Last winter, I received a gift of a huge box of fresh pears. While I like to eat pears just as they are, there were so many that I knew I would have to come up with ways to cook with them. I made a few desserts, but being more of a savory person than a sweet tooth, I soon found that pears worked well in savory dishes, too. Pears come into season in the fall, so they are available for all our holiday cooking and baking. They are slightly sweet, which makes them truly versatile, pairing well with both sweet and savory ingredients. I had so much fun cooking with pears and enjoying their juicy, creamy texture and mildly sweet taste. Here are some of my favorite ways to cook with pears – both sweet and savory.
1. Asian Spinach Salad With Grilled Pears
In this salad, the sweet taste of the pears is intensified by grilling them and the whole salad is tossed with a tasty Asian dressing. Make the dressing by combining 2 Tbs. brown rice vinegar, 1 Tbs. tamari, 2 tsp. agave nectar or maple syrup, 1 tsp. Sriracha hot sauce, 2 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil and 1 tsp. toasted sesame oil. Season the dressing with salt and pepper to taste and mix well. Slice 4 Asian pears and lightly brush with oil. Season with salt and grill them for 1-2 minutes per side. Try to get those pretty grill marks on the flesh. In a bowl, combine 4 cups of baby spinach, 4 thinly sliced scallions and the grilled pears. Toss with dressing and garnish with bamboo shoots. For another salad with pears, try this Waldorf Chickpea Salad.
2. Roasted Pear and Potato Salad
The firm flesh of pears allows them to hold up to roasting and make a perfect pairing with potatoes for a delicious salad or side dish. Because potatoes take so long to roast, I start them on the stovetop and then transfer them to the oven. In a large skilled that you can put in the oven, heat 2 Tbs. olive oil over medium-high heat. Add 1 ½ lbs. Yukon or red potatoes that have been halved or quartered so that the pieces are all the same size. Cook for 10 minutes, tossing the potatoes to make sure they brown on all sides. Add 4 pears that have been cored and cut into the same size as the potatoes. Add 1 tsp. dried thyme, 1 tsp. salt and ½ tsp. black pepper. Stir to coat the pears and potatoes with seasoning. Transfer the skillet to the oven and roast at 450 degrees for 15 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender. Remove the skillet from the oven. Prepare the dressing. In a large bowl, combine 2 Tbs. lemon juice, 2 Tbs. agave nectar, 1 Tbs. Dijon mustard, 3 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste. Toss the potatoes and pears in a few spoons of the dressing. Place a big bunch of arugula in a bowl. Add a few thin slices of red onion. Spoon the pears and potatoes over the arugula, season with salt and pepper, and serve with extra dressing.
3. Seitan, Tofu or Vegan Chicken With Onions and Pears in a Balsamic Reduction
The sweet taste of pears balances the pungent taste of onions and makes a wonderful combination to cook with seitan, tofu or my gluten-free answer to seitan, Vegan Chicken. Here I pan-fry the V-Chicken with pears and onions and cook them in a sweet and savory reduction of balsamic vinegar and jam. In a large skillet, heat 2 Tbs. olive oil over medium-high heat. Lightly coat 4 cutlets of seitan, tofu or Vegan Chicken with flour seasoned with salt and pepper and pan-fry them for 8 minutes, until browned and crisp on both sides. Transfer to a plate. Add more oil to the pan and saute 1 thinly sliced onion until softened. Add 2 sliced pears and saute for 4 minutes until the pears are soft and golden brown. Meanwhile, prepare the sauce by combining ¼ cup balsamic vinegar, 1 cup vegetable broth, and 2 tsp. arrowroot powder in a small bowl. Pour the sauce over the onions and pears. Add in 2 Tbs. peach or apricot jam. Allow the sauce to cook, stirring often, for 5 minutes or until it thickens. Serve the seitan, tofu or V-Chicken on a platter and spoon the sauce over it. Serve hot.
