Pear-ing

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My grocery shopping method is already generally to yield to what my eyes like in the moment. It works for me, I will undoubtedly veer off any list I try to make. I see something delicious and think of interesting things I can make with it and what other ingredients work with it. On yesterday’s trip, the first thing I noticed was dill. Half an hour later I came out with the herb, an amalgam of mediterranean vegetables, wild caught salmon, Saint Agur cheese, pears, and a few other items.

The challenge with this method is to cook something coherent with those ingredients once I get home. There have been too many times when I’ve let my hedonistic hunger win over my still admittedly adolescent sense of taste. The result has been a messy meal with a hodgepodge of flavours, a sickening after-effect (I can remember one incident of oyster mushroom overload, which still makes me look at them with suspicion) and, if you ask an expert, probably a waste of good ingredients.

The point is, I guess flavour-paring comes with practice. I This day, I felt like making stuffed vegetables, hence my purchase of courgette, aubergine, and peppers.

I decided I wanted to make a little appetizer mid-day and stuff the remainder of my courgette with something. What to pick? I ran through ingredient catalogues in my mind, focused intently on what could go well together. I decided that I would stuff the courgette with mushrooms and onions first, and then walnuts came into the mix, and some kind of cheese on top.

For a while, I stood in the kitchen smelling different ingredients in rapid succession. At this point a brilliant idea popped into vision. A pear! Why not have that little sweet addition, a surprise, complimentary to the nuts and mushrooms in a way. With yesterday’s dessert in mind, and because the only other cheese I had was sliced cheddar, I decided the Saint Agur blue cheese, in a very small quantity, would work with the whole thing.

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I warmed up the oven, pan fried the onions and mushrooms for a few minutes, and chopped up walnuts, half a pear and some remaining dill. I cut the courgette in rounds and scooped out the middles with a little spoon, putting them in a bowl to use for something else later. When the mushrooms were soft, I turned the stovetop off and added black pepper, the walnuts, pear and dill to the mix. So far, so good – it smelled delicious.

I put the courgette rounds on a baking tray and stuffed them half-way with the mushroom mix. Then I put a little layer of cheese on the stuffing, and put the rest of the mix on top. I slid the tray into the oven and eagerly took it out after about 15 minutes. Transferring the rounds onto a plate, I added another little piece of cheese on top and then dug in.

My first bite was confusing. The courgette was just a little bit hard and the whole thing sort of fell apart. I couldn’t tell which flavour I was tasting when. First the cheese stood out, then the courgette, and i couldn’t taste the pear as i wanted to. Oops. I realised I made a mistake somewhere.

The cheese and the courgette didn’t work, maybe because they were conflicting flavours, or maybe because the vegetable was still a bit hard (I had focused so much on the pairing that I didn’t really think of the way I should have prepared the courgette). And the idea I had about the pear was informed by yesterday’s dessert. I realised that it’s flavour was completely masked by the other, stronger ones. All in all, it didn’t taste bad, but it was definitely conflicting and had something missing for the sake of the courgette. Next time, I’ll remember to think of the courgette at the base, because it seemed my mind ran off from it again.

The stuffing with the cheese actually tasted great on its own (without the courgette) and would be a great topping for something else – maybe a bruschetta with a twist (toast bread, top with the mix using a little more pear, and add a smidgeon of cheese). So all was not to waste, but my paring practice continues.

For Dessert

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Kinda looks like a chicken leg, but it’s dessert. I had bought some Saint Agur blue cheese and pears that I wanted to put together, so I put pear quarters on an oven tray, sprinkled with a bit of cinnamon, and let sit in the oven for a few minutes while went to load an episode of Modern Family. Before I left the kitchen though, I noticed I had a pack of walnuts on my shelf so I threw a pair of those on the fruit, for good measure.

When I came back I remembered that I still had a pack of shortbread-like biscuits (see below), which I had brought back with me from a recent trip to Spain, and thought that their cakey sweetness would go well with the fruit, nut and cheese combo. I laid one out under the pear, put a thin piece of cheese in the curve of the pear (the cheese is strong so you don’t need to load on a lot to taste the flavour), topped it with a roasted walnut, and voila! Deeelicious.

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I added a picture of the Spanish biscuit package if you’re curious about what it is. It’s called Torta de Povloron, or ‘powder cake’, and is a type of ‘montecado’ cookie which are sadly only made and sold over Christmas. Tastes like a very crumbly cookie, and made of very finely-ground almonds, flour, sugar and butter. Still if you’re ever in Seville, go to the above bakery (Los Angeles Bakery) – it has all the traditional Andalusian goods, and was packed with locals every day, especially around lunch time.