Posts Tagged ‘cherry orchards’

Bosc Pear, Prosciutto di Parma and Gorgonzola Pizza

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In The Odyssey, the Greek poet Homer calls pears a “gift of the gods.”

Thanks to Neil Cherry at Cherry Orchards, I’ve made one of my favorite pizzas with what is known as the “aristocrat of pears.” It’s the Bosc. I took this Northern European variety on a jouney south to Italy for a pairing of some righteous Gorgonzola and Prosciutto di Parma, arugula and a basamic glaze, adding a textural foil of salty cashews for fun. It’s a favorite pizza that incorporates the same agra dolce (Italian for sweet and sour) effect that works so well on many of my pizzas.

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The Buerre Bosc was named by the French, who have a penchant for naming pears first by their taste or outstanding characteristic, then the name or origin reference. (Kinda like “Goofy John.”) Buerre is a reference to the buttery taste of the Bosc.

The history of this fine pear is as muddled as all those gnarly European wars that occurred during the previous centuries. Even today, the claim to this pears’ introduction is argued as being in either Belgium or France. The name comes from the director of the Paris Botanical Gardens, Mr. Bosc, who is thought to have raised the pear from seed. Don’t tell that to residents of Appremont, France, though. They say it was initially grown there, and they call it the Buerre d’ Appremont. King Louis the XIV loved the Bosc so much he demanded they be planted endlessly around his extensive gardens.

I love the Bosc pear for the same reason I love Granny Smith apples: the flesh is firm and dense,  perfect for pizza. The taste is less likely to be overwhelmed by strong spices, meats or vinegars. Many chefs love the Bosc because of the tapered bottle-like top distinguishes it as a pear (and not an apple) and it lends itself perfectly for poaching. I also use the Bosc in a  Succar bi Tahin, sweet Beruit tahini rolls where the rolled-out dough is topped with honey-sweetened tahini. After I take it from the oven, I slit the middle of the bread and shove (yes, technical baking term) a vanilla, nutmeg and cinnamon poached Bosc right into the slot.

The Bosc is called Kaiser or Kaiser Alexander in Italy, where use of the pear is extensive. Italy is one of the largest producers in the world, cultivating about 10 varieties, with most coming from the Emilia Romagna region. Campania, Veneto, Lazio, Sicily and Lombardy are close behind. Today, you can’t pick up any cookbook without seeing the combination of Gorgonzola, pear, and balsamic with arugula. Such a great combo is heavenly, to say the least. Let’s get cooking!

Use easy dough recipe to make two 7 ounce dough balls. Freeze one if you like.

1 large or 2 small Bosc pears

3 large slices of prociutto

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

3 tablespoons crumbled Gorgonzola

5 cherry-sized fresh mozzarella balls (ciliegini) or 4 ounces of cubed fresh mozzarella

2 tablesoons cashews (roasted preferred but unroasted or roasted-salted are okay)

15 leaves of baby arugula

Balsamic glaze or balsamic vinegar for drizzling

Pre-heat the oven to 475 with an upside down, heavy duty cookie sheet (or half sheet pan is the pizza industry term) inside.

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Holding each pear over the mandoline, swipe it, producing slices a little less thick than a quarter.

Making the pizza

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Take your already pulled pizza round and place it on a parchment square. Brush extra virgin olive oil on the dough.

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Sprinkle Gorgonzola, mozzarella, then cashews on the pizza.

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Place the slices of pear (so Louis the XIV would be proud) in a clockwise motion, one slice over the other  one inch from the outer edge of the pizza. Continue going around, using the largest slices for the outside and smaller ones in the center.

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Put the pizza with parchment on the sheet pan in the oven . Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, or until golden brown.

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Pull from oven and tear each large slice of Prosciutto di Parma in half,. Place these slices on the pizza. You will see the fat melt, adding to the  flavor of this pie. Drizzle the balsamic vinegar over the pizza. (Do not add too much, as the flavor will dominate.)

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Place the arugula leaves over the prosciutto and serve immediately, keeping your thumb up in the air and a stupid smile pasted on your face.

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Schiacciata con L’uva (Grapes) from Neil Cherry Orchards

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The crispness in the air brings thoughts of Halloween and jumping in mountains of leaves, while the waining days of summer take their toll on tomatoes, cucumber, sunflowers, summer squash and basil here in Appalachian Ohio.

