Friday, 19 June 2009
Not long ago, I was wandering through Lisa Orgler’s wonderful Lunch Box Project * and came across several lovely pear drawings. I was particularly intrigued by Lisa’s lunch of sliced pears and white cheddar on pecan fruit bread.
It got me thinking about pears and wondering why I didn’t poach pears more often. A pear poached in red wine is one of my favourite things but I can’t seem to remember to take photos when I do make them! This had to be remedied!
It doesn’t really matter when we buy pears here in Toronto. They’re bound to be rock-hard. It’s really very sad. But I have found that they can be rescued and cajoled into tasting like pears by either oven-roasting them or poaching them.
The last time I poached pears, we put goat’s cheese into the centers of the pears. And always before that, we shaved Parmesan or Parmesan-like cheese over top of them. (Ooooh, I just thought of using gorgonzola! Wouldn’t that be phenomenal?!)
But I really liked the sound of Lisa’s pears with cheddar and pecan fruit bread and thought that adding pecans to the mix might be very nice.
But rather than making fruit bread, I decided to toast some pecans and add them as garnish. And while cheddar must be lovely with pecans and pears, I know that goat’s cheese is wonderful with pears. And besides, it fits so well in the cored area of the pear!
Straying even further from Lisa’s lunch, I started thinking about the thyme in our garden. I’ve not used thyme in a dessert before and thought, why not? It might be fun to add thyme. Because there’s never enough thyme, is there?
Here’s what I did to make the pears:
Wine Poached Pears with Goat’s Cheese and Toasted Pecans
based on our recipe for Pears Poached in Red Wine & Garnished with Italian Cheese
- Pecans, broken in half
- ½ c dry red wine
- On sprig, fresh Thyme
- 1 Bosc pear, slightly unripe
- 1 tsp sugar
- Creamy Goat’s Cheese
- Fresh Thyme leaves
- Put pecans onto a shallow tray with sides. Dot with butter. Bake at medium heat until the pecans are toasted. (WATCH them! It doesn’t take much time at all.) Set aside.
- Pour wine (we use an inexpensive but drinkable dry South American red) into a pot just large enough to hold the pear cut in half. Stir in sugar and add one small sprig of thyme (I used silver thyme).
- Peel the pear, but leave the top stem on the pear if you can (there was no stem on the bosc pear I used). Cut the pear in half. It’s even better if you can slice through the stem so that both pear halves have a piece of stem attached. Core the pear halves and place them cut side down into pot of wine, ensuring that all surfaces get covered with wine. (This stops browning.)
- Bring the wine to a smiling boil and gently poach for about 20 minutes. If you are doing other things, cover the pot with a lid. Baste every so often so wine covers all surfaces.
- Remove pear halves when tender (check by sticking a fork carefully into the cored area). Place the pear halves cut side up in their serving bowls. Put scoops of goat’s cheese into the cored area. Set aside.
- Turn the heat up a little on the wine and reduce it to half the volume. Then pour it equally over pears (fish out the thyme sprig and discard it). This is the end of the section that can be done in advance.
- Just before serving, garnish with fresh thyme leaves (I used both silver and lemon thyme) and scatter pecan pieces around the pear halves.
Serve cold or at room temperature.
:: Any kind of pear will work. It certainly doesn’t have to be a Bosc. Anjou and Bartlett are good as well. And it’s much better if the pears are in season…. If the pear is very unripe and hard, leave it on the counter for a couple of days to ripen.
:: Be generous with the goat’s cheese. It adds a lovely contrast in flavour. Next time, I plan to substitute with gorgonzola for even more contrast. Pears and gorgonzola go wonderfully together.
:: This is not terribly sweet – if you have a sweet tooth, or are serving people who like sweets, sprinkle a little sugar over top just before serving OR add more sugar to the wine for poaching.
:: I wonder if it would be fun to have oven-dried pear slices as part of the garnish too….
Oven-dried Pear Slices
- firm pear
- cider vinegar
- Wash pear well. Use a mandoline to slice the pear very thinly – core, stem, seeds and all. Slice from the bottom of the pear toward the stem for the nicest looking results. Dip the pear slices in cider vinegar to stop them from oxydizing. Place them on a rack laid over a cookie sheet.
- Oven-dry the pears. I have used the toaster oven at its lowest heat – it took about 30 minutes because I decided the pear slices shouldn’t be tooooooo chewy. But a regular oven can be left at a lower temperature so the pear slices may take longer to dry – around an hour or so at 200F. Note that the pear slices get harder when they cool.
These pear slices are wonderful on their own, or on a cheese plate, or in salad, or….
This is a lovely refreshing dessert to have after a large festive dinner. Or any dinner, frankly.
And how did this particular poached pear taste? I’ll be truthful: I’m not sure that the thyme in the wine syrup added a lot to the final flavour. It’s pretty though.
I have to confess that I was a little disappointed in the overall flavour. The pear was quite dull (but what do I expect if I buy a rock-hard pear so far out of season?) and there wasn’t enough goat’s cheese. They looked lovely and added a nice crunch but I’m not sure that the pecans added a whole lot either.
Sigh, it looks like Lisa is right:
It seems the only way we get pears in our diet is through a metal can. I guess the can bypasses the small window of pear freshness. As Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, “There are only ten minutes in the life of a pear when it is perfect to eat.”
- Lisa Orgler, The Lunch Box Project: pear
However, I suspect that if the pear had been a great pear, I would be raving about this dessert and wanting to have it every night.
So please don’t let my recent semi-failure at making poached pears stop you from trying this. It really is a delightful dessert! It looks beautiful; it’s not too filling and it’s very easy to prepare.
