Thank you to California Grown for encouraging me to connect with California growers and encouraging California consumers to “Choose California Grown” when they can.
Living in Southern California I am privileged to have beautiful weather, lots of things to do and access to some amazing food. Yes, we are a major metropolitan area so we seem to have practically any ingredient you could come up with, regardless of the heritage of the dish, at our fingertips. But the ingredients that I am constantly amazed with are enormous amounts of fresh California Grown produce. Of course some of this amazement comes from growing up in Cleveland where you get fresh produce all at the same time and for about a nanosecond. But the climate in California allows for lots of different kinds of produce available all year round.
I recently received a great big box of pears from Virginia Hemly Chhabra, who is part of the 6th generation of the Green & Hemly family farm. I opened up the box to find big round Taylors Gold, Bosc and Seckel pears. Of course, these are just 3 of the different varieties that are grown on their farm. They also grow Starkcrimsons, Comice and Forelles. Considering that this family alone has been growing pears since 1850, you can only imagine how delicious they are.
As part of eating seasonally and locally I’m always shopping at the local farmer’s market. But sometimes it’s just not possible to buy seasonal and local. Let’s face it…if your definition of local is within 100 miles of your front door…that’s just not always possible. So when that’s the case, I buy California Grown produce. Since I’m already in the state that makes the most sense. In the case of the pears, it makes even more sense to buy this way because the other options mean buying imported produce (which typically don’t taste as fresh and definitely aren’t as juicy. Yes, in season pears should be sweet and juicy…not dry and tasteless). What’s the point of doing that when you can buy in season produce that’s been grown right here (and does still minimize your carbon footprint).
Most of the time it’s fairly easy to find the California Grown produce just by looking around (they’ve got those California license plate looking stickers). Of course, if you don’t see any of those you can always ask your grocer which produce is from California. They know the origins of all of their inventory, just ask.
Since I received this amazing box of pears, I thought I should make something with them that really showed them off. Pears sometimes tend to get the short end of the fruit stick this time of year. I’m not really sure why because I think they’ve got more character than an apple. I guess with people focusing on pies this time of year, that may be part of it. Well, no more! Fat, juicy pears are kicking butt and taking names!
This pear frangipane tart might take a little more work than your usual dessert, but I can promise you that your efforts will be well rewarded. I am convinced that nothing pairs better with pears than hazelnuts and chocolate.
You say you’re not familiar with frangipane? Frangipane is a light almond or nut filling used in cakes or tarts. There’s really one pretty basic frangipane recipe that can be changed up a bit here and there, but this filling is all about the nuts. While the pear tart is baking, the frangipane recipe works its magic. The ingredients combine to make this puffy chocolate surround the edges of the pears. But the best part is when you bite into the pear frangipane tart and you get the crisp bottom and top layer with a light and airy middle part which is the frangipane.
I got the idea for this chocolate pear tart from a restaurant here in Los Angeles that serves a similar hazelnut chocolate pear tart on its menu. It’s a wildly popular dish that makes infrequent appearances so as to keep everyone salivating over it. The flavors are simple: chocolate, hazelnuts and pear. The thing that I really like about it is that it lets a really delicious pear stand out. Not only can you see the light flesh of the pear peeking out from underneath that chocolate blanket but because the flavor is so distinct, the fruit doesn’t get lost in the sea of chocolate.
Of course, there are ways to make this even more over the top…just add a dollop of vanilla bean ice cream.
Check out the video of the Green & Hemly Farm and why they do what they do.
I thought I’d use today’s piece to talk about the holiday wish list. Try to tell anyone how altruistic you are and that you really don’t want anything except world peace and for everyone to be happy with what they have and they’ll be thinking this one thought – BS! So in the spirit of helping you put together a list that is at once legitimate and fulfilling for all I give you the OFFICIAL rules of holiday giving.
- The only appliance that’s given over the holidays is one of those super cool new Dyson heaters. Every other appliance smacks of degradation.
- Re-gifting should only occur between you and the garbage can.
- Socks as gifts are only even marginally acceptable between senile old aunts and their under the age of 7 nieces or nephews.
- Personal hygiene items should never be wrapped in gift paper (of any kind).
- If it says AS SEEN ON TV on it, then that’s where it should stay.
- Free samples do not a gift make (even if you throw 100 of them in a box).
- Self help books are to be bought by the user only. We don’t need you to point out our shortcomings and wrapping it in pretty paper doesn’t make our freakiness seem any more normal.