In Athens, the 30,000 some-odd students are back and one of my ovens is broken so I am beside myself. My managers look at me like the chefs of the Titanic probably looked at the captain of the ship. “Like, uh, John, so how we supposed to pump out the usual 250 pies tonight with one oven?” they ask. Luckily, I’m skilled enough at evasion to issue a forceful and concise directive. “Do the best you can, guys.” The parts will not get here until next week, and this weekend will be hell. Fortunately, I am blessed with a great staff that would take a bullet for me. (Well, maybe a taser. Naw, a wedgy. No, probably a spitball.)

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Cherry Orchards and Neils’ huge pumpkin patch.

I took some time out of my freak-out and jumped in the first life-boat to go to Neil Cherry at his orchards 3 miles east of Deavertown Ohio. Neil grows peaches, pears, apples and the most beautiful grapes I’ve ever eaten. In fact, years ago, when I first started selling breads at the Athens Farmer’s Market, I was amazed at the taste of  locally grown grapes. They may have thick skins and some have seeds, but the taste is far superior to supermarket grapes that have been modified and/or genetically engineered to have soft skins and a bland sugary taste.

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The Schiacciata in the making (If I could just stop popping the grapes in my mouth). Neil at the Athens Farmers Market.

This day, I’ve come to score some great seedless grapes for my Schiacciata Con l’uva, or Etruscan (Tuscan) Grape Bread. As with most schiacciata, the recipe ususally depends upon the baker. Traditionalists bank upon using lard, fennel seed and honey, and most modern recipes rely upon sugar, baking powder, eggs or even milk. I like it my (the easy) way. I use my schiacciata recipe for pizza and bread dough, knead it with raisins and walnuts,  pull it into the traditional football shape, topped with seedless grapes and honey. Done and deliciously sticky.

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After arriving at Cherry vineyards, the first thing I notice is the smell. It’s the scent of autumn, bursting ripeness at its zenith, followed by the natural slow rot on a cool breeze. Being the agricultural moron that I am, I hold back on the stupid statement, “So Neil, where are all the freakin’ grapes?” Neil brushes back the big sail-like green leaves and boom: more grapes than you can shake a bottle of 1945 Chateau Lafite-Rothschild at. He rattles off the numerous names of the grapes and where they came from, while I envision not remembering even one name. (A self-fullfilling prophecy as you can see.)

Neil Cherry ‘s intoduction to his grapes:

Neil and his family have been growing fruit for over 50 years. The thing you can always count on with Neil is that he always has a smile. Sometimes, as he sells his awesome apple cider in the depths of winter, it’s a frozen smile, but a smile nonetheless. He, his wife Faye and his family work hard to maintain their farm and compete with the all-too-cruel seasons for a bounty of great local fruit. We all benefit here from his labor, even me, the lowly pizza freak making an old Italian bread during the grape harvest.

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1 dough from my schiacciata recipe

1.5 ounces chopped walnuts

1.5 ounces raisins

1 -1 3/4 cups seedless grapes

3 tablespoons honey

Preheat oven with upside-down cookie sheet or pizza stone on middle rack to 425 degrees.

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Make dough and form into a football shape. Distribute the raisins and walnuts on top of the dough. Press into the dough.

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Roll the dough up and knead it  gently, evenly distributing the interloping raisons and walnuts within. Do not overknead. Form into another ball and let sit to proof for 30 minutes to an hour in a warm place. The gluten strands will accept the nuts and fruit better then.

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Pull the dough apart using both hands. Using your thumb and fingers, press the dough as you move it counterclockwise in both hands, making an even thickness all around. Form into a football shape while on a tray covered with parchment paper.

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Press the grapes into the dough and let the gluten surround the grapes. Place the pressed grape dough in a warm place for more proofing. By doing so, the grapes will stay in the dough when cooking. Take time to press the grapes down into the dough again and again.

Drizzle with a three tablespoons of honey. Don’t let the drops fall off of the crust. This will not bode well for your oven tray or pizza stone.

Bake in oven for 10 to 15 minutes. Please remember, the grapes may ‘pop’ to the surface and roll off. Use a spatula at regular intervals to gently press the grapes down into the dough. The grapes will also release liquid along with the honey, requiring extra cooking. Check the top interior of the schiacciata for uncooked dough.

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