Tag Archives: Pears

Pear Fritters

on gold platter 1As if I really needed another reason to be grateful that I am a Canadian and not an American citizen, I found one. The mighty tonka bean!  Turns out they are illegal in America, but perfectly safe to purchase here in Canada.

Tonka beans are a major source of coumarin, a highly aromatic organic chemical compound naturally occurring in many plants, including cassia cinnamon, lavender, and bison grass. The fear and confusion stem from the fact that coumarin is used in the production of Coumadin®, a blood thinner. But the chemical structure of coumarin is changed when it is used in the production of Coumadin®. Coumarin, naturally occurring in tonka beans and other plants will not act as a blood thinner. Yet, the FDA has banned tonka beans. Interestingly enough, they have not put a ban on any other plant naturally containing coumarin. tonka beansI discovered tonka beans while I was in Charleston South Carolina last month. I attended a cooking class and the chef whipped out a vial of contraband tonka bean. When we asked him how he got his hands on them he just smiled and said, “I have a guy.”

They grow in South America. While tiny in size, only 1-inch long, they are huge in aroma and flavour. They are reminiscent of vanilla, cloves, and cinnamon with a hint of nuttiness reminding me of almonds. To use them, they must be grated, much like whole nutmeg. A microplane grater does a great job of this.

I like Bosc or red or green Anjou pears for this dessert. They have a denser flesh than other pear varieties. They become more tender when fried, but they don’t turn to mush. horizontal pearsI left the peel on and just sliced them vertically so that each slice retained its pear shape. A basic fritter batter contains flour, baking powder, sugar, salt, egg, butter or oil and usually water or milk. To bump up the pear flavour I used pear cider for my liquid. I added half a grated tonka bean to the batter. If you can’t get tonka beans, add a bit of vanilla and almond extract to the batter. The second half of the grated tonka bean gets mixed into the sugar-cinnamon for topping the fried fritters.

Heat the oil to about 375°F for optimal frying. You want a crispy golden crust and a tender interior. They only take 2-3 minutes per side to fry.

Have a baking sheet lined with paper towels as well as your grated tonka bean-cinnamon sugar mixture ready before you start frying. Make sure to sprinkle with the topping while the fritters are still hot. Even if you omit the tonka bean, these fritters are freaking delicious. A burnished golden brown outer crust gives way to the sweet and creamy pear encased in the center.Sifting cinnamon and sugar 1They would be delicious with a cold glass of pear cider.on gold platter bite takenCould be a fun substitute for sufganiyah this year at Chanukah!fritters for 2

Click here for the recipe for Pear fritters.

Pear Endive Salad

In an earlier post, I talked (perhaps a bit too much) about a recent wonderful holiday in the Caribbean. While I loved the beach, the conch shells, and the silver toast holder, what I loved best was the treadmill in the fitness center at our hotel. You see, each treadmill had a little TV attached to it, and the best part was, wait for it… they carried The Food Network and The Cooking Channel. We don’t have the Cooking Channel here in Canada yet, so I was quite excited to check it out.

My husband finds it quite perverse that I watch food shows while exercising. But here’s my theory. I categorize people into one of two groups. The first group is those who “Eat to Live.” You know these people, they view food as fuel for their bodies. They are the ones who say things like, “Oh, I was so busy, I forgot to eat lunch.”, or, “I was so stressed, I couldn’t eat and lost 5 pounds.” Then there is the second group, those who “Live to Eat.” In this group you have the people who, if they are not eating, they are thinking about food. They are the ones who are planning what to have for dinner while they are still finishing breakfast. They are the ones who watch the Food Network while exercising.  I always wondered why the TV on those exercise machines are tuned to CNN when I turn the machine on. Do people actually watch that when working out, or do they just change the channel after they are done so you will think they are intellectuals?

On the third day of our holiday we were in the gym working out. I had already done 30 minutes on the Elliptical machine and was planning to do 30 minutes on the treadmill. 15 minutes into my treadmill workout, a new episode of  “Chuck’s Day Off” began on the Cooking Channel. He was making a Pear and Endive Salad. Not so thrilling, you may think, at first glance. But then, I watched him prepare the pear vinaigrette and he had me hooked. He took pear nectar, and reduced it on the stove until he had a thick pear caramel. I did not know you could do that! He whisked that thick caramel into a vinaigrette for the salad.

Just as he was beginning to put the whole thing together my husband came by my treadmill and asked if I was done yet. My inner voice screamed, “NO! Chuck hasn’t finished making the vinaigrette. I can’t leave yet. This is the most exciting part.”  What I actually responded to my husband was something like, “Not quite yet. The endorphins are just kicking in and I’m really getting into the “zone” here. I think I’ll just go for another 12 minutes. You go ahead, I’ll meet you back in the room.” He trotted off. I  did an extra 12 minutes on the treadmill (which I figure burned enough calories for a bonus glass of Prosecco) and got to see Chuck complete the Pear and Endive Salad. Everybody wins!

Chuck Hughes, if you don’t know him, is a Montreal chef with a show on Food Network Canada. The US Cooking Channel recently added his show to their lineup. He is very sweet and very cute and he has the cooking chops to back it up. He beat Bobby Flay on Iron Chef America in “Battle Canadian Lobster”. The premise of his show is that on his day off he cooks for all the people in his life that mean something to him. He cooks for the cops who patrol the area around his restaurant, the garbagemen who are on his route, his bouncers and even his coffee supplier. You gotta love this guy. His arms are covered in tattoos of lobster, arugula, bacon, shrimp, lemon meringue pie. This is a guy who Lives to Eat!

Pear nectar is readily available in the juice aisle at your supermarket. I found a really nice one in the organic aisle. You start with 2 cups of nectar and boil it down until it is really thick. Then you just let it cool and whisk it into the remaining vinaigrette ingredients.

I used Belgian endive and radicchio, red and green pears, black seedless grapes and a wonderful French cheese called mimolette. If you can’t find mimolette, Gouda would also be great.

To print recipe for this salad, click here.