Some of you may think my weekly columns are a quaint, effortless glimpse into my everyday life. You may think I cook like this all the time, blithely devoting hours in the kitchen, dressed in a well-worn vintage apron, flour smeared on my face, determined to perfect my Quiche Lorraine or refine my blue cheese soufflé, all the while carefully styling and photographing every meal. Please, keep thinking that – I love the visual.
Fact of the matter is, I am, like most of my dear readers, a working stiff. I work long hours at a high-stress job with a ceaseless workload, a frightening amount of responsibility and an office chair that I think may be slowly fusing my spinal column into one hunched over mass. I have stacks of paper strewn across my desk, to-do piles halfheartedly organized in a faint order of importance, and enough paperclips, pens and rubber bands to stock a Walmart-sized corporate office. To offset the tension built from the daily grind, I write this column. I take a few hours over the weekend to unwind, center myself and do what I truly love: cook something, take pictures of it, and tell y’all about it.
Ideas don’t always come easy, though. For that reason, I keep a little orange notebook with me at all times, 24 hours a day, to jot down ideas, inspirations, recipes, meal plans, book titles, foodie terms, restaurant names, or whatever suits my fancy at that moment. I usually start a list of recipe ideas based on the season, and go from there.
Flipping through my orange notebook late Friday afternoon, I came across this season’s list. At the top of the list was something that inspired me after seeing a fig and gorgonzola tart in one of my many foodie magazines: a pear and blue cheese tart. Pears are in season during September and October, so what better time to share my recipe than, well, right now?
I braved Saturday morning’s chilly temps to seek out pears at the (season’s final) Saturday Farmers’ Market. I’d emailed Candye Wynn of Wynn’s Tomato Ranch, who is always knowledgeable about the ins-and-outs of the Farmers’ Market vendors, to ask if anyone had pears for sale. She gave me the name of one vendor, who was sadly out on Saturday morning. Although I didn’t have local pears for my tart, I luckily had some left over from my grocery run a few days before.
I used a store bought pie crust as my tart shell to make my life a little easier (for those who are feeling adventurous or fastidious, I highly recommend Martha Stewart’s pâte brisée recipe, which you can find here. To compliment the pears and achieve the perfect balance of sweet and salty, I added several dollops of pungent Maytag blue cheese, strips of peppered bacon and crunchy walnuts. I also dusted my baking sheet with cornmeal to add a crunchy bite to the crust. After assembling the tart ingredients and gently folding over the edges to create a rustic shape, into the oven it went. Half an hour later, the juice from the pears was bubbling, the melted Maytag was oozing and the crust was a golden brown. As a finishing touch, I drizzled a few spoonfuls of honey over the top and on the crust. With a baby arugula salad alongside, lunch was ready.
The flavor of the pears was distinct but not overpowering, and provided just the right amount of sweetness to offset the saltiness of the Maytag and the peppered bacon. With the crunch of the toasted walnuts and the flakiness of the crust, this tart hit sweet and salty in all the right spots. Lunch was awfully quiet, except for the occasional “Ooh, maaan”, “Wooow” or unintelligible grunt. This tart is great with a salad for lunch, as a first course for dinner, or even for brunch. Enjoy!
Autumn Pear Tart
1 refrigerated pie crust
2 pears, peeled, cored and thinly sliced
4 strips of bacon, halved, cooked (8 pieces total)
3 Tbs. blue cheese, crumbled
1/4 c. walnut halves
2 Tbs. honey
2 Tbs. cornmeal, plus more for dusting
1 egg, beaten
salt and pepper to taste
Preheat the oven to 375°. On a non-stick baking sheet, sprinkle the 2 tablespoons of cornmeal on the sheet and roll out the pie crust on top. Arrange the pears and bacon in a circular pattern on the pie crust, leaving at least 1″ of room around the edge for folding. Sprinkle the blue cheese over the pears and bacon, followed by the walnut halves. Starting at the bottom, gently fold the crust over itself, repeating the pattern all the way around the tart.
Add 1 Tbs. of cold water to the beaten egg. Using a basting brush, brush the egg wash over the folded crust. Sprinkle a mixture of cornmeal, salt and pepper over the egg wash on the crust. Drizzle 1 tablespoon of honey over the tart filling.
Bake the tart for 30-35 minutes, until the nuts are golden and the filling begins to bubble. Remove from the oven and allow to sit for five minutes. Drizzle the remaining tablespoon of honey over the filling. Slice and serve immediately.
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Laura Hobbs is a guest contributor for the Fayetteville Flyer. Born and raised in Fayetteville, Laura is a self-proclaimed foodie and avid cook. For more of Laura’s contributions, visit her author page.