Thursday, February 5, 2009

La Pera, Le Poire, my Grushka

I grew up with a pear tree outside my window. It was a house warming gift given to my parents and it is still thriving in the acidic sandy soil of Northern Michigan where they still live today.
I'd like to say that is why pears are my favorite fruit for some nostalgic purpose: a childhood compulsion to return to your first window of the world. But actually , I think it is even more simple. Frankly, it's their color. From chartreuse for the under ripe to the ruddy hues of burgundy, pears are never pastel. Not shy, but not too vibrant and they are oh so French down to their shade, shape and flavor. Yet pears are not the fruit of royalty, temptation or even mass allusions in poetry. Sure, Odysseus devoured them while feasting with the Phaeacians and Linda Pastan's poem titled Pears references their feminine lines and allure--their "cello" shape. Yet pears are practical. They can be used in all courses of a meal. Certainly, a pear tarte makes more sense the a pear pie; however, a pear sausage pie is a different breed. There is a simple complexity (if that could be said and make any sense) about this fruit that I am constantly wanting to discover and then reinvent--cold pears served sliced in a salad with goat cheese, toasted walnuts and a simple vinegrette to poached with cardamom ice-cream. Finally, I bring notice to this fine fruit for its main quality of my attraction: its humility. The never too flashy or forward tasting sugar. I honor pears for their subtle sweet, their meaty modesty. To me, they represent the middleWest of taste.

I recently came across a soup that has reconfirmed my loyalty and love for the pear. It is from Bon Appetit but I made a few changes. I fixed it while at work when Great Northern Beans and carrots were on sale. A friend told me, "this is like being hugged from the inside," which seems to be about the best thing you could hear after feeding someone. This can also be made in less than 45 minutes and like most soups, it just gets better and better...just like the stages and color changes of a ripening pear.

Cream of Carrot, White Bean and Pear Soup


1/2 stick of butter (four tablespoons)
2 cups of leeks, white and pale green parts
4 cups (or more) of chicken stock
3 cups of thinly sliced carrots
2 15-ounce cans of Great Northern Beans (or cook your own), drained
2 cups chopped pears (I like to use Bosc)
2 tablespoons of fresh rosemary
1/2 cup of milk or half and half


Melt butter in a heavy saucepan and add leeks. Saute leeks until tender, about ten minutes.
Add chicken stock, carrots, beans, pear and rosemary; bring to boil. Reduce heart to medium-low, cover and simmer until carrots are tender, about 20 minutes.

Puree soup with an emulsion blender. You can decide on how smooth, then add the half and half. If soup seems too heavy add water, but I prefer to use more chicken stock for flavor.
(This soup originally called for water instead of stock, but I had recently made some stock that I wanted to use and I think it really adds to the feeling of as my friend says, being hugged from the inside.)

For me, this was the perfect February lunch. I needed something warm on these cold grey days, but I was tired of chili soups and chowders. This soup smelled like Thanksgiving, yet had the taste of sweet fruit and carrot to remind me that winter is just a sleep away from spring.


  1. yum, miss em! my friend swears by pear juice and fresh ginger to get rid of a cough.