- Gag gifts. Just because it’s funny to you doesn’t mean it’s funny to anyone else – trust me…you aren’t that funny.
- Expensive tchoctchkes. No one wants to dust the stuff and it just makes you look bouji.
Please feel free to add your ideas in the comments. Some people just can’t figure out that whole gift giving thing and they really do need the help.
Recipe: Chocolate Hazelnut Pear Frangipane Tart
Chocolate Shortbread Crust
- 1 ¼ Cups Flour
- 1/3 Cup Sugar
- ¼ Cup Cocoa Powder
- ¼ Teaspoon Salt
- 10 Tablespoons Unsalted Butter
- 1 Egg Yolk
- 1 Bottle White Wine (I used Sauvignon Blanc)
- 1 Cup Sugar
- 1 Stick Cinnamon
- 1 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract
- 4 Strips Orange Peel
- 4 Pears Peeled and Cored (Bosc or Seckle)
- 6 Tablespoons Unsalted Butter (room temperature)
- 2/3 Cup Sugar
- ¾ Cup Ground Hazelnuts
- 2 Tablespoons Cocoa Powder
- 2 Teaspoon Flour
- 1 Teaspoon Corn Starch
- 2 Tablespoons Frangelico
- 1 Egg
- 1 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract
- 1/8 Teaspoon Salt
For the pears
- Combine the wine, sugar, cinnamon, vanilla, and orange peel in a saucepan large enough to hold all the pears and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat.
- While the poaching liquid is coming to a simmer, peel the pears, cut them in half, remove the core and fibrous bits from the ends.
- Add the pear halves to the simmering syrup and reduce heat to low. Let the pears poach for about 10 minutes, turning over halfway through the cooking time. When done, the pears will easily pierced with the point of a knife.
- Let the pears cool in the liquid until room temperature before using.
For the shortbread crust
- Add the flour, sugar, salt and cocoa powder in a food processor and pulse a few times to combine.
- Add the pieces of cold butter and pulse until the mixture resembles sand. Add the egg yolk and combine until the dough forms a ball.
- Chill the dough until you are ready to use it.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees Farenheit.
- Butter and lightly flour a 9” tart pan with removable bottom. Turn the dough out into the tin and press into the bottom and up the sides with your fingers. You won’t need all of the dough. In fact, you’ll probably only use about ¾ of it. Make sure that the dough is evenly spread on the bottom and up the sides of the pan.
- Place the filled tart pan on a baking sheet and bake for 30 – 35 minutes.
- Let cool on a rack until room temperature.
For the frangipane
- Combine the butter and sugar in a mixer and combine until smooth and little of the sugar crystals show.
- Add the ground hazelnuts, cocoa powder, flour, cornstarch and egg. Blend the mixture until it is very smooth.
- Finally add in the vanilla and Frangelico and lightly blend.
- The frangipane can be used immediately or stored in the refrigerator for a couple of days. Let it sit at room temperature to become spreadable before using.
To finish the tart
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
- Spread the frangipane evenly into the cooled tart shell.
- Take the poached pears out of their liquid and drain them well on paper towels. Cut each pear half crosswise into thin slices. Do not separate the slices.
- Slide a spatula or knife underneath the pear to make transferring the sliced pear easier. Press on the pear to fan the slices toward the top narrow end of the pear.
- Slide the pear half onto the frangipane carefully. There’s not much adjusting that can be done once the pear is laid in the frangipane.
- Repeat with remaining pear halves until all halves on the tart and are evenly spaced.
- Place the tart on a baking sheet and bake in the oven for about 45-50 minutes, until the frangipane is puffed, slightly dry, and firm to the touch.
- Cool the tart on a wire rack.
The recipe for the chocolate shortbread crust is an adaptation from The Joy of Cooking.
When I made this tart, I only used 4 pear halves and found that this was not enough. You should use as many pear halves as there is room for on the surface. The look is much more striking.
Preparation time: 30 minute(s)
Cooking time: 1 hour(s) 15 minute(s)
Number of servings (yield): 8
Culinary tradition: USA (General)
Thank you again to California Grown for sponsoring this blog post. Please click here to learn more about all of California Grown growers. I was selected for this sponsorship by the Clever Girls Collective. All opinions are my own. #CleverCAGrown #sponWelcome to My Man's Belly! Leave me a comment and let me know what you think about the site or if there's a recipe you'd like to see here. Have a great day.