whatever. Trust me, it’ll taste good.
Ingredients & directions: I used 1/4 C blue cheese (3 or 4 oz.), could be gorgonzola, 1/2 C cream cheese, 1/2 C roasted walnuts and a tiny bit of milk or cream/ Roast walnuts in a pan on the stove top for 5 or 6 minutes, medium heat, stirring often. Or, don’t roast the walnuts./ When cooled, chop finely and mix walnuts with the cheese and the dab of milk/ With ingredients at room temp this is easy to mix by hand and the blue cheese and walnuts don’t get pulverized/ Adjust ingredients to suit your own taste, adding more or less blue or cream cheese, maybe a tiny bit of finely chopped garlic or Worcestershire.
This is killer on a slice of pear or a cracker, with warm crostini or pita, stirred into a pile of steaming hot pasta or risotto. Sure, you can buy something like it at the store, but this is so good, it’s less expensive and takes under 10 minutes to make.
Recipe: Roasted Pear, Gorgonzola & Walnuts w/Focaccia
. . . or almost any thin bread. Focaccia, ciabatta, crostinis, pizza, fresh tortillas or pita. Excellent material for quesadillas.
Adjust quantities of these ingredients to suit your own taste, or according to what’s available. Pay attention to the process and that’s about it.
Ingredients: Focaccia/ 1 or 2 ripe pears, sliced thinly lengthwise/ 4 – 5 ounces of Gorgonzola or any blue cheese – not much is needed, it’s a hefty flavor/ 1/2 – 2/3 cup walnuts or pine nuts/ 1 T fresh rosemary, finely chopped. Arugula optional.
Directions: Brush the bread of choice with olive oil and spread thinly with room temperature cheese/ Arrange thinly sliced pears over the cheese and sprinkle with walnuts/ Bake at 375 degrees, 5 minutes for open-faced tortilla, 10 – 12 minutes for focaccia or pre-baked pizza dough/ Piping hot out of the oven, sprinkle with finely chopped rosemary, perhaps a little more cheese and a big handful of arugula. Best eaten while warm.
Or make quesadillas. Spread these same ingredients over one tortilla, top with a second tortilla. Grill in melted butter for 4 minutes on each side. Cool, slice and eat while warm.