Pears never get the attention they deserve. The minute the first leaves change color and autumn hits, it always seems like apples get the spotlight. But pears are sweet, crisp and every bit as versatile and juicy as a good fall apple.
Look for new varieties in farmer’s markets and shops rather than focusing on Bosc and Anjou (the standard grocery store varieties). The names of pears sound like a poem: Forelle, Seckel, Golds, Comice, Bartlett. Here’s a guide to a few common varieties.
A few tips: Look for firm, unbruised fruit. To ripen, place pears in a brown paper bag for a day or two. When cooking pears, be sure to peel, slice and then put them in a bowl with a touch of fresh lemon juice to keep the fruit from browning.
Pears can be eaten raw, poached, sauteed, roasted or grilled. They work well in everything from soups and salads to meat dishes and desserts. Here are three recipes that hint at the beauty and versatility of fresh fall pears. A salad. A pork chop, pear and leek dish. And a simple crumble made with fresh pears and sun-dried cranberries.
Radicchio and endive salad with pears, blue cheese and bacon
This is an elegant fall salad that is full of contrasting colors and textures. I used slightly bitter radicchio and endive, both members of the chicory family, set against the sweet, juicy, crunchy pears, and the soft, pungent blue cheese. Add some crumbled cooked bacon for salt and crunch. Bacon is completely optional here. The dressing is a quick blend of blue cheese, mustard, oil and vinegar. The salad and the dressing can be made several hours ahead of time and dressed just before serving. Serve with a warm baguette or rolls.
Serves 2 to 4.
- 3 strips of bacon, optional
- 1 head radicchio, cored and leaves separated
- 1 endive, cored and leaves separated
- 1 large or 2 small, almost ripe pear(s) or Asian pear(s), peeled, cored and cut into thin slices
- ⅓ cup soft blue cheese, crumbled
The blue cheese dressing
- 1 tablespoon soft blue cheese
- 1 teaspoon Dijon-style mustard
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
- To make the salad: If using the bacon, cook the bacon in a skillet set over medium heat until crisp on both sides. Drain on paper towels. When cool, crumble into 1-inch pieces and set aside.
- Arrange the radicchio and endive leaves on a serving plate or in a salad bowl. Place the pear slices between the leaves and on top and scatter with the blue cheese and bacon, if using.
- Make the dressing: In a small bowl, using the back of a spoon, mash the blue cheese, mustard, salt and pepper together into a paste. Using a fork whisk in the oil and vinegar and taste for seasoning.
- Serve the salad with the dressing poured on top at the last minute or on the side.
Sauteed pork chops with pears and sage
One tends to see apples paired with pork, but I wondered how thin slices of pear would pair with sauteed pork chops. The blend of sweet, juicy pears with rich meat was perfect. Fresh sage and sauteed leeks finish off the dish. Serve with winter squash and a fall salad. This recipe makes one pork chop per person and serves two, but it can easily be doubled or tripled.
- 1 ½ tablespoon olive oil
- 1 large leek, sliced down middle and then white and pale green sections thinly sliced, or 1 large onion thinly sliced
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 2 to 3 tablespoons fresh sage, coarsely chopped, plus 2 whole sage leaves for serving
- 2 bone-in pork chops, about 1 to 1 ½ inches thick
- 1 large or 2 medium almost ripe pears, peeled, cored and sliced about ½ inch thick
- Heat a large heavy skillet (cast iron is ideal) over low heat. Add 1 tablespoon of the oil and the leeks, salt and pepper, and 1 tablespoon of the sage. Cook, stirring, for 4 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove the leeks to a plate and set aside.
- Add the remaining half tablespoon of oil to the same skillet and set it over high heat. Add the pork chops, sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper and half the remaining sage. Cook for 3 minutes.
- Carefully flip the chops over, add the pear slices and the leeks around the chops and season everything with salt and pepper. Cook for another 3 minutes. If the pork or pears appear to be burning or cooking too fast, reduce the temperature to medium.
- Gently flip the chops over once again, sprinkle the remaining chopped sage on top of everything, and gently stir the pears and cook for another 3 minutes. The chops should be a deep golden brown and the pears should just be soft. The chops will take anywhere from 8 to 12 minutes to cook through depending on the thickness. To test use an instant-read meat thermometer; you want the pork to be around 135 degrees. The temperature will rise as it sits. The final temperature should be closer to 145 degrees.
- Serve the pork chops topped with a whole sage leaf and with the pears and leeks on top or along with any pan juices.
Pear and sun-dried cranberry crumble
A crumble is the easiest of desserts. Pears are tossed with sun-dried cranberries (or raisins), a touch of maple syrup and dried ginger. The topping is a simple combination of flour, granola, sugar, butter and spices that is patted on top of the fruit like a crust of sorts.
You can assemble it several hours ahead of time and bake it for about 30 minutes or so before serving. It can be eaten hot from the oven, at room temperature or cold the next day. Add a topping of ice cream, yogurt or creme fraiche.
I like to eat this sweet crumble for breakfast, snack and dessert.
Serves 2 to 4.
- ½ cup granola, your favorite brand
- ⅓ cup flour
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- ½ teaspoon ground ginger
- ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- Pinch salt
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
- 2 large or 3 small pears, peeled, cored and cut into 1-inch chunks
- ¼ cup sun-dried cranberries or raisins
- ½ to 1 tablespoon maple syrup or honey, depending on how sweet your pears are
- Pinch dried ginger
- Make the topping: In a medium-sized bowl, mix the granola, flour, sugar, ginger, cinnamon, and salt. Add 3 tablespoons of the butter and, using your hands, work the butter into the granola mixture until it resembles coarse cornmeal.
- In a medium bowl, gently toss the pears, cranberries, maple syrup and a pinch of ginger. Place the fruit in a 4-cup size ramekin or baking dish, or divide between 4 one-cup ramekins. Press the topping on top of the fruit (dividing it if using four ramekins) pressing down gently to create a crust. Top with the remaining tablespoon of butter.
- The crumble can be made several hours ahead of time; cover and refrigerate until ready to bake.
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
- Place the ramekin(s) on a baking sheet and bake on the middle shelf for 20 minutes. Reduce the heat to 350 degrees and bake another 10 minutes or until the topping is golden brown and the fruit is beginning to bubble up.
Find more pear recipes here.
This segment aired on October 12, 2022.