Robin Mather of the Chicago Tribune offers the following recipes using pears. She is a longtime food journalist and the author of “The Feast Nearby,” a collection of essays and recipes from a year of eating locally on a budget. Follow her as she writes her third book at thefeastofthedove.com.
This simple tart will look — and taste — more impressive than its simple ingredients might suggest. Remember that you want pears that will hold their shape for this tart. If you can’t find creme fraiche, substitute lightly sweetened sour cream as a garnish at serving time.
Makes: about 12 servings
2 ¼ cups ground almond meal
4 ½ tablespoons sugar
8 tablespoons melted salted butter
2 cups sugar, divided use (plus more for browning)
3 Anjou, Bosc or Comice pears, peeled, sliced in half
1 ½ cups milk
2 teaspoons vanilla
3 eggs, lightly beaten
¼ cup flour
¼ cup sliced toasted almonds
Creme fraiche, sweetened sour cream or whipped cream
1. For the crust: Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Combine almond meal, sugar and melted butter in a medium bowl. Stir to combine. Pat the crust mixture into the bottom and up the sides of a 12-inch tart pan and press into place with the bottom of a drinking glass. Bake the crust until just colored, 10 to 15 minutes. Remove and allow to cool completely before filling.
2. For the filling: Heat 4 cups water and 1½ cups sugar to a boil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to low. Add the pears; poach until tender, 20-25 minutes. Remove pears from the syrup. Allow to cool, then cut out cores. Cut the pears into fans by slicing into ¼-inch slices that remain attached by about ½ inch at the stem end. Set aside.
3. Combine milk and vanilla in a small saucepan and bring it to just a simmer over medium heat. (Don’t let it boil over.) Combine eggs, remaining ½ cup sugar and the flour in a large saucepan. Temper the mixture by slowly whisking in a little of the hot milk. Then gradually whisk in the rest. Cook, whisking continuously, over medium heat. At the first sign of a boil, 3 to 6 minutes, remove pan from the heat while continuing to whisk until mixture begins to thicken. Allow the custard to cool.
4. Spoon cooled custard into the tart shell. Lay the fanned-out pears, stem end inward, in the custard. Scatter the sliced almonds over top. Sprinkle with 1 to 2 tablespoons sugar. Heat the broiler in the oven. Place the tart on the middle rack, 4 to 5 inches from the broil. Allow to broil until pears and custard are golden, about 5 minutes, watching carefully.
5. Serve warm with creme fraiche, sweetened sour cream or whipped cream.
Nutrition information per serving: 428 calories, 22 g fat, 7 g saturated fat, 69 mg cholesterol, 54 g carbohydrates, 45 g sugar, 8 g protein, 101 mg sodium, 4 g fiber
VANILLA-CARDAMOM PEAR BUTTER
Makes: about 7 half-pints
You’ll definitely want to use ripe Bartlett pears for this fruit butter because they cook into a silky puree. Making this pear butter in the slow cooker means you don’t have to stand over it while it cooks. We’ve given directions to both can and freeze this sumptuous delight.
6 ½ pounds Bartlett pears, peeled, cored and cut into ½-inch cubes
Juice of 1 large lemon
½ cup sugar
¼ teaspoon coarse salt
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1. Tumble all ingredients except butter into a slow cooker. Stir to blend, then cover and cook on low until the pear butter is very thick and mounds on a spoon, 8 to 10 hours. Test its readiness by placing a spoonful on a plate; if no liquid escapes around the edges, the pear butter is ready. If it weeps, continue to cook with the lid crosswise to allow excess liquid to evaporate.
2. Stir in the butter until it is fully melted. Ladle the hot pear butter into sterile half-pint jars, leaving ¼-inch headspace. To can, apply lids and rings just until finger tight; process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes. To freeze, allow the pear butter to cool to room temperature, then freeze without lids. Once pear butter is frozen, add lids and freeze for up to six months.
Nutrition information per tablespoon: 21 calories, 0 g fat, 0 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 5 g carbohydrates, 3 g sugar, 0 g protein, 5 mg sodium, 1 g fiber