Posts Tagged ‘neil cherry’

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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Paw Paws, Possums and Pide

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In 1541, Conquistidor Hernando Desoto came acoss the paw paw in the Mississippi Valley while looking for the city of gold. He was so impressed with the fruit that he sent seedlings back to Spain. Poor Hernando never did find that elusive city, but did succeed in introducing smallpox to North America. Because of logging, the paw paw tree has reached the same endangered fate as those natives unlucky enough to have had Hernando sneeze on them. But luckily, in the Ohio Valley, the paw paw is celebrated. It’s a perfect topping for my next pizza.


My Paw Paw Turkish Pide (PEE-day) with lentil cream, arugula, goat feta, pancetta and black sesame.

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The glorious paw paw fruit that hangs from trees in bunches has a banana custard-like taste with a pineapple finish. The flesh feels like all the decadent desserts I’ve ever swooned over: creme brulee, creme caramel being on top of that list. When the leaves of the paw paw tree are young, in the spring, they look exactly like the pods from Invasion of the Bodysnatchers.  Paw paw is the official fruit of Ohio and is suprisingly hard to spot, even when staring straight at it.

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Chris Schmiel, with the the tenderness of a urologist and the eyes of an eagle, takes the wild paw paw from the forest.

Luckily, I’ve got a friend in Chris Schmiel, founder of Integration Acres, the largest paw paw producer around. He’s also the guy who is makes great chevre and goat feta for my pizzas. Chris can have his goats graze through his paw paw forest without disturbing the trees or twigs, because of some intense chemicals in the bark called Annonaceous acetogenins.

Today is the day before the 2009 Paw Paw festival, which Chris organizes every year. I begged Chris to drag me though the forest for some righteous paw paw scavenging. We headed out into the forest while I kept an eye out for the billy goats (I have a history with them, and I want to sit down again).

Chris deftly dissapears into a leafy wall and screams “Gotcha, you varmint!” I run through the brush and see a live-catch cage with an oppossum in it. “That’s what these varmints do,” Chris says as he points to the opposum scat. The poor creature shoots me a “What? I swear dude, that’s not my poop” look. Here’s the possum:

Finding the right paw paws is a delicate process. Once you’ve donned your jungle gear and waded your way into the green forest, the last thing on your mind is to come back empty handed. This is why folks tend to grab the unripe paw paws and therefore never touch them the rest of their lives. Below is a tutorial on how to pick paw paws.

To taste the paw paw you have to throw caution to the wind. Take off that Hugo Boss tuxedo jacket and get your hands gooey, because most of the succulent soft meat surrounds the small black seeds. Once you taste it, your brain enters “custard mode,” a state of mind where you might babble, “I’m in my comfortable place now, you must leave” as you spit out the seeds and the paw paw juice dribbles down your chin. Chris has years of experience eating these fruits:

Bravo! Now let’s witness an uncultured putz eating a paw paw:

Man, I had some great fun here. I bid Chris Schmiel and Integration Acres good-bye. My car was 16 paw paws and 2 pounds of goat feta heavier as I headed back to make a paw paw pide.


Paw Paw Turkish Pide with Lentil Cream, Arugula, Goat Feta, Pancetta and Black Sesame

I wanted this pide’s flavors to compliment to the paw paw without overwhelming its complex, delicate taste. The creamyness of the ricotta, lentils and Parmesan mirror the texture of the paw paw and pair well with the  pancetta and the pineapple and almost-cinnamony paw paw taste. The spicy arugula wilts in the oven and offers a fantastic textural foil, as well complimenting the astringent goat feta. Finally, the black sesame seeds play the banana notes perfectly while counterbalanced by a tangy balsamic glaze (found at specialty stores or you can use regular balsamic vinegar).

I love keeping cooked lentils on hand at all times for salads. (Trader Joe’s has some bodacious precooked lentils in the fridge department.) If you think lentils are a pain in the ass, substitute cannolini beans out of the can.

Easy Dough Recipe

3 tablespoons ricotta cheese

8 ounces brown or green lentils

1 tablespoon freshly grated Parmesan cheese

4 – 8 large leaves of fresh arugula

3 or 4 slices of thin-cut pancetta

2 1/2 tablespoons fresh crumbled goat feta or goat chevre

1 egg, whipped with tablespoon of warm water

1 tablespoon black sesame seeds

4-6 fresh paw paws

Balsamic glaze or vinegar

Pre-heat oven to 450 degrees. Heat baking stone or upturned heavy cookie sheet on middle rack of oven.

Prepare dough recipe using only one 7-ounce dough ball. Let one ball rest in a warm place. Put the extra dough ball on an oiled piece of plastic wrap and into the freezer.

Prepare the lentils.  Lentils are just like sushi rice in that they are best covered and cooked for 20 minutes under low heat after being brought to a boil. Bring either 1 3/4 cup water or chicken stock (or combo) to a boil. Bring back to a boil.  Turn down heat and simmer on medium low for 20 minutes. Set aside 3 tablespoons of cooked lentils for this recipe. Let cool and hold the rests in the fridge for future recipes.


Put ricotta, lentils and Parmesan in bowl and whisk together.

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Place the round dough ball on the table with 2 tablespoons of flour. Push the dough out into an 8 – 10 inch football shape or oval. Spread the ricotta and lentils on the dough with a spatula.

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Tear arugula leaves and place on top. Scatter the crumbled feta on the arugula.


Place the pancetta on the pide. Don’t worry that it’s raw: The fats will cook and drain nicely, adding flavor to the pide.

Forming the Pide

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Go along the side of the football shape and fold the dough over the ingredients, making your way to the end. Do not pull dough too hard or it will rip.

(1) Pull both ends together and twist the excess dough. (2) Continue to pull so that you can tie a small knot (the stickiness of the dough will help so do not pull too much). (3) Wrap the dough around your finger and make a small knot. (4) You may need to manouver the dough through, using your pinky finger.


Each side of the pide should have a knot. Gently place the pide onto a parchment covered pizza peel (large spatula for pizza) or a parchment covered pizza screen, or just parchment.

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(1) Using a whisk, stir the egg and water in a bowl until foaming. (2) Brush the egg wash onto the pide with a pastry brush. Remember, if you miss a spot, the sesame will not stick, but do not put too much egg wash on. (3) Using both hands,  sprinkle on the sesame seeds. (4) You may need to use your hand for some hard to reach areas.


Place pide in the oven and cook for 10 to 15 minutes. Oven temperatures may vary so as a rule of thumb, check the pide after 8 minutes and check the bottom and top dough for golden-dark brown look. The black sesame may make it a little hard to discern the color on the sides.

While the pide is in the oven, prepare the paw paw topping. Use a bowl to catch the pulp.

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Start by cracking the paw paw in half like Chris did in the video. Grab the seeds and press each firmly in your hand.

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You will feel the pulp squeeze away from the seed. The pulp will squirt out between your fingers. Not to worry, keep going, and flick the pulp into the bowl.

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When the pide is out of the oven, don’t worry about cooling it. Place the paw paw on the pide in stripes or any artistic way you can handle. Lick the bowl clean. Drizzle with balsamic glaze and enjoy one of the best fruit pizza recipes inspired by the paw paw.