If I were a 19th century poet, I would spend my summer afternoons on the outskirts of an orchard, watching the clouds pass, nibbling fruit, and limning the virtues of their juices. Alas, I am a modern eater, relegated to her blog—but at least there’s someplace to extol the sweetness of summer. After all, I could have been born a cavewoman, left to devour and delight without a sophisticated alphabet.
And so I say to you, friends, that I have a passion for the syrup-dribbling deliciousness of fruit warmed by the sun… the kind of fruit that seems to have just fallen from a tree, or better yet, was just dangling there, coaxed down by my hungry hands. Sadly, the closest fruit farm I know of is still farther than my local farmer’s market, so I just forage the pre-harvested. Which is just fine by me: the fruit is still warm, still fresh, still replete with summer.
Recently, it’s been peaches and figs galore, following a long and happy blueberry season. But last week, I got the surprise of the summer when I encountered a table covered with pears from Lightsey Farms. Pears! A treat relegated to autumn, I thought, but there they were, winking at me with their Cyclops stems and seductively encased by freckled green skins.
I hadn’t anticipated pears for months, so I hesitated to bite off more than I could chew—which inspired, as it turns out, serious non-buyer’s remorse. I could hardly stop myself from swallowing the entire brownbagfull before I got home (I am wired for that kind of impulsive fruit-eating) and was fortunate enough to save a scant trio for a small, impromptu dinner party Christopher announced on Saturday night.
I wasn’t sure what I would do with them exactly, but I did know that they were the ultimate gift for a group of hungry guests—especially since I’d picked up a complementary hunk of Hopelessly Bleu goat cheese from the Houston Dairy Maids, who themselves procured it from Pure Luck Farm and Dairy in Dripping Springs, TX.
That afternoon, before the party, I started arranging my most prized ingredients on the counter to determine how best to highlight them. I find this an extremely effective method for sizing up my options, when I haven’t got a specific recipe in mind. And lo! Hark! Inspiration soon came in the form of a frozen pecan—I keep all of my nuts in the freezer. The clouds of doubt parted before me: candied pears with bleu cheese and pecans served over arugula. But of course!
Every bite of it had been procured that very morning: it was a beautiful homage to Texas at its best, sweet, savory, a tiny bit biter…all in all, a remarkably simple, yet elegant salad. Best of all, I cooked off the pears well in advance of things, and threw the salad together at the last minute—which left me plenty of time to wax poetic.
Candied Pears with Blue Cheese, Pecans and Arugula
3 ripe pears
4 oz blue cheese
¼ c turbinado sugar
¼ c chopped pecans
Juice of 1 lemon
(dressing adapted from The Barefoot Contessa)
3 c Arugula
3 tbsp. white wine vinegar
1 clove garlic, minced
½ tsp Dijon mustard
1 fresh egg yolk
½ c olive oil
s & p to taste
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Peel and core pears, removing enough flesh for ¼ inch divots. Slice a small piece off the rounded side of each pear to prevent its rolling in the oven.
Coat each pear with lemon juice to ward away browning.
Evenly distribute divots with blue cheese, separating cheese into small (easily melt-able) pieces if not already crumbled.
Nestle pears close together in a small baking dish and sprinkle with sugar.
Press pecans into cheese, distributing evenly among pears.
Bake for 30 minutes, or until sugar has caramelized and pecans are deep brown.
In the meantime, whisk vinegar, mustard, garlic, egg yolk, salt and pepper in a small bowl.
Slowly add olive oil to vinegar mixture, whisking constantly to emulsify.
Just before serving, toss Arugula with dressing and arrange pears over greens.