Tag Archives: easy

For the love of pears

23 Oct

We love pears.  I was looking for an easy pear tart recipe and came across this one on epicurious.  Few ingredients, tout simple, and it cooks while you are eating dinner, so it’s perfect for guests.

For dinner timing – make the dough during a lull period, even the day before and leave it to rest in the refrigerator.  You can roll the dough out to the right size AHEAD of time if you like, dust it with flour, put it between two sheet of parchment paper and stick the whole thing in the fridge.  Much easier to deal with at the final moment.  You’ll want to start the pears 20-25 minutes before dinner service and then you can just pop the whole thing in the oven just before you sit down.

SPECIAL EQUIPMENT:  Cast iron skillet or other all-metal skillet that can go into the oven.

Here is the link for the original recipe for Carmelized Upside Down Pear Tart.

The pastry recipe is listed separately on epicurious as “Pastry Dough“.  Very elegant, I think.

Pastry Dough:

  • 1 1/4 c. flour
  • 3/4 stick (6 T. or 3/8 cup) cold unsalted butter
  • 2 T (1/8 cup) vegetable shortening
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 to 4 T ice water

Blend the flour, butter, shortening and salt in a bowl with your fingertips or a pastry blender until most of the mixture resembles coarse meal with some small butter lumps.  If you have naturally warm hands, you should use a food processor or pastry blender.

Drizzle 2 T ice water over and gently stir until incorporated.  Squeeze a small handful to see if it holds together, if not add more ice water, just a bit at a time until it does hold.  Do not overwork.

The recipe calls for working the fat into the dough by smearing on the counter.  I didn’t bother doing that.  I’ve been working with pastry dough long enough to know when it’s just right.

Flatten to 5″ disk and refrigerate at least 1 hour OR just go ahead and quickly work it into a circle big enough for your skillet and refrigerate between two layers of parchment.

Pears:

  • 4 firm-ripe Bosc pears, peeled, halved and cored
  • 1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon

Preheat oven to 425F.

Heat butter in a 9-10 inch oven-safe skillet over moderate heat until foam subsides.  Stir in sugar (it will not dissolve and it will be lumpy and look like the proportions are wrong).  Add pears, cut sides up, in a circle with wide ends toward the edge of the skillet.  Sprinkle with cinnamon and cook, undisturbed, until the sugar begins to caramelize.  Note the recipe says ‘deep golden caramel’, but reading the reviews some people said it got very burned in the oven, so I tested the caramel with a spoon – when just barely starting to turn, but clearly in a caramel form (smell and taste), I moved on to the next step.  Be careful tasting caramel – it’s smoking hot and will burn you!

I did not cool the pears in the skillet as the recipe said.  I just draped the pastry over the hot pairs and popped it straight into a preheated oven.  Baked 30 minutes and it was perfect.

Cool 5 minutes on a trivet, then, using two pot holders, put a plate over the skillet and invert it QUICKLY so the caramel doesn’t ooze out everywhere – including on you, because you can easily get burned.  Let it cool just a minute before serving.  Yummy!

Mango and Tomato Salad

7 Oct

We’re in the last gasp of the good tomatoes, and the weather is getting colder, so this is a bit out of season, but worth a post anyway. Of course I got my wonderful produce from Daisy Mae’s Market in Cincinnati’s historic Findlay Market

Ingredients
2 tomatoes
1 mango
fresh basil, cut in very thin strips (chiffonade)
balsamic vinegar – quality counts!
cracked black pepper

Slice the tomatoes and the mango. Arrange in alternating pattern, drizzle with balsamic vinegar, top with basil and pepper.

NOTE: To slice the mango easily, remember that the pit is shaped similarly to the fruit. That is, a mango is a sort of egg-shape that is flattened on two sides, and the pit is also flat on two sides, following the contour of the fruit. Here’s a link to a good video on www.mango.org.

Quickie – Glazed Pork

29 May

I love this super-easy quick meal from Cooking Light magazine so much that I have a little container of the flour/spice mixture stored in my pantry.  A list of the remaining ingredients is taped to the top.  There is nothing to look up.  I just grab the little container of flour and spices and I’m ready to go.

Here is the recipe for Glazed Pork at myrecipes.com.  They suggest serving it with couscous cooked in chicken broth.  In a pinch, a package of Near East Toasted Pine Nut Couscous works great with this and cooks in less than the time it will take you to saute the pork.  I do this all the time, although my husband vastly prefers pearl couscous to this mix and my friend Karim would probably tell me that this stuff isn’t proper couscous anyway.  Shhhh, fellas!  This is about making weeknight dinners quick and easy, not about being authentic and perfect. 

Okay, back to dinner.  I’m going to heat three things:  1) water in my steamer pan for vegetables, 2) water for the couscous, according to package directions and 3) my saute pan.  This is going to go fast. 

The pork gets dredged in a flour and spice mixture and sauteed.  Once it has been cooked on both sides, you deglaze the pan with a mixture of orange juice and balsamic vinegar and then add raisins and capers.  It’s not strictly ‘correct’, but while I’m cooking the pork, I measure out all of the remaining ingredients, including the sugar, raisins and capers and just put it all in a small bowl so I can add it to the saute pan at the same time.

When I flip the pork, I put the vegetables in the hot steamer and drop the couscous mix into its pan.  Both of those items will be done in 5-8 minutes. 

As soon as the pork has cooked through, remove it to a plate and deglaze with the sauce mixture.  It just takes a couple of minutes for it to thicken and you can plate the other items while the sauce is finishing.  Spoon the sauce over the pork and we’re done here.  This would be great on chicken as well.  In that case, I might consider pounding the chicken breast a bit or butterflying it to make it a quick saute.  Note that I haven’t tried that, I just think it’s a good idea.

Note on Cousous Alternatives:  My husband liked this very much when I served it with miniature gnocchi once.  He said it was kind of like having it with spaetzle.  In combination with the flavors in the glaze, it made sense to his palate.  You can buy gnocchi in the Italian foods or pasta section of your grocery store.  (You can also make it and freeze it, but one thing at a time here.)  Gnocchi cooks similarly to pasta, but very, very quickly.

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