By the way, T refused to even try the poached pears. He was miffed that I had insisted on buying a Bosc rather than a Bartlett. But I think the real reason was that he was too busy eating a bowl of his latest creation: coconut ice cream. That’s right, you heard me: coconut ice cream (…that I attempted to refuse to try) remind me to tell you about it!
recipes or informative posts where people can learn about cooking with herbs or unusual plant ingredients
Silver and Lemon Thyme (Thymus argenteus and Thymus citriodorus)
(All fresh herbs can be dried but they are invariably better fresh. But if you do want to substitute dried for fresh, 1 Tbsp fresh herb = 1 tsp dried herb.)
Over the years, I have had terrible luck trying to grow thyme in our garden. If it manages to get through the summer in our garden, it really doesn’t want to survive the winter. Even if I bring it indoors. However, each year, I’m determined to try growing thyme in our garden.
I love the look of the variegated thymes so rather than getting regular thyme, I got silver and lemon thymes this year. Both lemon and silver thyme should be grown from cuttings or root divisions – silver thyme in particular does not set seeds at all. Silver thyme needs to be watered normally but lemon thyme is drought tolerant but still has to be watched carefully if it is in a pot. Potted plants can dry out very quickly, especially if they are exposed to wind.
Late last month, I transplanted lemon thyme and silver thyme purchased from the garden center. I made sure that the roots were just in soil rather than in one of those horrible felt blocks that freeze as soon as there’s a hint of cold. So maybe this year will be the lucky charm year! Wish me luck.
There isn’t a huge difference in flavour between lemon and silver thymes. The lemon thyme does have a slightly lemony scent. But otherwise, both of the thymes taste just like thyme. Wonderful, that is.
While thyme is not commonly used in sweets, it’s not at all unheard of. Google to find a berry compote with thyme to put on ice cream, a drink made with raspberries and thyme, an orange thyme tea cake, a pear/thyme/rosemary sorbet, figs poached in white wine & fresh thyme, and thyme cookies with orange zest.
Of course there are countless savoury recipes that call for thyme. But only one of the herb books we have on our shelves makes any mention of mixing thyme with sweets.
Thyme is one of the most versatile of all culinary herbs, so if you plant only a single herb variety in your path of ground, choose common thyme. [...] The ultimate joy of growing fresh herbs is using them in cooking. [...] The light perfume of [...] lemon thyme give a hint of mysterious flavoring to Italian biscotti.
-Georgianne Brennan and Mimi Luebbermann, Little Herb Gardens
Please read more about thyme:
- My previous WHB posts featuring thyme:
Vegetarian Shepherd’s Pie – deconstructed (WHB#156 3rd anniv)
- Other blog posts featuring thyme and pears:
- blog from OUR kitchen: salad with pears and pinenuts dressed with raspberry thyme vinaigrette
- briciole: Zucca ripiena Acorn Squash stuffed with pears, scallions and chopped pecans & seasoned with thyme (WHB#112)
- Just Get Floury: Chicken-Thyme-Pear-Brie Sandwich
- The Kitchy Kitchen: Pear Upside down cake with lemon-thyme syrup
- Let Them Eat Cake: Cinnamon Thyme Poached Pear Tart
- Lucullian delights: Carrot, pear and thyme soup with toasted sesame seeds
- My Own Sweet Thyme: Roasted Pears with Rosemary and Thyme
- Never Trust a Skinny Cook: Honey roasted pear salad with thyme dressing
- Up a Creek without a Patl: Turkey Pear Tart
- our garden: a tiny bit about growing thyme
- American Cancer Society: antioxidants (“Common Cooking Herbs Packed with Antioxidants”)
- BlogHer: Cooking with Fresh Herbs: Thyme
- The Cook’s Thesaurus: thyme (scroll down on linked page)
- Dave’s Garden: Silver Thyme and Lemon Thyme
- The Epicentre: thyme
- Gernot Katzer’s Spice pages: Thyme (Thymus vulgaris)
- Plants for a Future: Thymus citriodorus
- RecipeLand: Recipes that contain thyme leaves and USDA nutritional information chart for thyme leaves
- wikipedia: Thyme
This week’s WHB host is Graziana (Erbe in Cucina (Cooking with Herbs)). The deadline for entering WHB#188 is Sunday 21 June 2009 at 15:00, Utah time (GMT-7). For complete details on how to participate in Weekend Herb Blogging, please see the following:
- Erbe in Cucina – WHB#188 guidelines
- Cook (almost) Anything – WHB information page – includes links to guidelines, who’s hosting, recaps
* Lisa Orgler’s charming Lunch Box Project drawings are all done on playing cards and if you look closely at her images, you can make out which card she used. She wrote the following explanation that appears on the sidebar of her website:
Forget dieting, my new year’s resolution is to eat big! I love food, I love art, I love journaling… so I plan to combine them all into one big event – The Lunch Box Project. My goal in 2009 is to create one masterpiece a day – each on a playing card [...]
image and reproduction rights reserved [...] Please contact [Lisa] for permission to use illustrations.
I first became aware of Lisa Orgler’s drawings when she generously donated one of her drawings for BloggerAid’s Art Auction with a Twist (proceeds going to the School Meals program of the UN World Food Programme). The drawing is on the Ebay auction block until June 24, 2009. (See Lisa’s post Art Auction with a Twist for more details.)
And it was Lisa’s flagged pear at the beginning of June that jump-started me into picking up a pear at the market to make poached pears with thyme. (I emailed Lisa to make sure it was okay to use her image on this post and was very pleased to get a positive reply. Thank you, Lisa!) Please do note that Lisa sells her artwork – many of the Lunch Box drawings are available as notecards.
edit 22 June 2009: Graziana has posted the WHB#188 recap. There are several wonderful looking dishes, many using fruit as well. Do take a look!