Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Pear Bread

Pear bread? You know, it's like banana bread, only with pears. Last month we ended up with a bunch of pears out of season, and I feared the bruising would take their toll before they would properly ripen. And, as luck would have it*, the very next day one the food blogs I stalk** posted this recipe for pear bread.

* Note #1: Since November '08 (that's a story for another time,) I'm a believer that the universe will deliver what you ask for, but you have to ask. So, maybe this timing was not so much 'luck' as a reponse to my request "I need to find something to do with these pears before the bruising forces me to throw them away uneaten."

** Note #2: My sister, who has friends that blog for cash, says that this particular food blogger gets about two million hits a month, and thus, I can hardly be considered a stalker, merely one of many, many readers/fans.

Back to cooking. I will say, except for the prep work on the pears, namely peeling & coring, this recipe was a snap. Using the food processor constitutes fun in my world, not a chore.

For some reason, I always like to make these types of fruit & vegetable breads (banana bread, pumpkin bread, zucchini bread) in a bundt pan instead of a loaf pan. Maybe because I think it is prettier that way. Maybe because it tricks the kids into thinking they are getting cake. Though, it's not hard to convince anyone to eat this bread. There is nothing in it not to like. Unless, of course, you don't like walnut and then you can simply omit them.

I think this bread would be excellent as part of a brunch spread. Or, a slice served warm with a cup of tea after dinner. Or, it would be perfect for, as my kids like to say, "breakfast dessert."

Pear Bread
More or less followed exactly from Smitten Kitchen's Pear Bread

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 cup chopped walnuts
3/4 cup vegetable oil
3 eggs, lightly beaten
2 cups sugar
4 firm, ripe pears, depending on size (2 - 2 1/2C grated)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Heat your oven to 350°F. Lightly grease and flour a bundt pans.

Combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon in a large mixing bowl, and whisk to mix everything well. If you’re using nuts, scoop out about 1/4 cup of the flour mixture and combine it in a small bowl with the chopped walnuts, tossing to coat the nuts with the flour.

Peel and core pears, then grate them and briefly set aside. If your pears are nice & firm, you can use a shredding disc on your food processor. In a medium bowl, combine the oil, eggs, sugar, grated pear, nuts and vanilla, and stir to mix everything well. Scrape the pear mixture into the flour mixture and stir just until the flour disappears and the batter is evenly moistened.

Quickly scrape the batter into the prepared pans and bake at 350°F for 70 - 75 minutes, or until the bread is handsomely browned and firm on top and a wooden skewer inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool the bread in the pan on a wire rack for about 10 minutes. Then turn it out onto a plate or a wire rack to cool completely.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Baby Artichokes and Farfalle

I must say, humbly, I think this dish might be one of the best things I've ever created. Seriously. I was inspired at the grocery store seeing these adorable baby artichokes and knew I just had to buy them. Aren't these the cutest baby vegetables you've ever seen?

But, then, what to make with them? A simple preparation was called for, something that wouldn't overshadow the flavor. I have to confess, I LOVE artichokes. I eat them simply steamed on a regular basis, with melted lemon-butter to dip in. Mmmm. And the kids have learned to love them too. And while I've been happy to share a whole artichoke, I think their enjoyment is about to push us to the point of needing to buy a second one for the kids to share so I can get my own back! Truthfully, except for recently discovering how amazing they taste in soup, the only think I've ever done is to steam them whole. But, presented with these adorable babies, which don't even require removing the choke, I needed to come up with a new plan.

Cooking in basics like olive oil, shallots and white wine. Matching with similarly sized pasta, and finishing with parsley and fresh tomatoes. It was amazing to discover how mind-blowingly good this tasted! The only major bummer is that after falling in love with this, it was many months before I saw them reappear in the store.

Baby Artichokes and Farfalle

1 - 1 1/2 lbs baby artichokes
1 lemon
1 large shallot or 1 small onion
olive oil
1/2 Cup white wine
1/4 lb sliced or roughly chopped tomatoes (I like campari)
1/4 C chopped parsley
8 oz (1/2 box) farfalle pasta (or substitute another short pasta)

1. Put large pot of salted water on to boil for pasta and cook according to directions.

2. Squeeze juice from lemon into a large bowl of water. Prepare baby artichokes by trimming outer leaves, base and cutting into quarters (or sixths or eighths, depending on size.) It is not necessary to clear out the choke. Drop trimmed artichokes into lemon water.

2. Heat olive oil in skillet over medium high heat. Sautee shallots and (drained) artichokes until tender 5-7 minutes. Add white white and simmer to allow it reduce.

3. Drain cooked pasta, top with sauteed shallots and artichokes. Add chopped tomatoes, parsley, salt & pepper and mix together.