Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Spiced Cranberry Nectar Poached Pears {for Stemilt Growers}

I’m not sure there is another cooking application that matches the ease and creative fun that poaching fruit offers. In essence, it’s like coloring with flavor… a simple pot of sweetened liquid infused with bits and bobs of spice and… voilá… you have a naturally delicious fruit dressed up just a bit. 

While you poach eggs, and poultry, and various other edibles, I think pears are probably the most elevated in the hierarchy of elegance when it comes to this technique. Perhaps it’s their amenable nature when at the height of their season... perfectly ripe, naturally sweet and deliciously mellowed to the touch... a mellowed appeal that generously welcomes the addition of flavor. Or, perhaps it is their graceful shape that elevates their appeal. Whatever the rationale, poaching simply enhances the natural, sun-ripened nectar of this fruit. And, it’s as easy as boiling water... and selecting the right pears!

A firm, ripe pear is critical to achieving a beautiful poached pear and Stemilt’s d’Anjou or Bosc varieties are particularly perfect choices. I am, however, partial to Stemilt’s Bosc pear simply for its elegant, elongated shape and delicate stems. Either of these varieties, however, have a wonderful, firm flesh that will stand up well to poaching.

Beyond selecting the right pear variety, poaching requires only two things: determining what liquid you’ll poach in, and how you want to spice up that liquid.

Using Stemilt’s Bosc pears, I started with a bottled, organic Cranberry Nectar that I enhanced with some flavors of the season... cinnamon, star anise, fresh orange and for a little pop... pink peppercorns! The result is a mildly sweet poached pear (you really don’t have to do much to a beautifully ripened Stemilt pear!) with just a hint of holiday flavor. And, to celebrate the season, propped atop a bed of fresh pomegranate seeds and sprinkled with a little lime zest.

For recipe details, and a general how-to on poaching pears, visit Stemilt’s blog, The Stem.

Disclaimer: While I have been compensated by Stemilt Growers for this recipe development project, including photography, the opinions expressed on A Savory Nest are my own. Recipes and all images are the sole property of Stemilt Growers.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Orecchiette Pasta with Brussels Sprouts, Mushrooms & Red Chili Pepper

On a gray and rainy Saturday afternoon we wandered into a favored local Italian eatery for some late lunch/early dinner fare... something hearty enough to get us through the remainder of the evening but not so heavy that we wouldn’t welcome the thought of sitting through a three-hour movie afterward. A version of this orecchiette pasta was ordered, times two, and devoured despite one eater’s thoughts that it might have been a touch too salty. As I could drink the ocean, I had no issue with its seasoning.

Deceiving in its simplicity and mix of humble ingredients... delicate shavings of brussels sprouts sautéed with a bit of garlic and a few calabrian chiles... it was surprisingly flavorful. And given my growing penchant for just about anything to do with brussels sprouts, a welcome new option for this bright little brassica.

While I had no issue with the seasoning, I did have a couple of thoughts on the meal we enjoyed. One was that it would be great with a little added protein thrown in... some roasted chicken, perhaps, or a good pop of sautéed mushrooms… yum. And the other was that the use of chiles for heat (and flavor) was genius. The chili component in this pasta is what truly takes it out of what might otherwise be Dullsville. Yet, instead of the calabrian chiles used in the pasta this was inspired by... chunks of which we continued to grapple with throughout our meal... too much, too little?... I opted for a generous sprinkle of crushed red chili pepper... providing the same (or better) pop of heat and zest with nary a sight of its source. And, keeping it meatless, went with a golden sauté of cremini mushrooms in the mix.

Besides the fact that this comes together so easily, in less than 30 minutes, it could easily be enjoyed as a side veggie without the pasta... the mix is that good!

It’s the perfect nestle-in-on-a-rainy day comfort food... hearty, flavorful, and satisfying without being heavy… and very movie friendly.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Apple, Brussel Sprout & Kale Salad with Lemon-Honey-Cider Vinaigrette {for Stemilt Growers}

For a family who willingly moved six times in eight years... covering three states and two continents (with kids in tow)... we know a bit about acclimating, adjusting, and accommodating. Change, however, is a different breed altogether. We tend to try to manage change as best as change can be managed... when the mood and manner moves us.

That is until you come to the holidays.

We have our traditions... not to be messed with or managed. So when I suggested we switch the salad I’ve made for our Thanksgiving meal... one I’ve served for more years than I can remember... approval was required.

For a girl who grew up abhorring brussel sprouts, I sold this salad on that little tidbit of fact. Who would change up a proven winner with a dish that was borne on an ingredient that was so despised... unless success was a given?

There are so many great ways to enjoy brussel sprouts... far beyond a holiday meal. Yet... when mixed in a raw, fresh manner with Stemilt’s delicious Honeycrisp apple and thinly sliced ribbons of green kale, dotted with sweet, dried cranberries and candied pecans, and tossed with a subtly sweet lemon-honey-cider vinaigrette... these little sprouts take on an entirely new personality, one equally worthy of holiday fare or everyday ease. They are vibrant, robust and ever so appealing and beautifully balanced against the subtle, yet crisp and sweet Honeycrisp apple. It’s a salad that rewards change and champions new traditions.

For recipe detail, visit Stemilt’s blog, The Stem.

Disclaimer: While I have been compensated by Stemilt Growers for this recipe development project, including photography, the opinions expressed on A Savory Nest are my own. Recipes and all images are the sole property of Stemilt Growers.