Pear, Pistachio & Parmesan Pinwheels

PinwheelsYou’ll be the host with the most when you present these warm, flaky hors d’oeuvres to guests on New Year’s Eve. Diced USA pears are rolled up in puff pastry, with crunchy pistachios, piquant Parmesan, and a kick of cracked pepper, creating bite-sized bursts of flavor. Deceptively simple to prepare, and sweet and savory at the same time, they make the perfect cocktail accompaniment.

1 sheet frozen puff pastry (half a 17.3-ounce package), thawed
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 cup finely diced USA Red Anjou or Bartlett pear (about ½ a large pear)
¼ cup ground pistachios
¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper

Place the pastry sheet on a clean work surface and roll it out to smooth the seams and create a 10-inch square. Cut the square in half, forming two 10-by-5-inch rectangles. Brush the entire surface of each half of the pastry lightly with some of the beaten egg. Leaving a 1/2-inch border along a longer edge of each rectangle, sprinkle with the pears, pistachios, Parmesan, and pepper, dividing each ingredient evenly between the two.

Starting at the long side opposite the plain border, roll up each pastry like a jelly roll, pressing gently to seal the ends, creating a long log. Wrap each log individually in plastic wrap and chill in the freezer until firm, at least 1 hour and up to 3 days.

To bake, position racks in the top and bottom thirds of the oven and preheat it to 400°F. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper.

Cut each pastry log crosswise into about 24 round pinwheels. Arrange the pinwheels on the lined baking sheets, spacing them about 1 inch apart. Bake until the pinwheels are puffed and golden brown, about 20 minutes, rotating the pans from top to bottom in the oven about halfway through.

Cool briefly on the pans, and serve warm. Makes 48 hors d’oeuvres.

Pear and Celery Salad

Pear and Celery Salad heroHere is my modern take on a classic: pears and blue cheese in a salad. There are so many ways to use these two perfectly paired ingredients together, but this recipe combines them to create a side dish with perfect flavor, texture, and richness.

I use crunchy celery as the salad’s base and include the tender inner celery stalks as well as the celery leaves – they have a delicious and light flavor that I adore. Beautiful, ripe pears are tossed in, adding tenderness and a honey-sweet flavor. A simple, light lemon vinaigrette glazes the celery and pears, and finally, the salad is topped with blue cheese crumbles and bits of savory, salty Marcona almonds.

Serve this salad alongside simple roasted chicken or fish and prepare to be delighted.

¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (from about one lemon)
1 tablespoon sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
⅓ cup olive oil
1 bunch of celery, including inner stems and leaves, sliced thinly on a diagonal
2 USA Pears, such as Red Anjou or Starkrimson, quartered, cored, and thinly sliced
⅔ cup Marcona almonds, roughly chopped
3 ounces blue cheese, crumbled

For the dressing: Combine all ingredients in a jar with a tight-fitting lid and shake vigorously until well combined. Set aside until ready to use.

For the salad: In a large bowl, combine the sliced celery and pears with half of the chopped almonds and blue cheese. Add approximately half of the dressing and toss gently to combine. Taste the salad, adding more dressing if desired. Transfer the salad to a serving bowl or platter and sprinkle with the remaining blue cheese and almonds.

prep time: 20 minutes
yield: 6 servings

Braised Pork with Pears and Sherry Vinegar

Braised Pork with Pears and Sherry Vinegar

My latest recipe is for a simple and delicious pear and pork dish that makes an incredible Sunday dinner. First, sear the pork and sauté the onion. Then add pears, cider, and spices, and transfer to the oven for three hours. This recipe will fill your home with the sweet smells of autumn as it simmers away all afternoon.

Another great reason to make this your Sunday dinner is that this recipe will make for wonderful leftovers. Braised dishes are known for tasting even better several days after they are made. This gives the ingredients more time to come together, and with the addition of just a splash of vinegar, this dish will have the perfect balance of sweet and savory.

I served this braised pork with roasted sweet potatoes and a simple salad of mixed greens, ripe USA pear slices, and crumbled goat cheese. The juicy, fresh pears in the salad made a great contrast to the rich, roasted pears in the main dish.

1 (3-pound) hunk of pork shoulder
2 teaspoons coarse salt
3 tablespoons butter
Freshly ground black pepper
1 medium sweet onion, large dice
3 USA Pears, such as Red Bartlett or Red Anjou, large dice
4 whole cloves
2 cinnamon sticks
1 (12-ounce) bottle pear hard cider
1 cup chicken broth
2 teaspoons sherry vinegar

Preheat your oven to 325 degrees. On the stovetop, warm a Dutch oven or other heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat. While the pot warms, season your pork shoulder on all surfaces with the salt and cracked pepper. Add the butter to the pot and when it is fully melted and begins to bubble, place the pork in the pot on one side and sear for 5 to 7 minutes or until it is medium brown. Once brown, turn the pork to a second side and continue until the meat is nicely browned on the second side. Remove the pork from the pan with tongs and set aside on a plate.

Into the same pan, add the onions and sauté for 4 to 5 minutes, stirring often, until they have begun to caramelize and stick to the bottom of the pan a bit. Pour in the cider and stir to bring up any tasty bits from the bottom of the pan. Return the pork to the pan, placing it right down into the center of the liquid with the fattiest side up (this will help keep it moist as it cooks). Be sure to pour in any juices that have accumulated on the plate as well.

Braised Pork process shot

Next, slide in the diced pears around the sides of the pan, and add the cloves and cinnamon sticks, nestling them down into the pears. Lastly, pour over the chicken broth so that the liquid comes up the sides of the meat ¾ of the way—add more broth if necessary. Cover the pot and increase the heat to high, bringing the liquids to a strong simmer. Once the liquid has simmered, carefully transfer the covered pot to your preheated oven.

Braise the pork and pears for three hours, checking on the pork at each hour mark and spooning some of the delicious sauce over the top each time. After three hours, remove the pot from the oven.

Carefully remove the pork from the sauce and place into a serving dish. Return the pot to the stovetop over medium-high heat and simmer, uncovered, to reduce the sauce to about two cups (this step may not be necessary if your sauce has already reduced sufficiently). Once the sauce has reduced, stir in the sherry vinegar and taste. There should be a nice balance of sweet from the pear and onion and tanginess/brightness from the vinegar. Add more vinegar if necessary. Pour the warm sauce over the hunks of pork shoulder and serve immediately.