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The Perfect Pearing

Tue Dec 4, 2007


Spicy Pear Tart

Delicate and sweet, with a hint of natural spice, the pear is an unbelievably versatile fruit. Its crisp flavor serves as the perfect foil for pungent Gorgonzola or Stilton, while its almost creamy flesh can act as a textural counterpoint to the crunch of candied nuts on a fall salad. Poach or roast them whole and enjoy their structural grace on the plate or eat them right out of the fruit bowl.

In the United States pears are grown mostly in the Pacific Northwest and Northern California, where the warm summer days, cool nights and rainy winters allow the fruit to ripen slowly and fully. The varieties we know best: Bosc, Comice, Anjou, Bartlett and Seckel are descendents of European varieties, the graceful subjects of countless still life paintings and a valuable commodity for traders. Because they bruise easily, the pears we buy at the farmer’s market or in the store are generally unripe. Choose ones that are firm and fragrant and let them ripen before you eat them. A ripe pear will give to the touch around its stem. To speed up the process, place pears in a paper bag, pierced a few times, for a couple of days. Adding a ripe banana or apple hastens the process. But remember to check your pear often; there’s a brief window where the fruit is at its peak. Wait too long and they become saccharine and soupy. I prefer my pears firm-ripe, for a little crunch.The pear season starts at the end of the summer and continues through the spring, but you can find the most varieties in late fall and early winter. I love tiny Forelles and Seckels, which are great for eating unadulterated. Boscs and Bartletts have firmer flesh that can withstand the stress of cooking. And the Comice is lovely on a cheese plate, drizzled with local honey. The most common variety is the Anjou, which is a bit milder in flavor than the aforementioned, but easy to find and hardy, for a pear.At the end of the summer, I became a bit obsessed with pears as the berries and melons faded into yet another memory of a summer gone by. I searched and searched for recipes that used spice to contrast the fruit’s sweetness. When none satisfied, I set out to create my own—a spicy pear tart. I’ve never created an entire recipe before, not with accurate measurements that could easily be followed, at least. (My kitchen experiments are generally one-offs, the exact combination of flavors never to be duplicated again.) I made, tweaked, remade and refined my recipe over and over, culminating on Thanksgiving, when I hit my stride. The heat from ginger and Sarawak white pepper lingered without overpowering, the clove and fresh grated nutmeg added earthy sweetness and the pears were the perfect texture, with slight tart tang. I hope you think so, too.

Spicy Pear Tart

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour

3 tbsp sugar

½ tsp salt

10 tbsp chilled, unsalted butter, cut into cubes

1 large egg yolk

1 tbsp water

Blend flour, sugar and salt in food processor until combined. Add butter, pulsing until the mixture resembles course meal. Add egg yolk and water and return to pulsing until the dough gathers into moist clumps. Turn out onto a piece of plastic wrap or parchment paper and press into a ball; flatten. Refrigerate for 30-40 minutes and up to two days.


3 large, ripe pears (I prefer Bosc) peeled, cored and thinly sliced

1 ½ tbsp fresh ginger, peeled and minced

1 ¼ tsp fresh ground white Sarawak pepper

½ tsp fresh grated nutmeg

¼ tsp whole cloves

¼ cup sugar

pinch of flour


Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Roll out dough between two sheets of parchment into a 12-inch round. Peel off one layer of parchment and place dough in a tart pan with a removable bottom. Combine filling ingredients in a large bowl, tossing to lightly coat pears with spices, sugar and flour.Arrange pear slices in tart pan. Bake at 375 degrees for 35-40 minutes or until golden brown. Remove and allow to cool.

I like to serve the tart with shavings of cheese like Stilton or, my favorite, a Vento d’Estate, an cow’s milk cheese aged in hay that I got at Joan’s On Third here in Los Angeles. Other aromatic, hard, aged cheeses would work, too.A final note: I tried making this tart with peeled and unpeeled pears and both work (this photo shows the pears with their skins). The skin adds a little texture, which I liked, but I found most of my friends preferred the skinless version.

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One Response to “The Perfect Pearing”

  1. Jerry Galino Says:

    Good site I “Stumbledupon” it today and gave it a stumble for you.. looking forward to seeing what else you have..later

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