Tuesday, September 2, 2008

so what do you do with 30 pounds of pears?

one thing i will say about post corporate life..it is always interesting. last week our friends richard and caitlin came over for the afternoon/evening. richard is the featured furniture/garden artist for my company and we had a "product inspiration and prioritization" meeting scheduled for the first few hours...then..work finished..our plan was to eat, drink, talk..and laugh..lots of laughing... richard walked in the house with with a massive smile on his face, lugging bags and bags and bags of ???... i opened one of the bags to find it completely filled with small, round yellow and orange colored fruit... pears..30 pounds of pears!! he lives next door to an organic farm in the carneros region of napa and their pears trees are so full of fruit right now that the branches are actually breaking. richard and caitlin picked the 30 pounds from just a few of the branches (with the owner's permission of course)..and laughingly commented that they knew just the person to give them to...that would be me... (9.4.08 update..the name of the organic farm is bonick family farm and they sell their produce to some of the finest restaurants in the napa valley. they let me know that they have a bumper crop this year..i know..i know...and they will be at the copia farmer's market. if you are in napa this fall..check them out..their fruit is delicious!)

so again, what do you do with 30 pounds of pears..two days before the labor day holiday..when you have friends scheduled to visit each day of the weekend..and you have already planned all the menus? if you are like me, you begin adjusting fast..because a gift like this is too amazing to go to waste.
now..did you notice that earlier i described the fruit as small, round and yellow/orange? not the usual description for pears.. these are asian pears which are a bit crisper than their european counterparts..kind of a cross between a pear and an apple...and they are perfect for many types of recipes. i love them in salads..and alternated between two versions during the weekend..i do not really follow recipes for salads..just use the amount you like of each ingredient..but the basics are as follows:
fresh pear with romaine & parmesan
romaine lettuce
diced fresh pear
walnut pieces
thinly sliced red onion
shaved parmesan cheese
toss together all ingredients with vinaigrette...
1/2 c lemon extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup champagne or sparkling wine vinegar
sea salt
freshly cracked pepper

combine all vinaigrette ingredients in a mason jar and shake well. lightly coat salad with dressing..leftover vinaigrette may be kept in the refrigerator..use within a few days for best taste.
another version is to substitute the walnuts for pine nuts and the parmesan for blue cheese. i use a balsamic vinegar vinaigrette on this one..same proportions..just use regular e.v.o.o. and balsamic vinegar...

i spent the weekend experimenting with pear recipes..poached them in wine, grilled them and served with fruit balsamic vinegars, made a pear tart..pear compote..pear cobbler..you name it. for inspiration i asked my twitter pals for their favorite recipes. now, if you are not familiar with twitter, i describe it as an on-line social network..where you answer the question "what are you doing?" in 140 characters. fellow twitterers sign up to "follow" you..and you sign up to follow people that interest you. one day soon i will write a post about twitter..i find it very interesting..and incredibly educational... the folks i follow are primarily foodies..chefs, food bloggers, home cooks, and people involved in green, eco-friendly lifestyles. they are an extremely knowledgeable bunch of people..and very, very generous with their help, tips and advice. suggestions for my pears came pouring in..i have so many recipes to try i can write another pear story..pear vinegar, pear brandy, roasted pears, pear appetizers..you name it... my absolute favorite came from @davina. she lives in italy and has sent me a number of delicious sounding recipes. her pear idea is for raviolis filled with sheep ricotta, grated parmesan, a bit of brie and tiny cubes of peeled pears... the raviolis are served topped with dots of butter and a parmesan cheese sauce...how great does that sound?? i plan to make this dish soon and promise to post the actual recipe once i figure it out..she just sent me the ingredients. for those of you on twitter, i invite you to follow me. ..and check out the people i follow..they are terrific..
so back to my richard story..we were talking about the pears and he suggested i add some pear items to my list of gourmet food items i will soon be making and selling on my website. i told him that only produce grown at the farmhouse could be used...so, what did he do? the next day, i came home to find a pear tree on my front porch..he actually bought me a pear tree! who does that? i told you..my world after corporate life is more interesting then i could ever have imagined...

