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Now a-Pear-ing: Versatile fruit shows up in savory, sweet dishes

Leigh Ann Laube • May 22, 2013 at 12:06 PM

Pears are one of the world’s oldest fruits, known to both the Greeks and Romans and brought to the United States by early colonists. The arrival of pear trees to Oregon and Washington came with the pioneers by way of the Lewis and Clark Trail. Today, the United States is the second-largest pear-producing country in the world, with Washington, Oregon and California producing 97 percent of the pears in the U.S.

They’re versatile, packed with nutrition, and immortalized along with a partridge in an 18th century Christmas carol.“Pears are free of fat, cholesterol and sodium, like most items in the produce section. They’re an excellent source of dietary fiber, high in potassium and a good source of vitamin C,” said Audrey Kessler, registered dietitian in the Healthy Initiatives Department of Food City.

One medium pear, which would be considered a serving, is about 100 calories and contains six grams of fiber, Kessler said.

“Women need 25 grams of fiber a day; men need 30 grams. One medium pear could provide about a quarter of woman’s daily fiber,” she said.

In addition to being served raw in almost anything, pears can be baked, poached, sauteéd, roasted and grilled.

Anything that can be done with an apple can be done with a pear.

“Substitute ripe fresh or canned pears in any recipe that calls for apples — baked crisps, salads, even applesauce or baked apples,” said Jennifer Walker, a registered dietitian with Holston Medical Group’s Healthy U. “Try pears in a spinach salad, a pear-cranberry smoothie, or on a turkey sandwich.”

Ten principal varieties of pears are grown in Oregon and Washington, each with its own color, flavor and texture, according to USA Pears (www.usapears.org).

“Currently Food City has five varieties, depending on what is available, what’s in season,” Kessler said. “I believe we have pears year-round, but when they’re not in season in the United States, we will import them from other places.

Three of the five are imported right now: Bosc, crisp and sweet and easy to identify with their long necks; Asian, also known as the apple pear, crisp and juicy like apples with a different and distinctive texture; and Packham, a slow ripening variety with green skin that lightens in color as it ripens. These three varieties are imported at this time as none of these varieties are available in the U.S,” she said.

“The other two are the Red D’Anjou, aromatic and delicious with maroon-colored skin; and Green D’Anjou, citrusy in flavor and considered an all-purpose pear. Those two are both currently grown in Washington state. Come mid-July, Bartlett pears from California will be available in our Food City stores.”

Kessler offers some tips for cooking with pears:

• Pick what’s in season and what’s on sale.

• Choose a pear that has no bruises. Check the neck for ripeness by applying gentle pressure with your thumb to the stem end of the pear. If it yields, it’s ready to eat. There are exceptions. The Asian pear has the firmness of an apple and even when ripe its going to be firm.

• To ripen pears, leave them at room temperature on your countertop. Once they ripen, store them in the refrigerator for up to five days.

• To speed up the ripening process, place the under-ripe pear alongside ethylene-producing fruits like bananas, apples, melons and even tomatoes.

• To prevent cut pears from browning, dip cut pears into a 50/50 solution of water and citrus fruit, or dip them into 100 percent lemon juice or lime juice.

“In some of our Food City [stores], we have signs in the produce section above the product that states how to check the ripeness, how best to prepare them. Watch for the signs,” she said.

Breakfast Pear and Bacon Grilled Cheese Sandwich

From USA Pears

4 slices sourdough, whole wheat, or white bread

4 slices of Cheddar cheese

1 firm but ripe Bartlett, Anjou or Bosc USA Pear, peeled, halved lengthwise, cored and cut into 4 thick slices

4 slices cooked bacon

2 Tbsp. butter, softened

Place 2 slices of bread on a work surface and top each slice with a piece of the cheese. Arrange 2 slices of pear on top of each piece of cheese. Add 2 slices of bacon, and then top with another piece of cheese. Place a slice of bread on top and butter the top slices of bread with half of the butter. Preheat a griddle or large skillet. Place the sandwiches buttered side down on the hot griddle or pan. Butter the top side of the sandwiches. Grill until nicely browned on one side and then flip and brown the other side. Cut each sandwich in half and serve immediately.

Grilled Asian Shrimp Skewers With Pears

From USA Pears

1/2 cup honey

1/2 cup soy sauce

2 Tbsp. sesame oil

1 Tbsp. ground ginger

2 Tbsp. minced garlic

1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes

12 skewers

2 USA pears, cored, cut into 1-inch cubes

36 shrimp, peeled, deveined, 31/40 count

1 green bell pepper, cored, seeded, cut into 12 1-inch squares

12 cherry tomatoesWhisk together honey, soy sauce, sesame oil, ground ginger, garlic and red pepper flakes until blended; set aside.

Thread each skewer with 3 cubes pear, 3 shrimp, 1 pepper square and 1 cherry tomato. Place skewers in large shallow pan. Pour marinade over kabobs and refrigerate for 1 hour.

Brush grill with oil. Preheat grill. Grill kabobs over medium heat for 3 to 5 minutes on each side until shrimp is cooked.

Bosc Pear Lasagna With Almonds and Brie

From USA Pears

4 Bosc USA Pears, peeled, cored, and cut into 1/2-inch pieces

2 Tbsp. ground anise, divided

4 cups white cream sauce

12 uncooked lasagna sheets

2 pounds ricotta cheese

6 eggs

1 pound Brie cheese, divided

2 1/4 ounces toasted sliced almonds

Salt and white pepper, to tastePreheat oven to 350 degrees F. Combine 1 Tbsp. anise and 1/2 pound of Brie with cream sauce. Mix ricotta, eggs, remaining anise, and remaining brie. Season to taste. Combine pears with ricotta mixture. Ladle 4 ounces of cream sauce into the bottom of a 9- by 11-inch baking pan. Layer the pan with 4 uncooked lasagna sheets. Top the lasagna with half of the pear and ricotta mixture. Top the pear and ricotta mixture with a third of the sliced almonds. Ladle 8 ounces of cream sauce on top of almonds.

Create a second layer of lasagna, alternating lasagna noodles, pear mixture, almonds and cream sauce. Layer top of lasagna with final 4 sheets of pasta. Cover with remaining cream sauce; make sure all pasta sheets are covered with sauce. Cover baking dish with lid or aluminum foil and bake for 30 minutes.

Top lasagna with remaining almonds and bake an additional 15 minutes. Let cool for 5 minutes before slicing and serving.

Hot Fudge Pear Sundae

From USA Pears

1 pint vanilla ice cream (or your favorite flavor)

1 cup chocolate fudge sauce

2 ripe Anjou USA Pears, peeled, cored, and sliced

Place slices of pear into dessert cups. Top with scoops of vanilla ice cream. Heat chocolate fudge sauce and pour over ice cream. Serve immediately.

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