4. Roasted Butternut Squash With Pears
I love the combination of roasted butternut squash and onions. Here I add pears to the mix and it works perfectly as a side dish that would look lovely on your holiday table. Peel and cut a butternut squash into cubes. Toss the cubes with 2 Tbs. olive oil, 1 tsp. salt, ½ tsp. dried sage, ½ tsp. dried rosemary and ¼ tsp. black pepper. Place them in a single layer on a baking sheet. Roast at 450 degrees for 30 minutes, turning the pan halfway through, until tender. While the squash is roasting, heat 1 Tbs. oil in a large skillet. Add 1 diced onion and 2 diced pears, season with salt, rosemary, sage and black pepper, and saute for 5 minutes or until the pears are tender. When the squash is tender, transfer it to the skillet with the onions and pears. Mix together, adjust for seasoning and serve warm.
5. Vegan Grilled Cheese Sandwich With Pears
Nothing is better on a cold day than a bowl of tomato soup and a grilled cheese sandwich. It’s the ultimate comfort food meal. Adding pears to a grilled cheese gives the sandwich a moist, sweetness that balances the salty, gooey vegan cheese. Heat a skillet (non-stick or cast iron) over medium heat. Apply a light layer of vegan butter to one side of each slice of bread. Add baby spinach leaves and sliced pears to half of the slices on the buttered side. Lay vegan cheese slices or shreds over the spinach and pears and cover with the other slices of bread, buttered side down. Press the sandwiches together. Apply a layer of butter to outside of the sandwiches. Gently lay each sandwich, buttered side down, in the hot pan. Keep pressing down with a spatula so that the ingredients melt together. When the bottom of the sandwiches has browned, put butter on the top layers of bread and flip the sandwiches over. Keep pressing down on the sandwiches until the bottom sides brown. Serve with your favorite tomato soup. Check out 10 Homemade Vegan Cheeses to Add in Your Epic Grilled Cheese Sandwiches.
6. Potato, Parsnip and Pear Puree
The next time you make mashed potatoes, add some parsnips which taste like spicy carrots, and some sweet pears for a side dish with complex layers of flavors. Combine 2 or 3 russet potatoes and 4 parsnips cut into cubes in a large saucepan and cover with cold water. Add 1 tsp. kosher salt and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-high and cook for 10 minutes. Add 3 pears cut into cubes and continue to cook until everything is fork-tender, about another 10 minutes. Drain and return the veggies and pears to the pot. Cook for 5 minutes until the juice from the pears reduces and becomes syrupy. Transfer everything to a food processor and add 4 Tbs. vegan butter and ½ cup coconut milk. Process the veggies and pears until smooth and creamy, and season with salt and pepper to taste.
7. Curried Butternut Squash and Pear Soup
Here is another beautiful dish for your holiday table. The deep, rich flavor of roasted butternut squash, the mild sweetness of pears, the heat of curry and the light, smooth creaminess of coconut milk make a delicious, silky bisque that is just incredible. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place 6 cups cubed butternut squash and 2 cups cubed pears on a baking sheet and toss with 1 Tbs. of olive oil. Roast for 30-45 minutes or until tender. Set aside. Heat 1 Tbs. olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the white parts of 1 ½ cups chopped leeks and sauté for 5 minutes. Add 2 tsp. curry powder, 1 tsp. ground cumin, ½ tsp. fresh grated ginger, ½ tsp. ground cinnamon, ¼ tsp. ground nutmeg and 1/8 tsp. ground cloves. Stir the mixture until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the roasted squash and pears and mix to combine. Add 6 cups vegetable broth, 1 ½ cups coconut milk, and 2 Tbs. maple syrup. Bring the soup to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for 15-20 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Transfer the soup to a blender or use an immersion blender to blend until smooth. Serve while hot and garnish with diced pears.
