March 4, 2013

Warm Pear Almond Tart


My subtly amazing husband said this was a dessert so good, it floated above the plate.
Every once in a while, I’ve taken a bite of something so delicious, it transports me to another plane, makes me close my eyes, and mentally sigh.  It happened to me once in Italy, when I took a bite of my sister-in-law’s pillows of butternut squash tortellini in a warm, rich gorgonzola cheese sauce.  It happened when I had a bite of a pork chop with warmly spiced dark cherry-plum sauce served over a wedge of fried polenta that Chef Josh Blythe made for me once here at OCI.  It finally happened at my own house Saturday night when I tasted a new dessert recipe I took a gamble on trying for the first time.

Kevin’s godfather Dann has been heroically battling cancer now for a while.  We invited him and his lovely wife Genevieve over for a quiet vegetarian dinner Saturday night, and I really wanted to make them something healing and nourishing, filled with fresh, rich flavor and interesting textures.  They are both really kind people, and Dann’s attitude and stories about fighting cancer are inspiring.  I wanted to comfort them somehow, with really good food.

I stuck to my favorite African Groundnut Stew recipe for dinner. As a side, I made some fluffy Jasmine rice, scented with cardamom pods, and set out additional bowls filled with spinich leaves, fresh cilantro and lime wedges to use as additions, along with a small bowl of chopped peanuts for added crunch.  At first, I thought I’d serve something rich, made with dark chocolate for dessert, keeping with the antioxidant ingredient theme, but then I found some beautiful organic Oregon pears at Whole Foods while shopping.  

After Google-ing “Pear Dessert” on my laptop, a plethora of recipes appeared.  I sorted through a few and found a delightful blog by Pastry Girl.  I have to say, Pastry Girl gets every ounce of credit for this recipe.  I followed her recipe to the T, and even brought out my old food processor to create the crust and buttery almond filling as she advised.   Pastry Girl added a few creative flourishes to a recipe she discovered, first written by Dorie Greenspan, and raved about the simplicity of the method and technique.  The main trick to it is that you have to create a few separate recipes then assemble them.   That said, a great boon to this particular recipe is you really could do all 3 components, (poach the pears, par bake the crust and whip together the filling) up to 3 days ahead of baking and serving.  It really is perfection. 
By the end of the evening, after tasting the tart, Dann and Genevieve both were silently content, and I swear their eyes closed just a little as they bit into the slightly warm, crunchy crust with buttery almond filling and juicy pears.   As they were leaving, Genevieve asked me for the recipe, and anytime a guest leaves my home asking how to make something again, I feel like the food was a great success.

I wouldn’t add or change a thing to the recipe I found online, and I even saved aside the sugary syrup I used for poaching the pears as recommended.  Thought I could add a splash of bourbon to it for a decadent cocktail one evening this week!

This recipe’s a definite keeper.  I’m going to take the easy way out this time too, and just add the link:
http://dessertfirstgirl.com/2006/11/pear_and_almond.html


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