Photo: Sarah Kaiser/WFIU
For folks looking for a chocolate substitute this Valentine’s Day, we offer two recipes that feature some local flare.
Pears For Eating, Pears For Poaching
Anjou, Asian, Bartlett, Bosc, Comice, and Starkrimson. Any of these pears would be tasty to eat out of hand or to use for pear butter or syrup. Specifically, the Asian pear is crispy and watery, and the green and red anjou pears are great to accompany a cheese plate.
But the pear that is best for poaching is the Bosc pear. It tends to be firm and crunchy, and it doesn’t ripen as quickly so it’ll hold its shape after poaching. The sugar in the poaching liquid will preserve the pears, so you can make a batch of these and then enjoy them over the next few days.
The key with poaching pears is to make sure they still maintain some crunch. As they cook in the liquid, test them with a knife to make sure the outside is tender while the inside is still relatively firm.
Ginger Poached Pears
While the pear is the main attraction of this dish, the garnishes really steal the show. (Check out the recipe for the Pumpkin Seed Tuile below.) Playing off the idea that pears goes great with cheese, Chef Margaret Nelson created some sweet whipped goat cheese. “It’s nice and sweet, but it still has that goat cheese tang at the end,” Nelson says. She added some lemon zest, confectioners sugar, and heavy cream to make this creamy accompaniment to the pear.
She also drizzled the plate with pomegranate syrup for a splash of color.
Photo: Sarah Kaiser/WFIU
- 4 each Bosc pears (peeled, cut in half, and cored)
- 8 cups water
- 8 cups granulated sugar
- 1 – 1 1/2″ fresh ginger, peeled and sliced
- 1 each cinnamon stick
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- Place water, sugar, ginger, cinnamon stick and vanilla extract in pot over high heat.
- Once mixture has come to a boil add pears and turn heat down to a simmer.
- Cook pears approx 15 – 20 minutes or until pears can be easily pierced with a sharp knife but are still firm.
- Turn off heat and allow pears to cool in poaching liquid.
- Once cool, move pears to a container, pour liquid over them and store in the refrigerator.
Pumpkin Seed Tuile
- 1/3 cup flour
- 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons confectioners sugar
- 3 egg whites
- 2 1/2 tablespoons butter
- 3 tablespoons (approximately) melted butter to grease the parchment paper
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
- pumpkin seeds
- pinch of salt
- Pre-heat the oven to 350.
- Melt butter and mix with sugar. Add flour, egg whites, vanilla, and salt.
- Add as many pumpkin seeds as you like to the mixture
- On a cookie sheet lined with parchment, spread the batter thinly in the desired shape.
- Bake for 5-6 minutes, or until the tuile becomes golden on the edges.
- When first removed from the oven, the tuile will be bendable. You can bend it over a bowl or a rolling pin to create fun shapes.
For The Love Of Chocolate
Both of our recipes are fruit-based and delicious, but the true food star of Valentine’s Day is definitely chocolate. Whether it’s a response to commercial marketing or the desire to give something sweet to your sweetie, owner and executive pastry chef at BLU Boy Cafe and Cakery David Fletcher says the three days leading up to Valentine’s Day are some of the busiest of the year for his shop.
Photo: BLU Boy Chocolate
The first thing you notice when you look at the case at BLU Boy is all the fantastic colors and designs on the chocolates. He achieves this by swirling colored cocoa butter into a mold and then filling it with dark chocolate. They fuse, and when you pop it out of the mold, you get a tiny edible piece of art. “But,” he says, “I can’t tell you how many times people come in and ask if they have to unwrap the chocolate.”
Just like fresh produce, fresh chocolate has a limited shelf life; they need to be eaten within two weeks. “There was this learning curve for us and for our customers in recognizing that this was meant to be a fresh product,” he adds. This is because his chocolates don’t include any preservatives, which makes them very different from the box of chocolates you can buy from a drug store. Those chocolates are usually preserved with extra sugar.
BLU Boy chocolates also include a significant amount of cocoa butter, which increases their price but also gives them that melt-in-your-mouth effect. In fact, the staff aren’t allowed to pick up the products and hold on to it for more than a matter of seconds because they will begin to melt with body temperature.
More: David Fletcher was one of eight local chefs who contributed his treats to the recent event, The Art Of Chocolate. See photos of the event and check out a recipe for the Perfect Chocolate Martini.
Persimmon Panna Cotta
In Italian, panna cotta means “cooked cream,” but the persimmon purée outshines the cream in this dish. The fruit ripens in the fall, and if you freeze the purée in individual portions, you can enjoy it through the winter. While Bread pudding is the traditional way to enjoy persimmons, this panna cotta gives you another tasty use for “the fruit of the gods.”
This recipe is especially handy if you’re looking for something light for the end of your meal. Since it is thickened with gelatin and not eggs, it’s lighter than a custard or creme brulee.
- 3 cups heavy cream
- 1 1/2 cups persimmon purée
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon sweet seasons
- Pinch salt & pepper
- 1 tablespoon + 1/4 teaspoon gelatin powder
- 1/3 cup water
- Heat heavy cream, persimmon puree, sugar, cinnamon, sweet seasons and salt & pepper together.
- Bring mixture to a boil then remove from heat.
- Strain persimmon cream mixture through a china cap (or mesh strainer).
- Meanwhile, allow gelatin powder to bloom in water for approx. 5 minutes then warm gelatin mixture over warm water.
- Add to persimmon cream, whisking to make sure gelatin is completely incorporated.
- Portion into individual cups and place in refrigerator to set.