The Poetry of Pears

July 23, 2016

The poetry of pears is in their flavor.



Watercolor, three pears

Watercolor, three pears

“Pears, it is truly said, are less poetic than apples.  They have neither the beauty nor fragrance of apple, but their flavor . . .”
_ Henry David Thoreau, journal entry, October 11, 1860














Pear-Ginger Upside Down Cake

“An’ I had but one penny in the world, thou should’st have it to buy ginger-bread.”
— William Shakespeare, Love’s Labour Lost

Ginger is one of the tastes of the winter season.  I planned to make some gingerbread, but as I was browsing my recipes, I found this one for a Pear-Ginger Upside-Down Cake, copied from the Betty Crocker Christmas Cookbook.  We love the more traditional Pineapple Upside-Down Cake, so I thought this might be a tasty variation.  We are hard-pressed to choose which we like better, although the pear version must be eaten warm.  From now on, I’ll mark both as favorites!

Arranging pears in the bottom of the pan

It fell out of the pan, upside-down onto my plate, with no trouble.

First bite -- yummy

Pear-Ginger Upside-Down Cake
from the Betty Crocker Christmas Cookbook

Pear-Ginger Topping
1/4 c butter or margarine
2/3 c packed brown sugar
1/2 tsp ground ginger
3 pears, peeled, and cut into 1/2-inch wedges (I used canned pears)
1/4 c finely chopped crystallized ginger

1 Tbsp all-purpose flour
1/4 c finely chopped crystallized ginger
1-1/3 c all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 c packed brown sugar
6 Tbsp butter or margarine, softened
2 eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/4 c milk

1.  Heat oven to 325 degrees F.  Grease bottom and sides of 8- or 9-inch pan with shortening.  In 1-quart saucepan, melt 1/4 c butter over medium heat, stirring occasionally.  Stir in 2/3 c brown sugar.  Heat to boiling; remove from heat.  Stir in 1/2 tsp ground ginger.  Pour into pan; spread evenly.  Arrange pear wedges on sugar mixture, overlapping tightly and making 2 layers if necessary.  Sprinkle 1/4 c crystallized ginger over pears.

2.  In small bowl, toss 1 Tbsp flour and 1/4 c crystallized ginger to coat; set aside.  In another small bowl, mix 1-1/3 c flour, the baking powder and salt; set aside.  In large bowl, beat 1 c brown sugar and 6 Tbsp butter with electric mixer on medium speed, scraping bowl occasionally, until fluffy.  Beat in eggs, one at a time, until smooth.  Add vanilla.  Gradually beat in flour mixture alternately with milk.  Stir in ginger-flour mixture.  Spread over pears in pan.

3.  Bake 55 to 60 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out clean.  Cool 15 minutes on wire rack.  then loosen edges of cake with small knife.  Place heatproof plate upside down onto pan; turn plate and pan over.  Serve warm with ginger whipped cream.

Ginger Whipped Cream (I served with vanilla ice cream instead)
1 c whipping (heavy cream)
2 Tbsp granulated sugar
1/4 tsp ground ginger

In chilled medium bowl, beat whipping cream on high speed until it begins to thicken.  Gradually add granulated sugar and 1/4 tsp ground ginger, beating until soft peaks form.

Pairing Pears and Pasta

September 26, 2011

Still Life with Ann's Pears

You would think that cookbooks would be edging toward extinction with the easy access to recipes on the internet.  But publishers are still inundating the market with stunning, glossy new cookbooks.  I get to see and handle many of the new cookbooks in my job at the library.  Lucky me.  But I still more often turn to the internet when I am looking for recipe ideas.

This week my friend Ann gave me a bag of pears from a tree in her yard.  I started thinking about what to make for supper and wondered if anyone had created a recipe that combined pasta and pears.  So I googled “pasta and pear recipes” and found one at that I could assemble with ingredients I had on hand, plus a little tweaking.  I used whole grain spaghetti noodles instead of penne pasta, frozen spinach, no arugula, and almonds instead of walnuts.  I added a few chopped cherry tomatoes and a sprinkling of fresh parmesan cheese.  It was really very good!

