Showing posts with label walnuts. Show all posts
Showing posts with label walnuts. Show all posts

15 February 2009

Baked Pears with Calvados and Mascarpone Cheese

For Grandma Annie, a fresh, juicy pear was the ultimate treat.

It took me rather a long time to appreciate pears. I found the taste a bit metallic and far too subtle on my young palate. Give me an orange instead, later an apple. That was then. This is now.

I was an adult before I began to savor the pear, which I now realize is a more sophisticated and shapelier cousin of of the apple.

A few years back, as we settled into autumn in the southwest of France, I bought two bottles of cider, pear and apple. Pear was sweet and light, while the apple was vinegar-y and heavy to my American-bred palate. I tossed it out.

Baked Pear with Calvados and Mascarpone Cheese (serves four)

  • 2 Red Bartlett pears
  • 1/4 cup Calvados
  • 2 teaspoons butter
  • 2 teaspoons brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

For the cheese topping:
  • 1/3 cup mascarpone cheese
  • dash vanilla extract
  • pinch sugar
  • 2 tablespoons roasted walnuts


Halve the pears, cutting from the top down, and hollow out the center. A grapefruit spoon or a sturdy melon baller is perfect for this task. Set aside.

Melt butter and sugar, add the Calvados and a pinch of cinnamon. Pour over the pears and allow them to absorb the liquid for about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, pre-heat oven to 375. Place the pears cut side up in a buttered baking dish. Drizzle the remaining liquid over the pears, allowing it to pool in the center of the pear halves. Bake for 30-40 minutes until pears are softer, but still firm.

While pears are baking, blend mascarpone with vanilla and sugar.

Remove pears from oven. Allow to cool for 10 minutes. Stuff center of pears with mascarpone cheese. Top with roasted walnuts.

The taste is subtle, the sensation on the tongue is crisp, creamy and crunchy.

08 October 2008

Cooking in Cahors: Fig-Walnut Tarte with Cognac


It was summer when we arrived just four days ago but it feels like autumn now. The days are sunny and mild but the nights are cool and today we turned on the radiators.

As I walk across the lawn to the pool now, wine-dark leaves crunch underfoot and the dry ones scuttle across the cement tiles that surround the pool and hold the variety of wrought-iron chairs and tables and chaises. I sit out here in a sweater and a book, but I barely read. I am distracted by the hang gliders over Douelle – 10 of them one day! – the jets streaming out of Toulouse and the song of the autumn birds. The cuckoos are gone now, but the magpies are cackling and now and then I hear a whip-poor-will or a nightingale.

The figs on the northeastern side of the fig tree are ripening and I have picked a dozen or so for fig tarte.

Fig Walnut Tarte

your favorite recipe for pie crust
10-16 ripe figs, halved from top to bottom
¼ cup Armagnac, Cognac or Calvados
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
5 tablespoons brown sugar
¾-1 cup walnuts
dash sea salt

Prepare your pie crust as usual (I used a pate brisée mix from Carrefour and it was pretty good). Place in a round tarte pan or pie plate. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Note that this is a tarte and thus needs only a bottom crust.

Drizzle figs with Cognac, brown sugar and 1/2 of melted butter. Place open side up in pan. Sprinkle walnuts on top and drizle with the remainder of the butter and a dash of sea salt.

Bake tarte for about 55 minutes on lower shelf in oven for 40-50 minutes. Watch carefully to ensure walnuts do not turn too dark.

It was rich and rustic and tasted of the terroir. The one touch I would add would have been whipped cream topping and some orange zest for an accent.

13 September 2008

Manuka Honey-Drenched Whole Grain French Toast with Walnuts

It is gray and damp in Wisconsin today, but we were outdoors early to clean out the nest boxes, fill the bird feeders, take down the wind chimes and move the copper birdbath inside. We stashed garden tools and pots in the horse barn.

I attended to the compost pile, adding vegetable scraps from the crisper, and plucked the remainder of the cherry tomatoes from the potted plant on the deck. Walking down into the garden, I noticed a small toad making its hip-hoppity way to a hiding place under the spreading yew. We take delight in these small creatures and happily share a yard with them.

Working outdoors on a cool morning helped us work up a hunger. It was obvious we needed a hearty breakfast.

Still bent on cleaning out the larder before we take off, I came up with this healthy concoction:

Whole Grain French Toast with Walnuts and Manuka Honey


  • 4 slices dense whole grain bread
  • 2 organic eggs
  • 1/4 cup vanilla soy milk
  • pinch sea salt
  • 2 teaspoons brown sugar
  • dash cinnamon
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons Manuka honey
  • 1/3 cup walnuts
  • your favorite maple syrup, optional


Coat walnuts in 1 teaspoon butter, dash sea salt and 1 teaspoon brown sugar. Roast at 350 degrees for 5-10 minutes, tossing frequently. While nuts are roasting, beat eggs, soy milk, sea salt, 1 teaspoon brown sugar, cinnamon in broad flat bowl. Immerse bread in egg mixture and soak for 3-4 minutes to ensure bread is thoroughly coated. Melt remainder of butter in skillet. Add soaked bread and cook over medium heat for 4-5 minutes until browned on both sides. Midway through cooking, add Manuka honey, which is reputed to have beneficial qualities. Remove French toast from skillet and place on plates, topping with walnuts and syrup.

Thanks to Fiona in New Zealand for the honey!

18 November 2007

Winter-Fruit-and-Walnut Crisp

Each kitchen has its own unique aroma. When I was young, my mother's tiny yellow kitchen in the apartment she and my father rented near the harbor was redolent with the spicy scents of ginger and cinnamon.

It was that kitchen that came to my mind as I sampled the first bite of my walnut crisp filled with winter fruit drenched in Calvados.

The taste was rich and sweet and layered, which is what I intended. It reminded me of the inside of my mother's spice drawer, or a photograph in a shelter magazine showing a kitchen filled with pine boughs and pewter.

It is entirely my invention, in that I did not seek inspiration anywhere but my own cupboard, intent on using up what I had on hand. There is nothing extraordinary about it - except the taste!

Winter-Fruit-and-Walnut Crisp

  • 1/2 cup dates, chopped
  • 1/3 cup raisins
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 4-5 apples, chopped
  • 1-2 small red pears chopped
  • two tablespoons Calvados
  • one teaspoon vanilla
  • three tablespoons sugar
  • dash or two cinnamon

For the topping:

  • 3/4 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat or graham flour
  • 1/2 stick or more cold butter
  • three tablespoons brown sugar


Place chopped fruit in bowl and toss. Drizzle with Calvados. Add vanilla, fructose and cinnamon and toss again. Place in greased 8-by-8-inch baking pan.

In a second bowl, mix chopped walnuts, flour and brown sugar mix. Cut in butter and blend until mixture resembles coarse meal. Pour topping over fruit.

Bake in preheated 350-degree oven for about 30-40 minutes, until topping turns deep golden brown. Cool for 20 minutes before serving.

Even my husband liked it.