now..after planting a pear tree this weekend (!!)..and experimenting with countless pear recipes..i realized that it is fruit week at the food fests for everyday food and away to garden..how timely is that? i decided to post the recipe that garnered the most raves this weekend.... i love combining pears with chocolate..so i created a recipe for spiced pear cupcakes with a chocolate glaze...this is the kind of recipe that..based on the quantity eaten..you know is a hit... friends and family ate multiple cupcakes..and asked for more to take home...yes..i baked a lot this weekend..but it was so worth it..give the cupcakes a try..and please let me know what you think...and don't forget to check out the everyday food and away to garden blogs this week for tons of terrific fruit recipes..

fresh pear cupcakes with chocolate glaze
4 cups fresh pears (cored and roughly chopped)
1 cup walnuts (chopped)
1 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
3 cups unbleached flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp kosher salt
3 eggs, beaten
1 1/2 cup olive oil
1 tsp vanilla

chocolate glaze
1 cup powdered sugar
3 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tbsp melted butter
3-4 tbsp boiling water
1/8 tsp instant coffee crystals

combine pear, white and brown sugar and walnuts in a medium sized bowl. let stand about an hour. (do not skip this step..this adds to the incredible moistness of these cupcakes).
preheat oven to 350 degrees. spray cupcake pan with cooking spray..add paper cupcake liners and spray again.
meanwhile, in a separate bowl, sift together the remaining dry ingredients. add to the pear mixture and stir until just combined. add the eggs, oil, and vanilla and stir until combined. **note, i use a wooden spoon..not a mixer for the recipe..if you use a mixer, be careful not to over beat***
fill cupcake sections until even with the top. bake 30-35 minutes until tester inserted in center of cupcakes comes out clean. remove from pan and cool on rack. whisk together all chocolate glaze ingredients in small bowl until glaze is smooth and shiny. place a dollop of chocolate glaze on the top of each cupcake.

so..one last time..what do you do with 30 pounds of pears..and more on their way? happily..i love the process of figuring out the answer to the question..but i could use your help..please add your favorite pear recipes to the comments section of this post...i will keep adding additional recipes too...so check back often..
napa farmhouse 1885™
"live a green life of style"™


Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
xxxxx said...

I am wondering the same thing here...but about apples (and like 300 pounds). Hope you'll come share your solutions (and maybe you can make my "mincemeat" with pears vs. the apples I'll be using).

Anonymous said...

And my 'problem' is peaches. The solution is going to be jam - yes, a bit boring, but delicious. Or maybe, 'mostarda'.

Looks like you've already got tons of ideas for your pears, but I'd make a pear sauce to go with roasts. (Crazy Brits.)

Vicci said...

Thank you for the ideas! I just noticed today that the deer have not touched the northwest side of my pear tree (why???)and so I picked them all. It's been ages since there have been any pears for us humans, and I couldn't think of what to do with them. Now I do! :)


Napa Farmhouse 1885 said...

hi margaret!
you are so right..your mincemeat recipe would be terrific with my pears. and some of the comments to your post would be perfect too..i am adding all of them to the list..thanks..i will let you know how it turns out...
and..300#s..you win..:)

Napa Farmhouse 1885 said...

hi sally...don't suppose you want to share your mostarda recipe?? (pls..she begs)
and the pear sauce recipe? both sound delicious

Napa Farmhouse 1885 said...

hi vicci..and welcome..
so happy the deers left some pears for you guys...thanks for the comments..and please let me know what you think of the pear recipes..are you trying the cupcakes?? a never fail hit at the farmhouse!!
what are your favorite recipes?

Anonymous said...

Lots and lots of cobbler! ;) Can you stew and can them, like apples?

Anonymous said...

I suggest you make pear butter. I know you have written about canning before so this seems like a perfect & delish solution.

Mark by Chocolate said...

You make sorbet. When our one peach tree, in Los Altos, came ripe, we ate and ate and ate, made pies, made whatever we could, gave it away but in the end we made about 40 quarts of sorbet.

madrekarin said...

Yum. Th pear cupcakes look delish! I made Gingered Pear Sauce from my gifted pears. I made the ginger syrup I use for homemade ginger ale in place of sugar. It gave the sauce a nice zing and is not too sweet. I love pear season.

