Pear-licious recipe development

October 8, 2007 in contest, drink, fruit, ingredient, recipe

(Image from USA Pear media library)

Its FINALLY starting to cool off to a seasonal fall temperature around here, helping me feel a bit more in-season. The tree colors peaked this weekend, yesterday was psychedelic with the riotous oranges, yellows, and reds of the sugar maples around here. Other than pumpkins and gourds and squashes and apples, I am seeing lots of pears in the store now and I have been reveling in trying new varieties. I wrote just previously about the seckel pear in a recipe where I served it simply sliced on the plate (“Purple Passion: homegrown eggplant“).


Along this pear tangent, I am now developing a recipe for a pear cocktail for the pear industry‘s “Liquid Pearfection” cocktail contest.


Click the graphic above to go to the page at USA Pears (a pear lobby) where you can get information for entering your recipe!

Do it quickly because the contest ends October 10th.

This activity was fun, sort of like a chemistry experiment. We used our juicer to juice some red or crimson bartlett pears and seckel (sugar) pears. If you do this, I recommend passing the juice through a cheesecloth to sieve off the foamy particulate. I then sat down with some spirits I bought just for this cocktail, the juices (bartlett, seckel, and apple), homemade simple syrup, salt, lemon juice, and pencil and paper.

Can you guess?

I wanted to use a spirit that was not something you see in everyday cocktails here in the US and which gave it a latino twist. To this end, I used a Colombian spirit called Aguardiente, a high octane anise flavored drink that is usually had straight out of tiny little stainless steel cups by macho people (male or female, my grandma can put them away for sure).I could not get a hold of the “good” type called Aguardiente Cristal (order here) so I had to settle for the other kind you see in the photo above.

I also could not get my hands on the Colombian rum called “Ron Viejo de Caldas” by the same company (order here) so I had to settle for Puerto Rican Bacardi Gold rum (rum in spanish is ron). (I am not associated with the pear lobby or the alcohol company – zero profit for me – I am just giving you a resource for finding these “rare” spirits. They may be easily had where you live!)I googled pear and fennel (which has an anise flavor) and found that there are quite a few restaurants serving pear and shaved fennel salads. This hinted to me that the anise flavor may pair with pear well.

As we generally do not drink much at all and when we do its Guinness beer, we were lightweights in our taste trials. Keep this in mind regarding our taste testing.

While my husband was not into the flavor, I liked it. My recipe has the alcohol on the light side because the aquardiente has such an assertive (overpowering?) flavor. The recipe that used the rum also included the freshly made apple juice, that was fantastic.

I will post my pear cocktail recipe in the sidebar and here after October 10th (after the contest closes) and if I win, I will let you know!

If you decide to enter, share your recipe too, can’t wait to see what you all come up with.

Can you guess?

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Product links: (no profit)

Nuts for nutty nut-less decadence

July 6, 2007 in baking, cooking, Food Porn, fruit


(Banana tart with soybean praline base, enrobed with banana chocolate sauce)

Nuts, especially peanuts and walnuts, are lethal for my oldest child.

They are also delicious, found in many of the desserts that make life worth living, and are almost impossible to simulate. I do not like peanut butter, don’t miss it, but I have always felt bad that my daughter has never had a praline.

I think I first had a praline at a Stuckey’s in Texas, when we were driving down from Iowa, back in 1979. We were moving to a place we had never visited and a sort of landscape and heat we had never experienced. I was a bit shell-shocked from the intense aridity and brightness that you have in those mineral lands, so different from the humid monotonous cornfields that I had always known in my childhood. We stopped for a break and got out into the life-draining heat and sun that immediately set my black hair on fire with absorbed heat. We ran into the cold of the Stuckey’s, all new to me, and I walked around marvelling that a whole store that seemed to sell only candies with gobs of nuts stuck to them would be plunked down in the middle of nowhere. I think their biggest item is the Pecan Log Roll, a white tooth-fusing confection with pecans molecularly embedded on the surface. I begged my dad for just a bit of something and that turned out to be a praline. I adored it and left all pecan log rolls for others with less refined palates (kidding).

My favorite place to get and gobble pralines is Aunt Sally’s in New Orlean’s French Market. You can (or you use to be able to) stand and watch them make huge kettles of pralines. When we were at home and not in New Orleans, My mom would make them during our Justin Wilson phase (Ah Gaahrontee).

For me pralines are a seldom treat and not something to really binge on once you buy or make them. I love making them because their aroma is just about 1000 times more enticing than any cake or cookie or baked chicken will ever smell. They are also relatively easy to cook up and you don’t need to know how long to store them because they never make it past about 5 minutes.

A good banana nut bread is in that same category. For these reasons, I have been hunting around for a way to make nut-free but nutty pralines and banana nut bread and my first try came out with something so decadent and amazing that I am going to share it with you today but I do not think we will make it again for some while, its that fattening!

I used roasted unsalted soybeans. Yup. You see them in the store but I bet you don’t buy them much. They are hard to snack on because they have skins on them. Annoying. I finally figured out how to get rid of the skins on a cup of beans. Rub a handful in your palms and then, as you pour the beans from one hand to the other, blow away the skins. It can be messy but it works!

I used dried buttermilk from Saco to boost the complexity of the flavors. I love cooking with this stuff. If you do not have it, simply omit it and this recipe should work for you.

