My favorite fruit is the pear. As a child we lived in many a cold and inhospitable climate. There were weeks of long frozen days and nights. Each year, my Father’s sister sent a box of pears from Harry & David. They came in a thick two-part cardboard box that was almost as exquisite as the pears. Each pear was wrapped in a lovely deep forest tissue paper. Pears are the best fruit to mail as they ripen off the tree. When the pears arrived, they were hard green globes that needed days to sit and ripen. It was almost more than one could bear, waiting for those pears to ripen.
Linda West Eckhardt wrote a small, exquisite book, Pears, about my favorite fruit (well, she didn’t actually write it because of me, though I like to claim it). Pears are extremely versatile. The make great desserts, they are the best in preserves and chutneys, they provide a lovely accompaniment to meats, and they are an unexpected side dish. On of my favorite was to use pears is to lighten up a potato gratin.
My love of pears is matched by my love of mashes and purées. Most cooks limit their mashes to potatoes with a bit of milk. Don’t get me wrong, I love mashed potatoes, but there are a myriad of other choices. Try this one the next time you have pork.
Pear and Spinach Purée
2 pounds spinach, stemmed
2 large dead-ripe Comice or Bartlett pears, cored, peeled, and quartered
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons half-and-half
Salt and freshly ground nutmeg to taste
1/2 small ripe Comice or Bartlett pear, cored, peeled, and cut into a fan shape with the stem intact, for garnish
Fill a 4-quart soup pot with water and bring to a rolling boil. Drop all the spinach in by the handful and stand and watch the pot. Yes, it will boil, at which moment you should instantly dump the spinach into a colander and run cold water over it until it is cool. Use your hands to squeeze out all the excess water. Place the spinach and pears in a food processor fitted with the steel blade or in a blender and purée.
Melt the butter in a 12-inch skillet until it foams, then add the spinach purée. Cook and stir until it begins to boil, then add the half-and-half and season with salt and nutmeg.
Serve in a cut glass crystal bowl, swirling the top. Garnish with the fanned pear half.
Serve this up as a side dish and your family will rave.