Pasta with Roasted Pears

Here is the recipe copied from MediterrAsian Cooking:

Penne with Roasted Pear, Goat Cheese and Walnuts

Serves 4-6


  • 8 oz. pasta, such as penne
  • 2 Bosc pears, ripe but firm (firmer varieties of pears work best)
  • 1 tablespoon plus 3 1/2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • 1/2 cup baby arugula (rocket)
  • 1/2 cup baby spinach
  • 1/4 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1/4 cup crumbled goat cheese
  • Pinch of sea salt


Preheat oven to 425° F. Slice the pear into thin wedges, leaving the skin on and removing the center core. Toss with one tablespoon of olive oil, coating lightly, then place in baking dish and roast in oven for 10 minutes. Remove from oven, stir again, and return to oven for an additional 5 minutes. Allow to cool, then cut into smaller bite sized pieces.

Mix together the remaining 3 1/2 tablespoons of olive oil with the balsamic vinegar and lemon juice. Cook penne according to package directions. Drain pasta and mix in the olive oil-vinegar-lemon juice mixture, then mix in the chopped pears, arugula and baby spinach. If desired, add a little sea salt to taste. Divide among plates and top with crumbled goat cheese and chopped walnut pieces.

Watercolor sketch of three pears

Rustic Pear Tart

October 12, 2010

Baking with homegrown pears

My friend Ann gave me a bag of pears from the tree in her yard.  I’m so thankful to her for sharing the bounty.  I used the last of the pears in this recipe for a rustic pear tart, which I found in The Best Places Northwest Desserts Cookbook by Cynthia C. Nims.  The recipe was contributed to the cookbook by Hudson’s Bar and Grill in Vancouver, Washington.

The tart crust was quite different from my normal Betty Crocker pie crust.  It called for two egg yolks.  Since I hate to waste food, I used the two egg whites and the leftover egg from brushing the tart in an omelette for my lunch.  Also, I substituted pecans for the hazelnuts because that was what I had on hand.  My daughter commented that the nuts were a great addition to this dessert.

Rustic Pear Tart with Hazelnuts

Tart Dough:
1-1/2 c all-purpose flour
2 Tbsp granulated sugar
1/2 tsp salt
5 Tbsp unsalted butter, cut into pieces and chilled
1/4 c cold water
2 egg yolks

3 Tbsp unsalted butter
3 medium ripe pears (about 1-1/2 lbs), skins on, cored and diced
1/4 c plus 2 Tbsp packed brown sugar
1/4 c all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1 egg
1 Tbsp cold water
1/4 c chopped toasted hazelnuts

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.

For the dough, process flour, sugar and salt in a food processor.  Add the butter and pulse until the mixture has the texture of coarse meal.  In a small bowl, whisk together the cold water and egg yolks and add this to the dry mixture, stirring just until the dough comes together.  Form the dough into a flat disk, wrap it in plastic, and refrigerate for 30 minutes before rolling it out.

Roll the dough on a lightly floured surface to a circle about 14 inches across.  Transfer the circle to the baking sheet and chill while preparing the filling.

Preparing the pear filling in a skillet

Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add the pears, 1/4 c brown sugar, flour, cinnamon and salt.  Saute the mixture until the brown sugar is melted and the ingredients are well blended, about 2 r 3 minutes.  Set aside to cool.  When the filling has cooled to room temperature, spoon it into the center of the prepared dough tart, leaving a 3-inch border.  Fold the dough up over the filling, pleating gently as you go; you should see the center of the filling.  Lightly beat the egg with the cold water and brush the tart with the mixture.  Sprinkle the remaining 2 Tbsp brown sugar and the hazelnuts over the tart.  Bake until the pears are tender and the crust is golden brown, about 30 minutes.

Makes 6 to 8 servings

Ready to go into the oven

Pear tart, a delicious seasonal dessert

What is Pink?

May 14, 2010

What Is Pink?
by Christina Rossetti

What is pink? A rose is pink
By the fountain’s brink.
What is red? A poppy’s red
In its barley bed.
What is blue? The sky is blue
Where the clouds float thro’.
What is white? A swan is white
Sailing in the light.
What is yellow? Pears are yellow,
Rich and ripe and mellow.
What is green? The grass is green,
With small flowers between.
What is violet? Clouds are violet
In the summer twilight.
What is orange? Why, an orange,
Just an orange!

