In which I also resolve to illustrate some posts for this blog.
Every fall, it’s the pears that get me over my disappointment at the end of the stone fruit season, and convince me that everything’s going to be Ok. I like to wait until they’re really ripe to eat them (at least most of the common kinds), ripe enough to slide a knife in one clean curve down the stem and around the seeds, with pear juice forming instantly on the cut surfaces. That first bite of juicy ambrosial pear, that’s what convinces me that maybe I’ll get along with autumn alright after all.
I was hoping to have a recipe, not a just a short soliloquy, about pears for you, and I do! It turns out that two of the dear friends we visited in the Northwest at the end of the summer have a copy of The Art of Simple Food by Alice Waters, and so I spent a little time pouring through that book looking for various ideas. I’m really starting to admire the way she looks at the simplicity of cooking. In the second household there was also a huge bowl of free pears from a colleague’s tree, and the inspired idea to combine pears and cardamom (thanks Becca!), so here you go.
Pear Crisp with Cardamom
Adapted from The Art of Simple Food by Alice Waters
Slice 7 cups/4 lbs of fairly ripe pears (they don’t have to be as ripe as I like them for eating)
Toss the pears in a bowl with:
1 1/2 Tablespoons flour (can be white or wheat or gluten-free alternative, it’s just for thickening the juice)
Zest of 1 (organic) lemon
About 1 Tablespoon lemon juice
Pour the pears into a baking dish and make the crisp topping in the bowl:
Toast 2/3 cup walnuts in the oven at 375° F for about 10 minutes, until golden brown (set a timer! I’m so bad at that, I burn things more often than I’d like to admit). While they are toasting, mix in the bowl:
1 1/4 cups flour (again use what you like, gluten is not required to hold the crisp together. I used a mixture of white and whole wheat flour)
6 Tablespoons brown sugar
1 1/2 Tablespoons turbinado sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
About 1/4 teaspoon crushed cardamom seeds (if you have whole green pods, crush the pods lightly with the flat of a knife if necessary, pull the pods open, and extract the seeds. Grind just the seeds in a mortar and pestle or with a spice grinder. Fairly coarse ground is fine.)
Chop the walnuts and add them to the above mixture. Mix well, and then cut in 1 stick (8 Tablespoons) of butter (cut into pieces), using your fingers or a pastry blender, just until the mixture comes together and has a texture like big crumbs.
Sprinkle the topping over the pears, and bake at 375° for about 50 minutes, rotating once for even baking. When done, the crisp topping should be golden brown, and the fruit should be juicy and bubbling down in the dish.
About the illustrations: I know I need to keep up my drawing skills, and I’d even like to practice enough to keep improving. Since finishing Hello Sewing Machine, I haven’t had too much incentive to draw (other than little sketches like these, which I still make all the time). I thought if I made it a goal to illustrate at least one post a month, I would be sure to get practice drawing. I kind of forgot that I would also get practice scanning drawings and working in Photoshop . . . but it’s also practice I need. I’m more of an illustrator than an artist, and more used to trying to make things clear than to capturing 3-D fruit in all it’s glory. And I need to find some smoother paper . . . but one little bit at a time, right?
Good luck with your fall goals, whatever they are! (And eat some pears!)