I’m humming that song from The Sound of Music… “My Favorite Things”. You know the one, right? Only instead of raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens and sleigh bells and schnitzel (who came up with that last one anyway?), I’ve got a few other things in mind. Fiery autumn leaves is obviously one of them and along with brilliant foliage displays comes myriad food associations, many of which are among my most favored of all. Who here doesn’t drool just thinking about just-picked butternut squash, pumpkin, chestnuts, figs, apples, rutabaga, parsnips… the list of glorious local produce this time of the year is nearly endless.
Coincidentally, I’ll be bringing you recipes for each of those locally grown ingredients over the next few weeks. I’ve had a streak of foraging luck recently that even the wildest woman would be proud of, gathering up such uncommon delicacies as hardy kiwis and tender stalks of rhubarb from rather unexpected places. Stay tuned for those stories as they unfold in future posts. (Yes, I’m a tease sometimes.)
At the very tippy top of this blogger’s “my favorite things” list sits a golden orb, the regal Asian pear. Starting in mid-September, I literally haunt the walkways of farmers markets and the websites of pick-your-own orchards, ready to pounce on that first harvest of the season. From the moment I bite that first succulent juicy sweet fruit ‘til the flood of pears dwindles to a trickle in November, I eat them like a bear getting ready for hibernation. Fortunately, they’re so healthy, I don’t pack on the same pounds as a bear.
But really, if you’ve never had an Asian pear (versus, say, a more common Bartlett), you haven’t let your taste buds really experience life. These pears are so tender and oh-so juicy. No matter how careful you are, juice is going to dribble down your chin and you’re going to giggle when it does because Asian pears make you so very happy.
Generally I don’t cook with these pears though. Why cook them when they’re already perfect fresh? I tried making pear butter with them last year though and found that while it was good, it wasn’t any better than eating them raw. This year, after getting my initial “fix” on the amazing pears from North Star Orchard, I decided to try cooking with them once more. Just when you think you can’t improve upon perfection, along comes Sweet Gorgonzola and Pear Bruschetta.
My, oh my, what a match made in heaven: slightly tangy and pungent blue cheese (which, by the way, I don’t typically like so try this even if you aren’t a gorgonzola fan) meets effervescently sweet and caramelized grilled pear slices and together they tumble into a bed of toasted multigrain baguette, using bits of walnut to hide their torrid affair. Need I say more? Perhaps I should go into writing romance novels as a second career? Even I’m a little hot and bothered by that description. Or maybe it’s just the memory of how magnificent this bruschetta was.
Once again, I am raving about a recipe from Totally Vegetarian. In case you’ve been asleep for the past month on SFTF, let me just cut to the chase and insist that you get yourself a copy of this cookbook. I’m about 10 recipes into it now and every single one has been a show-stopper.
Sweet Gorgonzola and Pear Bruschetta
Adapted from Totally Vegetarian
1 large ripe Asian pear
1 multigrain or French baguette
1 garlic clove, peeled and left whole
¼ lb. Gorganzola dolce (creamy, not crumbly)
½ C. walnuts, toasted in a skillet if desired
1 T. extra virgin olive oil
Cut the pear in half and core it. Slice thinly and set aside. Heat a grill pan over medium heat and brush with oil. When the pan is hot, place the slices of pear on it and grill on each side just until soft and displaying grill marks. Remove pear from grill pan and set aside.
Leave the pan on low heat while you slice the bread into half inch thick pieces. Brush the grill pan with a little more oil and return heat to medium high. Grill the bread slices on each side until golden. Turn off heat and immediately rum the outside edges of each slice of bread with the garlic clove.
Next, spread each slice of warm bread with Gorgonzola and top with pieces of walnut and grilled pear slices. If desired, drizzle a little more oil and/or honey over the bruschetta just before serving.