Vegan Cooking Tips
Quick and Easy Pear Dishes
By Nancy Berkoff, RD, EdD
Fresh, canned, dried....sliced, diced, halved, puréed.... raw, baked, grilled, poached...pears are versatile and easy to prepare and serve. Pears also store well, so they are a year-round, go-to fruit. Many markets offer several types of pears, and the different varieties have varied tastes and textures. Choices are always nice!
Pears have 21 grams of carbs. The carbohydrates in a pear are low on the glycemic index, meaning they are not a "high sugar" fruit. One pear can offer up to 15% of an adult recommended daily allowance of fiber. Fresh pears are a good source of Vitamin C. One fresh pear contains 10% of the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for Vitamin C. A serving of fresh pears can have up to 5% of the recommended daily adult allowance for potassium.
Pears are wonderful just eaten out of hand. If you have time, make a morning pear parfait. Top cooked or dry cereal with 1/2 cup diced pears, vegan yogurt with fruit, chopped dried fruit, and a sprinkle of dark chocolate or coconut chips.
There is a pear for every taste. Yellow Bartlett actually starts with a green skin and then ripens to a bright yellow. Depending on how ripe/firm you like your yellow Bartlett, you may be eating a hard, green pear, or almost spooning a brilliant yellow one. Red Bartlett starts out with a blush, and has a bright red skin when fully ripe. Green Anjou starts out green and stays that way, so you'll need to apply some pressure to test for ripeness. Red Anjou are closer to maroon and stay fairly red. Bosc pears have a speckly brown, pebbly skin and do not turn color when ripened; select Bosc when you are in a baking or poaching mood. If you can locate some Comice pears, take advantage of your find. Comice are pears livin' large sweet and juicy. Seckels resemble miniature pears and are very sweet and very pretty; they can be light green, maroon, or faintly striped.
When you've got a blender handy, purée overripe pears with your favorite juice and/or yogurt for a fast morning meal. Leftovers can be frozen for your very own signature pear sherbet. Pears can be oh-so-thinly sliced and put on cold sandwiches or diced and added to cooked rice, couscous, or pasta. If you're in a chocolate mood (who isn't?!), melt vegan chocolate chips in the microwave and dip fresh pear pieces for a pear fondue. Leftovers, if there are any, can be refrigerated for a cold snack.
If you have time, rather than baked apples, you can create baked pears. Cut several pears in half and scoop out the seeds. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Spray a baking dish with vegetable spray. Place pears in baking dish, cut side down. Combine equal parts of apple juice or pear nectar and maple syrup, sprinkle over pears, cover, and bake until soft (or the texture you like). Serve as a dessert, with sorbet or vegan yogurt and some berries, or have for breakfast with some granola, chopped nuts, or vegan yogurt... or keep in the refrigerator for a fast snack. When you have a grill on, cut fresh pears in half lengthwise, spray with a bit of vegetable oil, and grill, cut side down, until the texture you like is attained. You can sprinkle grilled pears with chili powder, garlic, and onion for a savory side dish or with cinnamon, vanilla, and ginger for a sweet one.
Finally, if you can stop yourself from eating pears straight from the fruit bowl, think about adding chopped pears to green salads, yogurt, smoothies, rice dishes, cooked vegetable dishes (as a garnish), or on your morning cereal.
Pears pair perfectly with wine. Here is a brief guide for your next tasting. For a list of vegan-friendly wines, visit: http://www.barnivore.com/wine?vfilter=Vegan
Pear variety/ Wine
- Anjou / Sauvignon Blanc
Anjou / Demi-Sec Champagne
- Anjou is very sweet and juicy when fully ripe, with excellent pear aroma.
- Bosc / Cabernet Sauvignon
Bosc / Barberesco
- Bosc is a pear with dense flesh and a nutty, spicy flavor. Mildly sweet, this "savory" pear is often used in cooking.
- Bartlett / Brut Champagne
Bartlett / Merlot
- Bartlett is a very juicy pear that is very aromatic with a smooth texture
- Comice / Ruby Port
Comice / Sauternes
- Comice is the sweetest of all pears and a bit heavier in texture. It's an especially good dessert pear with full-bodied flavor.
- Red Bartlett/Chianti
Red Bartlett/Tawny Port
If you are thinking of cooking with your pears, here's a short guide to amounts:
About 2 medium pears = 1 cup sliced pears
About 4 medium pears = 1 cup puréed pear
About 3 medium pears = 1 pound of pears
If your pears don't seem to ripen quickly enough for you, try the paper bag trick. Place several pears in a paper bag, seal, and allow to ripen overnight. If you ripen too many pears, cook them into a pear sauce, as an alternate to applesauce, or bake them as you would an apple, in the oven or microwave.