As beautiful as China is I cannot blog while there as blogger sites are blocked by the Communist Party of China (as is Facebook, my e-mail, Twitter, etc.). As such, I'm proud to announce Vanilla Garlic's first ever guest posts.
This second of two guest posts was written by my partner in culinary crime Stephanie Stiavetti. Her blog, The Culinary Life, is one filled with Gluten-Free Recipes and plenty of wit. She's also a well-known expert on the subject of SEO and an amazing freelance web and tech guru. So much so she's spoken on the subjects at many blogging conferences and has been hired by many big name bloggers you've definitely heard of.
Now, Stephanie and I agree on a lot of things. However, one of the few things we do disagree on is the subject of pears. I think they kick ass. She wants them expunged from human taste.
Except, that is, for one particular exception...
My name is Stephanie and I'm a sugar addict.
My family is bred of fine, sugar-obsessed stock, and as a result, I'm one of those people who finds themselves elbow-deep in a bowl of M&Ms before consciously realizing there's candy in the room.
As I've gotten older health issues have forced me to seriously scale back on my sugar intake, and this unfortunate fact has put a damper on my culinary enjoyment.
Avoiding sugar has been a struggle, especially with tempting blogs (such as this one) occupying my attention every day. Yet summer is an easy time of year to avoid refined sugar because we're surrounded by so much fruit that it's impossible to ignore the bounty of fresh stonefruit, berries, and jams that dominate produce displays. As summer turns cool, though, our natural sweets selection changes. White nectarines give way to apples, and root vegetables start replacing the colorful berries that monopolize local farmers markets from June through August.
While I find it terribly depressing to see summer fruit season end, there's a shining light piercing the early dusk of these chilly September evenings: Asian pears.
First, a confession - I hate pears. HATE them. Their gritty texture makes me want to rip every tooth out of my mouth and hurl them across the room. When I was little, my mom would try to feed me pears and I'd projectile spew them straight into her lap. So, as you can imagine, I was a little trepidatious about trying Asian pears.
I remembered seeing Asian pears at the grocery store as a kid; the produce manager would wrap each individual pear in a stretchy foam sleeve to keep the delicate flesh from bruising as the fruits sat stacked in shoulder-high mountains. I can't tell you how many times my grandmother smacked me up beside the head for stealing those sleeves, sliding them up my arms and running around the produce section like I was the ninja protectress of our local Safeway. As a staunch pear-hater, that was the only pleasant pear memory I had filed away in my mind.
The first time I even tried Asian pears, I walked up to the stand at the farmers market and the first words that left my lips were, "Ugh. I hate pears." Instead of trying to change my mind or talking up the loveliness of his offerings, the guy manning the stand took one look at me and walked away, back to his car halfway down the block.
There I was, alone with a selection of Asian pear samples. Hungry and bitter that the last of the late-season peaches had disappeared to market early birds, I nibbled on a variety called shinko. These pears were sweet and crunchy, not squishy and gritty like the other pears I'd eaten. Curious, I tried another pear called shinsui. This variety was even less gritty, and more crisp than a Granny Smith apple.
I slowly made my way through the five or six varieties at the stand, and finally settled on a handful of shinseikis. These little guys were a light ochre color, with a firm, toothsome bite. That day I became an Asian pear convert (though I still hate the vast majority of common pears).
Another note: While I hate most pears, I have a bit of an obsession with thick, heavy cream. In the past, I've endured much ridicule for drinking whipping cream straight out of its tiny carton, letting it roll across my tongue like a wave of crushed velvet. After cutting out a lot of the sugar in my diet, dairy's sweet richness is so much more evident to my palate; there's so much sugar in milk that for me, it's almost like eating a Snickers bar.
It made sense, then, to combine my new love with my old obsession. I tasked myself with creating an autumn dessert that contained so refined sugar, celebrated the bounty of the season, and lolled across the tongue like a cream-drenched dream. The result is a simple yet refined dish that is very nearly good for you. In fact, you might consider trying it for breakfast.
Crème Fraîche Stuffed Asian Pears with Cinnamon Recipe
This gently sweet dessert is perfect for those days when summer turns to autumn. Asian pears begin making an appearance at farmers markets, and gently spicy seasonings add just a touch of heat to their delicate sweetness. If you're looking for a sweeter filling - or you're unable to find crème fraîche - try filling your pears with sweet mascarpone cream.
4 ripe asian apple pears
1 cup crème fraîche
2 tablespoons honey
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
Additional cinnamon for dusting
1. Slice pears in half. Using a spoon, remove the seeds and scoop a divot out the center of each pear half, making it large enough to hold at least a tablespoon of filling.
2. In a small bowl, mix crème fraîche and honey until they are completely combined. Mix in cinnamon and ginger.
3. Fill the center of each pear half with crème fraîche filling. Don't be afraid to heap on the cream. Sprinkle the entire thing with a light dusting of cinnamon.
4. Store in the refrigerator until ready to serve. Serve lightly chilled. If covered, the filled pears will keep a couple of hours (though don’t prepare them too far ahead of time or the pears will brown).