It’s February, the holidays are over and we’re in the dead of Winter. My computer weather icon is showing the low 20’s all week and we even got a dusting of snow. The good news is that we’re at the midway point of winter and I could not be happier. Even better Punxsutawney Phil  predicted an early Spring this year. I got to thinking about what I would write this week, that would remind me of warmer times, and noticed these beautiful pears at the store. What kind of recipe could I dream up using them?
Pears are sometimes called a super food. Not surprising since one pear contains 15% of your daily Vitamin C. They are also high in Vitamin E and a whole host of nutrients, plus have zero fat and sodium. Pears also contain pectin which helps eliminate cholesterol; so a perfect dessert after a meal that is high in fat!
In my pear research this week I also discovered a bunch of fun facts about pears: did you know they will ripen faster if placed in a bowl with a banana? (I’m testing that right now!) To check if a pear is ripe give the neck a little press. If it gives, then the pear is ready to be eaten. If it’s firm move on to another one. There are nearly 3,000 varieties of pears but generally we consume 5 or 6 varieties – bartlett being the most popular.
What could I do with a pear that hasn’t already been done? They can be poached, baked, roasted and dried. I really wanted to do something savory, perhaps a soup, but wasn’t sure where to start. Some of my most creative ideas come from traditional dishes – and that is what happened with this one. I was making Mulligatawny soup the other day (cue the Seinfeld Soup Nazi) from the Pioneer Woman  web site and wondered what it would be like if I substituted the apple in the recipe for a pear? Thinking about it a little more I decided that was just too easy … I need to change the entire flavor profile, but use her basic recipe structure. (The texture and flavor of that soup is perfect.)
I pulled together these ingredients and got to work. Let me say a little about tofu. It generally produces an “ick-factor” when I bring it up to my clients. No one can ever articulate why, which makes the response even more amusing. Tofu basically has no flavor. It’s the ultimate blank canvas. It’s low in calories and fat and high in protein and calcium. Tofu became my logical substitute for the chicken, and ginger for the curry.
More after the jump
One of the nice things about the recipe I was working from was the thickener which is basically a simple roux. The ratio provides just the right amount of help: not too thin and not to thick. The fresh ginger gives the whole soup a warmth that is lovely and a single dry Pequin  pepper give it just the right amount of heat. To brighten up the flavor: fresh lime zest and for color and taste: fresh herbs.
This soup will literally come together in 30 minutes, perfect for a weekend lunch or weeknight after work. Plus, it tastes even better the next day.
I also thought it would be fun to mention one of my favorite snacks: I take a Wasa Fiber  cracker and spread it with a little Justin’s Almond Butter , top with a sliced Forelle pear and drizzled with honey. Yum! Forelles are in season right now, so keep and eye out and try them.
I hope you enjoy my take on the luscious pear and try out the soup recipe this weekend.
This warm and spicy soup is not only easy but can be made in less than 30 minutes.
- 1 cup shallot, finely chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 tablespoons grapeseed oil, or another that has very little flavor
- Kosher salt
- Ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon ginger, grated on a microplane
- 1 dry pequin pepper crumbled, or 1/4 teaspoon red chili flakes
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 2 cups vegetable or chicken stock
- 2 cups Fat Free Half and Half, room temperature
- 2 cups Asian pear, 1/4" dice
- 1 cup firm tofu, 1/2" dice
- Juice of 1 lime
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh herbs, I used a combo of cilantro and basil
- 1/4 cup chives, sliced thin
- In a heavy bottom pot over medium heat sweat the shallot and garlic with 1/2 teaspoon of salt and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper, until soft. Add the ginger and chili pepper and cook 1 minute more.
- Sprinkle the flour over the onion mix and cook for 2 minutes stirring with a whisk. Slowly pour in the stock, stirring constantly with the whisk. Cook for 3-4 minutes and then add the the Half and Half.
- Once the soup begins to thicken slightly and just begins to simmer add in the pear, tofu and lime juice. Simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from heat, taste for seasoning and stir in the herbs.
- Ladle into bowls and garnish with chives.
Seasonal Chef blogger Maria Reina  comes to the world of food as a third career, spending a great portion of her adult life in the field of Human Resources. With her private company Bella Cucina Maria she is a personal chef, caterer and recreational cooking class teacher in Westchester. She’s an avid food television watcher and cookbook collector, always looking for a new take on a traditional dish. In her free time she loves hanging out at local farmers, chatting it up with the farmers and doing cooking demos with their seasonal ingredients. In addition to her blog , which is loaded with easy recipes, you can follow her on Facebook , Twitter  and Pinterest .