Poached Pear with Dark Chocolate, Creme Anglaise and Balsamic Port Reduction

Organic Starkrimson pear poached in Tawny port wine, vanilla and peppercorns and served with dark chocolate, crème anglaise and a balsamic port reduction..

Poached Pear with Dark Chocolate, Creme Anglaise and Balsamic Port Reduction

For the Crème Anglaise (adapted from a recipe by Michael Ruhlman)

4 oz fresh whole milk
4 oz fresh heavy cream
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
1 1/2 teaspoons dark, unrefined sugar
3 pastured egg yolks

Combine milk, cream and vanilla bean in stainless steel or enameled saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium-low heat.  Remove from heat and allow the vanilla bean to steep for 15-20 minutes before scraping the seeds back into the milk-cream mixture.  Thoroughly whisk the sugar into the eggs yolks.

Return the milk-cream mixture to a bare simmer over medium heat.  Very slowly pour the milk-cream mixture into the beaten eggs with one hand while whisking vigorously with the other.  Pour everything back into the pan and stir continuously until thickened but still pour-able, about 2-4 minutes.

Pour the finished sauce through a fine mesh strainer into a bowl set into an ice bath and stir until the sauce is cold. Refrigerate and use within 2 days.

For the Pears

2 fresh pears, peeled and cored from the bottom
2 cups Tawny port wine
2 cups filtered water, more or less
1 tablespoon vanilla bean paste
8-10 whole black peppercorns

If necessary, cut a small slice off the bottom of the pears so that they stand upright.  Place pears upright in the smallest pan that will hold them and cover with port and enough water to cover.  Add vanilla and pepper and bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer gently until pears are tender, about 1 1/2 hours.  Refrigerate until ready to use, reserving poaching liquid.

For the Balsamic Port Reduction

1 1/2 cups poaching liquid
1/4 cup Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale
raw wildflower honey

Simmer reserved poaching liquid and balsamic over medium heat until reduced to about 1/2 cup.  Remove from heat and add honey a little at a time, tasting on your fingertip as you go.  The result should be a little more tart than sweet.

To serve, spoon crème anglaise onto a chilled dessert plate and drizzle with balsamic port reduction.  Place the pear on top and serve with a pool of cacao nib-crusted dark chocolate.

Levant Summer Salad

Lebanon, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, the Palestinian territories, and Syria..  the Levant describes, traditionally, the Eastern Mediterranean at large, but can be used as a geographical term that denotes a large area in Western Asia formed by the lands bordering the eastern shores of the Mediterranean, roughly bounded on the north by the Taurus Mountains, on the south by the Arabian Desert, and on the west by the Mediterranean Sea, while on the east it extends towards the Zagros Mountains.

Roasted figs, dates, homemade labneh, toasted nuts, field greens, herbs, peas shoots and caramelized onion balsamic..


Levant Summer Salad

Levant Summer Salad


Make labneh (yoghurt cheese) by draining the whey from cultured, whole milk yoghurt.  Roll into balls, coat with za’atar or other spices and submerge in olive oil and store in a cool, dark place up to several months.

Caramelize onions in a heavy skillet.  Add balsamic, reduce heat and simmer until thickened, about 30 minutes.  Set aside

Split figs into quarters by cutting through the stem end, leaving connected at the base. Place a ball of seasoned labneh in the center and broil until the cheese is soft and the figs begin to caramelize.  Set aside.

Toast nuts (pistachios, almonds, etc.) in a dry skillet until golden brown.  Season with sea salt, break into pieces and set aside.

Split fresh dates into quarters, discarding the pits.

Rinse and dry such mixed field greens as are seasonally available.  I like to add arugula for its peppery bite and peas shoots for the added nutrition.

Lightly toss salad with cooled onion balsamic and mound on a dinner plate.  Top with broiled figs, date slices and nuts.

This post is part of the Real Food Wednesdays Blog Carnival

Heirloom Tomato Basil Sauce

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Is there anything better (or easier) than tomato sauce made from the freshest ingredients?  Not only delicious, fresh cooked tomatoes are are loaded with lycopene and vitamins A and C.


Start by peeling and seeding the tomatoes; bring a pot of filtered water to a boil, then turn it off and carefully blanch the tomatoes until the skins peel away, about 10-20 seconds.  Use a slotted spoon to transfer the tomatoes into a bowl and allow to cool slightly.

Cut tomatoes in half and gently squeeze out the seeds.  Diced the tomatoes and set aside.  The skins and seeds can be saved for the stockpot.

Dice onions and sauté in olive oil until soft, about 5 minutes.  Moisten the onions with a few drops of balsamic vinegar and/or an ounce or 2 of red wine.

Add garlic and tomatoes and cook, stirring often, until most of the moisture has evaporated, about 20-30 minutes.

Add chopped fresh basil and oregano and season with sea salt and freshly ground pepper.

Use immediately, or allow to cool to room temperature before transferring to refrigerator or freezer.

Click on the closeup of the basil in the picture below and see if you can spot the perfectly camouflaged critter hiding in the leaves..

This post is part of Food Renegade’s Fight Back Fridays

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Roasted Asparagus with Capicola and Balsamic Grilled Peppers

Fresh pan-roasted asparagus wrapped in balsamic grilled peppers and capicola, with basil leaves, pecorino Romano and black olives..


Wash and trim fresh asparagus, then steam until barely tender, about 4 minutes.  Immediately plunge into ice water to stop the cooking process and retain color and nutrients.  Pat dry.

Lay out thin slices of capicola on a flat surface and place olive oil and balsamic marinated grilled peppers on top.  Add whole basil leaves and asparagus and roll up jellyroll fashion.  Secure with toothpicks.

Heat a heavy skillet over medium heat with just enough olive oil to prevent sticking.  Pan-roast until the edges of the meat begin to crisp and the asparagus starts to brown, about 2-3 minutes per side.

Drain briefly on paper towels, then transfer to a plate and dress with pecorino Romano, black olives and freshly ground pepper.