Janine Gilbertson's Granite Kitchen: Don't pass on pears

By JANINE GILBERTSON September 11. 2018 10:33PM
Pear bread pudding. (JANINE GILBERTSON)

I’ve noticed a few spots in the landscape where the leaves are starting to change color as we move into fall, a sure sign that pumpkins and apples will soon be everywhere.

If you don’t notice any changes in the foliage yet, just step inside a grocery store and you will see piles of apples, pumpkins and mums for sale.

I was excited to write about apples this week but as I stood in the produce section of the grocery store, I noticed another fall fruit that deserves attention: pears.

I can’t figure out why pears don’t get the same hype as apples in the fall. After all there’s about 3,000 known varieties worldwide and pears have been around since prehistoric times. In fact, traces of pears were found in prehistoric dwellings around Lake Zurich in the Swiss Alps. The word pear occurs in Celtic languages and pears were cultivated by the Romans, who used the fruit in the same way they used apples.

I had pear trees in my yard at my last house. As summer came to a close every year, the pears would fall from the trees and turn into piles of mush because I never bothered to use them. That all changed one year after a trip to the grocery store, when I picked up a bag of pears and brought them home. I remember getting out of my car and glancing over at the pear trees and the mush piles as I got the grocery bags out of the car, thinking how foolish it was that I couldn’t be bothered to use the pears from my pear trees because I somehow thought the unblemished, perfectly formed grocery store pears were better.

I didn’t make the same mistake the next year. I picked the pears when they were ripe instead of letting them fall to the ground to decay and got busy finding ways to put them to use.

One of my favorite recipes using pears is a banana pear muffin with cardamon and cinnamon. I like to blend different kinds of flour together to make the muffins more nutritious and the last few times I’ve made them I used coconut oil instead of vegetable oil and achieved an excellent result.

Pears are also fantastic when used in a bread pudding. They soften just enough and your kitchen smells incredible while the bread pudding bakes.

But pears aren’t just for baking; they’re delicious in salads, too. I like to pair them with spinach and pecans, then dress the salad with olive oil and a little balsamic vinegar.

I haven’t forgotten the apples. Look for apple recipes next week.

Pear Bread Pudding

1 medium size loaf day old bread such as Callah 

2 T. butter, melted

5 eggs

2 c. milk

3/4 c. white sugar

2 tsp. cinnamon

1 tsp. vanilla

1/4 c. pecans, chopped, if desired

Spray a baking dish with cooking spray and set aside. Tear the bread into small pieces (about 1 or 2 inches) and spread along the bottom of the baking dish. Add the chopped pears and spread evenly over the bread, then sprinkle the chopped pecans over the top. Drizzle the butter over the bread and pears. Add the eggs, milk, cinnamon, sugar and vanilla to a bowl and whisk together, then pour evenly over the bread and pears. Use a fork or a spatula to press the bread and pears into the dis and to ensure they are covered with the egg mixture. Set in an oven heated to 350 degrees and bake for 35 to 45 minutes or until the egg mixture is no longer liquid and the pudding is golden brown on the top. 
Banana pear muffins 

Banana Pear Muffins

3 ripe bananas, mashed

1/2 c. vanilla yogurt (Greek style)

1/4 c. coconut oil (melted)

3/4 c. sugar

2 eggs

1/4 tsp. salt

1 tsp. cinnamon

1 tsp. cardamon

1 tsp. baking soda

1/4 c. whole wheat flour

1/2 c. buckwheat flour

3/4 c. white flour

1 1/2 c. pears, peeled and chopped

1/4 c. granola (optional)

Add the banana, yogurt, eggs, sugar and coconut oil to a medium bowl and mix well to combine. In a separate bowl, whisk together the salt, cinnamon, baking soda and flours. (You can use all white flour if necessary) Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix well, then stir in the pears. Spray a muffin pan with cooking spray and fill the muffins about 3/4 of the way full, then sprinkle the granola on top. Set the muffins in an oven preheated to 350 degrees and bake for 18-20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean. 
Spinach pear salad. 

Spinach Pear Salad

2 c. fresh spinach

1 c. watercresss

3/4 c. carrot, shredded

1 pear, sliced

1/2 c. seedless cucumber, sliced

2 T. olive oil

pinch of Kosher salt

1 T. balsamic vinegar glaze

Chopped pecans, if desired, for garnish

Add the spinach, watercress and carrot to a large bowl and drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle salt over the spinach and toss well to coat the spinach, then transfer to a serving dish. Set the cucumber and pear slices over the spinach, then drizzle with balsamic glaze and garnish with pecans, if desired.


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