I pulled a few photographs from my archives to illustrate this poem:

What is pink? A rose is pink . . .

What is red? A poppy's red . . .

What is blue? The sky is blue . . .

What is white? A swan is white . . .

What is yellow? A pear is yellow . . .

What is green? The grass is green . . .

What is violet? Clouds are violet . . .

What is orange? Why, an orange . . .

Most of Seattle’s neighborhood farmers’ markets have closed for the season, but the University Market goes year round.  I stopped by yesterday to see the seasonal produce.  I was especially taken with the large cabbage roses that were being made into bouquets with flowers.  The vendors were bundled in sweaters, caps, and gloves against the chill, but it still was a lively place.


Buckets full of cabbage roses ready to be made into bouquets


More rose cabbages


Finding the perfect pear


These green cauliflowers resembled seashells


Selecting a squash from the pile


Performer plucks the banjo

Yellow Pears in a Blue Bowl

September 27, 2009

Yellow Pears in a Blue Bowl

Yellow Pears in a Blue Bowl

Rosy blush on fresh yellow pears

Rosy blush on fresh yellow pears

I love the rounded, full shape of pears.  And the blushing yellow fruit in a blue bowl is so pleasing to the eye.  If I were a painter, I’d definitely paint a still life with pears.

Paul Cezanne's Sugar Bowl Pears and Blue Cup (

Paul Cezanne's Sugar Bowl Pears and Blue Cup (

Still Life with Pears

August 29, 2009

Still Life with Pears

Still Life with Pears

I am still enjoying windfallen pears.  I met the neighbor whose tree has been the source of all this bounty, and she invited me to help myself to as much fruit as I wanted.  Yesterday I made a rustic pie with windfallen pears and apples.

Rustic pie ready for the oven

Rustic pie ready for the oven

Rustic pear and apple pie

Rustic pear and apple pie

A delicious seasonal dessert

A delicious seasonal dessert


August 12, 2009

One day's bounty -- windfall apples and pears

One day's bounty -- windfall apples and pears

After my daily run around Green Lake, I cool down as I walk home.  This time of year, I keep my eyes open for windfallen apples and pears.  There are two homes nearby where the fruit trees extend over the sidewalk, and if I see windfalls on the street side of their fences, I figure that this fruit is mine by right of use.  I find it satisfying to scavenge for “free” food; I feel as thrifty as Thoreau!

“There is another thinning of the fruit, commonly near the end of August or in September. . . All the country over, people are busy picking up the windfalls, and this will make them cheap for early apple-pies.”
     — Henry David Thoreau, “Wild Apples”

The day’s windfalls, after cutting away bruises and worm spots, often yield enough for a small batch of applesauce or a pan of fruit crisp.  For the topping of my mixed apple-pear crisp, I used a recipe for Summer Berry Crisp from Food to Live By by Myra Goodman:

3/4 c all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp allspice
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 c firmly packed dark brown sugar
2 Tbsp granulated sugar
6 Tbsp unsalted butter
1/2 c old-fashioned rolled oats (not instant)

I prepared the apples and pears as if they were to fill an apple pie, then transferred them to the bottom of an 8 x 8-inch glass baking pan.  I sprinkled the topping over the fruit, and baked for 30 – 35 minutes at 375 degrees.  It was wonderful served warm.

Pouring the topping over the fruit

Pouring the topping over the fruit

My apple-pear crisp from windfalls

My apple-pear crisp from windfalls

August Weather
by Katharine Tynan

DEAD heat and windless air,
 And silence over all;
Never a leaf astir,
 But the ripe apples fall;
Plums are purple-red,
 Pears amber and brown;
Thud! in the garden-bed!
 Ripe apples fall down.
Air like a cider-press
 With the bruised apples‘ scent;
Low whistles express
 Some sleepy bird’s content;
Still world and windless sky,
 A mist of heat o’er all;
Peace like a lullaby,
 And the ripe apples fall.