8. Roasted Pears With Brown Sugar
Pears are so delicious; you don’t have to do much with them to make an indulgent dessert. Arrange cored and halved pears cut side up in a baking dish. In a small saucepan, combine 1/3 cup apple juice with 1/3 cup brown sugar and cook until the sugar dissolves. Add in 3 Tbs. of vegan butter and whisk until smooth. Pour the sauce over the pears and bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes or until the pears are slightly tender and lightly golden-brown. Baste often with the sauce. Transfer the pears onto plates and top with vegan ice cream.
9. Pear and Apple Cobbler with an Oatmeal-Almond Topping
This is a relatively healthy dessert. It uses no sugar, just 2 Tbs. of maple syrup and only 2 Tbs. of vegan butter. Instead of using dough for the topping, I use a combination of oatmeal and almonds. The topping is crisp and crunchy. The pear and apple filling is soft and sweet with all those warm spices that are so comforting and delicious. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. In a bowl, add 2 pears and 2 apples cut into bite-sized pieces, 1 tsp. ground cinnamon, ½ tsp. ground allspice, 1 Tbs. flour, 1 tsp. vanilla and 2 Tbs. fresh orange juice. Toss so the fruit is well-covered. Transfer the fruit filling to your baking dish or ramekins. In another bowl, mix 1 cup oats, ½ cup sliced almonds, ¼ cup flour, a pinch of salt, 3 Tbs. maple syrup and 2 Tbs. melted vegan butter or oil. Mix well. The topping mixture should be crumbly and a bit sticky. Taste it to see if it’s sweet enough for your liking. Top the fruit filling with the oat topping. Press it down into an even level. Bake for 25-30 minutes until the top is golden-brown and the fruit is bubbling. Remove from the oven and let set for about 10 minutes. Serve with vanilla ice cream, whipped cream or all by itself.
10. Gluten-Free Vegan Pear Tart with Pluot Lemon Glaze
This is a delicious dessert that will definitely impress your guests. It consists of sweet pears baked in cinnamon sugar on a delicate, crispy, tender gluten-free tart crust and covered with a pluot-lemon glaze. To make the tart crust: Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Combine 2 oz. vegan cream cheese and ¼ cup vegan butter in the food processor and process until smooth. Add ½ cup gluten-free, all-purpose flour, ¼ cup sugar, ¼ tsp. guar or xanthan gum, ¼ tsp. baking powder, 2 Tbs. ground flaxseed and 1/8 tsp. salt into the processor and process until it comes together as a dough. It will be soft and sticky. Transfer the dough onto the baking sheet. Dust your fingers with some flour and gently work the dough into the shape you want – a circle or a rectangle is nice. Make the crust as thin as you want it. I like it super-thin. The thinner you make it, the more fragile the crust.
To make the tart: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. In a small bowl, combine 2 tsp. cinnamon and 1 Tbs. sugar. Set aside. In a larger bowl, combine 2 sliced pears, 1 Tbs. flour, 1 tsp. vanilla, 1/8 tsp. salt and 1 Tbs. of the cinnamon sugar. Toss to coat the pears well. Arrange the pears on the tart crust in a single layer but scalloped. Bake for 30-40 minutes or until the crust is golden brown and let cool. To make the glaze: In a small saucepan, combine ¼ cup pluot jam (use whatever flavor you like) and1 Tbs. lemon juice. Cook on low heat, stirring, until it is well combined and warm. Remove from the heat. Using a pastry brush, brush the glaze onto the tart. Serve while warm or at room temperature.
For more dishes and desserts with pears, try Spiced Ginger, Cranberry and Pear Sauce, Slow-Cooker Pear Rose Cardamom Cake Oatmeal, Not Too Sweet Pear and Parsley Smoothie, Vegan Pear Apple Pie, Gluten-Free Pear and Apple Tart, Pear Strudel with Pistachio Pesto, and my Vegan and Gluten-Free Pear Crumb Cake.
I am so grateful to my friend for the gift of pears. Without them, I would have never explored so many ways to enjoy cooking with pears. Give yourself the gift of this fall fruit and explore the sweet and savory side of cooking with pears.
Lead image Source: Vegan and Gluten-Free Pear Crumb Cake