Reeni said...

The cupcakes look so fresh and decadent. I love the idea of pear ravioli, they sound absolutely divine!

Cynthia said...

I wish I was living close by so that I could share this bounty with you! I love pears. Oh, I can just imagine the flavour in the cupcakes.

Napa Farmhouse 1885 said...

hi karen and tom...tom, i have never stewed pears..but i do make pear butter...here is a very easy recipe..karen..do you have another pear butter recipe? if so, please share..

asian pear butter
40 med asian pears (or 50 small)
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/2 orange
2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/8 tsp nutmeg

core and chop pears. combine pears and lemon juice in large pot and cook until pears are very soft. remove from heat and let cool slightly. run pears through food mill. place pear puree back in pot and add remaining ingredients. cook over medium heat until pear mixture has thickened and excess liquid has evaporated..about 1 hour. remove orange and immediately process according to safe canning guidelines..or store in refrigerator for up to one week...

Napa Farmhouse 1885 said...

ok mark by chocolate and madrekarin..spill! pear sorbet sounds wonderful..and since it has been 100 degrees each day for the past week..cooling...and the ginger syrup from madrekarin sounds perfect..i love the fact that it is not too sweet..please, please please..share your recipes? are they on your blogs?

Jenn said...

Pear infused vodka! Get the hardest, least ripe pears, slice them up and stuff them in a half-gallon jar, pour in a bottle of vodka to cover and close it up for a couple weeks - turn it every so often, gently so you don't break up the pears, and then decant.

Save the pears (if they haven't broken down) to add to a sorbet -- the vodka will help keep your sorbet from getting too hard.

If you have a juicer that pulverizes stuff into a pulp, make pear juice -- you can freeze it, drink it or make jelly with the juice. If you peeled and seeded the pears before juicing them, use the pulp to make jam or membrillo.

Poach some pears -- they last a long time soaking in wine in your refrigerator and are awesome on a hot day.

Anonymous said...

Farmhouse, I have a question. Can you substitute brandy for the vinegrette. I have an asian pear tree and lot's of brandy.

Napa Farmhouse 1885 said...

welcome back reeni.. i hope to make the pear ravioli this week..i will post the recipe if it turns out yummy!..
cynthia.. i wish you were close enough to take some! i am making the pear butter tomorrow to ensure they do not go to waste..

Napa Farmhouse 1885 said...

hi jenconspiracy and welcome!...the pear vodka is being added to the to do list immediately! thanks for this and all your other suggestions. i like your blog a lot and will visit often..thanks

Jenn said...


Oh - I'm looking forward to hearing about "pear ravioli" -- would that be pears sauteed and carmelized with onions? I could totally get behind that, maybe with a bit of cashew cheese...

Napa Farmhouse 1885 said...

hi anonymous,
regarding the vinaigrette..my suggestion was to use either champagne vinegar or sparkling wine vinegar...regarding the brandy..making pear brandy is on my list.. i suggest you follow jenconspiracy's recipe for pear vodka..just substitute the brandy..and you will be good to go..

Jenn said...

Anonymous' comment was a bit confusing to me - I'm not sure what she meant by brandy as infusing cheap grain alcohol (like vodka or everclear) and adding sweetener results in "fruit brandy."

Could be she means that she has lots of "pear brandy" which could just be infused alcohol...

If that's the case, I would recommend that it not be used in a vinaigrette as a main ingredient but as flavoring along with a lighter vinegar like champagne or unseasoned rice vinegar.

Anonymous said...

Hi Diane,
To answer your question, it's basically slightly poached fruit packed in sterilised jars with a very reduced syrop consisting of lemon juice and zest, honey, mustard powder, mustard seeds and white wine vinegar. (You're making me think I should post about it - and when I do, I'll send you the link.)

In the meantime, I must tell you about 'The Feast Within' blog - it's lovely. There are recent posts on making your own mustard!!! Never even thought of that before and (with your Corny Corny Lena in mind as well all the recipes for a courgette glut) a Zucchini Double Chocolate cake.