Ginger sour cream buttermilk banana bread with praline soybeans

(adapted from the basic sour cream banana bread recipe)


  • 1 c. butter
  • 1 1/2 c. sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 1/2 c. bananas, mashed
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • 1/2 teaspoon minced ginger
  • 4 c. flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 6 tablespoons dried buttermilk
  • 1 1/2 c. sour cream
  • 1 c. praline soybeans (see below)


Cream butter and sugar together very well. Add in the ginger, vanilla, eggs and beat until incorporated. Mash the bananas and then mix with the butter-sugar well. Whisk dry ingredients together (flour, buttermilk powder, baking powder, and baking soda).

Add the well-mixed dry ingredients to the creamed mixture alternately with 1/2 cups of sour cream. Fold together until smooth. Gently fold in the cooled praline soybeans.

Pour into 2 large greased and floured loaf pans and bake for about 1 hour and 15 minutes at 350 F. Use the knife test to see if its done, when it comes out clean, the cake/ tart is done!

For the tart shown at the top, I greased a small tart pan with a removable bottom. I put down a layer of soybeans and then poured praline mixture over the top of it to set it into a “crust” for the tart. Pour some batter over the crust and bake the small tart for about 30 minutes, check with a knife.

Praline soybeans


  • 1 C water
  • 1 C white granulated sugar
  • 1/2 C 1/2 and 1/2 cream
  • 1 C de-hulled roasted unsalted soybeans


Simmer water and sugar in stainless steel pot until it begins to become a medium brown and is thickening. CAREFULLY add the cream (it will pop and spatter really HOT molten sugar), stir to bring it all up to temperature. Let simmer until it reduces about 1/2 and add soy beans, mix, pour out onto greased foil, cool.

Banana Chocolate Sauce



In a small saucepan over medium to high heat, dissolve sugar in the water, bring to a boil. Turn to medium low and add the chocolate. Heat until just simmering and remove from heat. Add in vanilla and banana flavoring. Enrobe your favorite things.


Fresh Is Out: Canned Is In

June 17, 2007 in Food Porn, fruit, ingredient, issues


Because this is my own little nano-bully pulpit, I have to relate something I overheard at the grocery store the other day. I have been trying to come to terms with what was said and how I have been reacting to it, over time. This post is part of that process. Your comments will be an important further step.

I was dithering over some apples when I heard this 16 oldish guy (taller than me for sure) talking to his mom. He was trying to persuade her to let him buy a pineapple. She said that she didn’t want him to buy it and to buy the canned pineapple instead. He persisted, saying he wanted to try it fresh. She said, in an off hand and rather annoyed manner, that it is less expensive canned. He replied that it isn’t really and that the pineapple cost less. She said that it was just too much trouble, he replied it couldn’t be that hard to carve up and then he goes on to talk about how you should cut this and that part.

Finally, she literally pulled him away from the fresh fruit display into the canned and boxed budget isle.

I was struck dumb and felt so bad for that kid. Here he is, a guy who is a teen who actually WANTS to eat fresh food and who wants to actually get his hands dirty with the pineapple and his mother is telling him that canned is BETTER. Sure, the mom must have been in a hurry, didn’t want to clean up a mess, preferred canned ancient pineapple, whatever; she missed out BIG time on a [tag]teachable moment[/tag] (hers and his).

She wasn’t listening to her child, in the least.

They could have bought that pineapple, just a few dollars. He would have had the opportunity to use a knife, in the kitchen, and learn a bit about the way of the pineapple – the spiky bits, the woody bits, the green top, the smell and flavor that does NOT exist with canned fruit. She could then have drilled home for him how to clean up afterwards (an extremely important skill that has to be taught). None of those lessons and experiences happened.

He learned one huge lesson: its OK to be virulently anti-fresh pineapple (fruit, food, what have you).

I hope that his personal lesson is to buy it later and do it for himself.

How many of us do not “like to cook” because there was some sort of gatekeeper who made the kitchen out of bounds or unpleasant? Eating is about as basic as you can get, to feel like cooking and creating in the kitchen is the domain of “others” is unfortunate.

I feel very strongly that we are all born with artistic talent as well as a proclivity towards cooking. Both of these interests are discouraged in so many of us. It is hard to overcome that.

It was just a shock to see this dynamic overtly displayed on an ordinary day in an ordinary grocery store.

Local Food: Brookfield Orchards in Brookfield, MA: a phototour

April 20, 2007 in cheese, farm, Food Porn, fruit, Local Food


(Apple Dumpling with vanilla ice cream and cheddar cheese)

Here in central Massachusetts, we have an abundance of apple orchards. When tourists come to this region in the summer, they expect to do a few very specific things – buy antiques, pick apples, visit 18th century New England at Old Sturbridge Village, and enjoy a rural landscape. Those of us who live here year round can become rather inattentive to our the local charms but the coming of spring usually pulls us back out of our ruts.

Today has been just a stellar day weather-wise so my oldest daughter and I took a trip to one of those local orchards, Brookfield Orchards, in North Brookfield, MA. This place is a fair hike from our house and is situated in the middle central part of the state.

For those of you who may not know where Massachusetts is –

This map shows you where North Brookfield is in Massachusetts

Their address is 12 Lincoln rd, North Brookfield, MA 01535

(508) 867-6858

Their website is, where you can see all about their mail-order options. They ship apples, preserves, relishes, mustards, jams, gift baskets, and more.

To learn more about the other offerings in the area, check out the “Browse the Brookfields” site for other attractions, like:

The following photos gives you a bit of a photo tour through the outside orchard and the store. Enjoy!

The specialty at Brookfield Orchards is hot apple dumplings, served with vanilla ice cream and/or a chunk of cheddar cheese. (seen at top)

Dormant apple trees that will have stunning blossoms in a few weeks time.

Some of the store.

Loads of antiques and charm.

The ceiling

More antiques.

Some fun kitchen stuff too.

Sites of Interest:

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