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Pear Up This Winter

By Mark Mulcahy

Many exciting different produce items are ready for good winter eating: sweet potatoes, navel oranges, Satsuma mandarins, the selection goes on and on. Something that you don’t want to overlook is the selection of winter pears. Yes, you’ve seen Melissa’s organic pears in your produce department for a few months but there’s something special about pears this time of year.

Organic D'Anjou Red Pears

Melissa’s Organic Red and Green D’Anjou Pears have long been the standard for all winter pears due to their versatility and wonderful flavor. You may know that they are good to eat fresh but do they know that the green D’Anjou’s are fantastic poached and served with pancakes. The reds are wonderful in salads or as a perfect partner to a to a Saturday afternoon cheese platter. Yes, some of us still like to stop during the day to enjoy the fading afternoon sun and enjoy a cup of tea or glass of cabernet and savor the special treat of cheese and fruit paired together. It’s not hard to do it just takes making a little time to slow down and enjoy. To make a platter, start with cheeses you know I recently tried Gouda, and Camembert and you’ll soon find out which ones complement the sweet flavor and firm texture of the pear you choose.

Don’t want to eat a lot of cheese after the holidays? Then try a salad made from some Melissa’s organic green and red D’Anjou’s, romaine hearts, a handful of bulk pecans, a sprinkling of blue cheese and some dried cranberries and you’ll have pears and salad that will make any day a little more special.

Are you getting hungry?

How about Melissa’s organic bosc pears?

This Bronze colored beauty with the long slender neck is another winter favorite. Its dense yet buttery flesh makes it perfect for a pear pie or a special sandwich. That’s right, a sandwich! If It seems as if I can make a sandwich out of just about anything its true, but pears aren’t that big of a stretch if you start to think about their texture and flavor.

If you’re looking for a companion for your workout, then Melissa’s organic pears are an excellent choice. Why pears over another fruit? They are an ideal workout partner because they are a good source of potassium, vitamin C and fiber. We lose potassium when we perspire during exercise. Potassium is an essential mineral that among other benefits, stimulates nerve impulses for muscular contraction and normalizes the heartbeat. Vitamin C is crucial for tissue repair and promotes the healing of bruises. Fiber has many health benefits including helping to reduce serum cholesterol.

Organic Bosc Pears

Do you have trouble telling if your pears are ripe? Summer pears like Bartletts will change color, which is helpful, but the winter varieties such as Bosc and D’Anjou offer very little color change. A surefire way to judge ripeness is to apply gentle pressure with the thumb at the stem end. If it yields to the pressure then it’s ready to eat. Why don’t they just pick them ripe? Pears are picked when mature yet still firm, because they don’t ripen well when left on the tree. Pears produce their own ethylene gas (a natural ripening agent); they will ripen on their own at room temperature in 3 to 7 days. When ripe, store in the refrigerator, this will slow the ripening but not affect the flavor.

To take away any wintertime blues try this Grilled Cheese and Pear Sandwich adapted from a recipe I found many years ago.

Grilled Cheese and Pear Sandwich
Yields 2

1 Melissa’s Organic Bosc Pear, peeled and sliced lengthwise
1 Rosemary sprig cut in half
4 slices country loaf or multigrain bread, about ¾ inch thick
3 ounces blue cheese, room temperature
3 tablespoons butter
¼ cup Port

Soften the cheese a little with a sandwich spreader or knife so that the cheese will spread easily on the bread. Spread a thin layer of cheese on one side of each slice of bread. Place several slices of pear on 2 pieces of the bread (on top of the cheese). Finish with another piece of bread on top (cheese on the inside of the sandwich).

Add butter to a large nonstick sauté pan on medium-low heat. Bruise the sprig of rosemary with the back of a knife. Add to the pan. Cook the rosemary for 1 to 2 minutes to infuse the butter. Carefully remove the rosemary and discard. Add the sandwiches to the same pan. Press lightly with a spatula. Cook sandwiches until bread is golden on the outside and cheese starts melting, about 2 to 3 minutes per side. Remove from heat. Keep warm.

In the same pan over medium high, add the port. Reduce by half, about 4 to 5 minutes. Cut in halves. Drizzle evenly with the port reduction. Serve.

If you don’t like bleu cheese or want to make a simpler version try broiled Bosc pears on toast with Swiss cheese and topped with fresh Arugula leaves. Your family or friends will never look at a grilled cheese sandwich the same way again. As you can see there are many ways to enjoy winter pears and remember you can buy them individually or even by the pair.
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