While I really enjoy relishing in the seasonal ingredients, I can’t help but feel a break from all the earthy aromas of early winter is in order! That feeling recently got a lot stronger when I, yet again, was admiring the beautifully arranged display of various regional mushrooms at the farmer’s market and had absolutely no desire whatsoever to buy and eat a bunch of them.
Instead, I strolled across the market rather aimlessly for a bit, looking for something yet unnamed to catch my eye out of the blue – with success! Cozying up to eachother, an artisan cheese stand and a local apples-and-pears business blinked inviting lights at me. Absolutely perfect~! I instantly thought of filo pastry logs, filled with pears and deliciously melting, soft cheese. To lift them out of the winter’y comfort food sector, I decided to add a salad combined with one of my favorite dressings – one I usually make during the hot months of the year – my apple-elderflower dressing~! Comfy enough for the season at hand but fresh and spritzy enough to hint at things to come in a few months~! As it turned out, this match-made-in-heaven was exactly what hubby and I had, more or less subconsciously, craved for that day. So, if you’re in the mood for a slight change of pace too, this one’s for you~
The Pear & Camembert Cigars
4 Sheets of Filo Pastry
1 Comice Pear, peeled, cored and thinly sliced
200g (low fat) Camembert, rind cut off
1 Tbsp mild Olive Oil
1 Tsp Thyme Leaves
1 Tsp Honey
Salt and Pepper
1) Place the honey, oil, thyme and a pinch each of salt and pepper in a mixing bowl large enough to hold your pear slices. Give the lot a thorough whisk until the honey has dissolved and blended with the oil.
2) Add the pear slices to the marinade and gently turn them in it to coat them evenly. Cover the bowl with clingfilm and set it aside for about an hour to marinate.
3) Meanwhile, use a very sharp knife to cut the rind off of the cheese. This can turn out to be an exercise in patience if you’re going with a low-fat cheese – especially when there’s yoghurt involved in making the whole low-fat thing work. It sticks to any knife like you wouldn’t believe. If that happens to you, rinse the blade of your knife with hot water and/or brush it with a few drops of olive oil.
4) Once the rind is off, the sticky business continues. Cut or rip the soft cheese into smaller pieces, roundabout the size of your thumbnail. If you can’t get the pieces that small due to it’s consistency, don’t worry. Since it’s going to be mixed up with the warm pears in a bit, you’ll be able to mold and shape it a little.
5) Place the bits in a bowl, set them aside and turn your attention back to the pears.
6) If you’ve got time to spare at this point, you could prep the dressing for the salad right away – see below for the instructions… not that there are much of them~ Gotta love ponzy-sounding, completely non-fussy recipes!
7) Set a griddle onto high heat.
8) Brush the griddle with a few tsp of the pear’s marinade and gently place the pears inside. Depending on the ripeness of your pear, marking up and taking on a yumtastic roasting aroma will take between 3 and 7’ish mins. To see if it’s time to flip them over, pick a slice and take a peek – if it’s marked up nicely, flip them. If not, give them some more time. In case the pears are giving off lots of juice, use a spoon to de-juice the griddle and get it back up to sizzling speed.
Just on a side note, there are pears, Williams for example, that do not take heat very well, falling apart in a juicy heap rather than do what they’re supposed to do. I’m not an expert with pear cultivars, but here’s what I’ve found out, trial-and-error-style, about the “good guys” in a griddle or pan scenario:
Abate Fetel: Works if it’s not too ripe yet – it should still be firm to the touch and peeling it shouldn’t be too wet of an experience.
Butter Pear: No. Just, no. Poach them for a dessert if you must, but don’t get them anywhere near a pan. The mess…
Nasci Pear: Works, looses a lot of its taste in the heat though – I wouldn’t recommend it.
Comice: My personal favourite, an all-round talent, if you will. They haven’t let me down in any dish, hot or cold, I’ve used them for as of yet.
Williams: Cold yes, hot no. They, too, loose the majority of their taste in the pan, along with their juice, rather than have it intensified… I wish I knew why.
9) Anyways, after about the same roasting-time on the second side, take them out of the pan and place them on a paper-towel-topped cooling rack for the time being.
10) Use a spoon to fish out the thyme leaves still swimming around in the bowl you’ve marinated the pears in and add them to the cheese.
11) Once the pears are at room temperature, finely slice them up and have them join the cheese as well.
12) Time to snap on a pair of CSI gloves and get to work mixing the cheese-thyme-pear blob until all of the ingredients are evenly distributed. Don’t go all out squishing the pears into the cheese though, just make sure you’ll get a bit of everything with one bite later. Set the bowl aside, in easy reach, once you’re done.
13) Set a small pot onto low head and melt the butter in it.
14) Pick up your first sheet of filo dough and spread it out on your work surface. Brush it with a light layer of the molten butter and place a second sheet on top.
15) Add another fine layer of butter and pick up about half of the pear and cheese mixture.
16) Place the filling onto the middle of the lower third of your pastry sheets and give it a little squeeze here and there to coax it into taking on a smooth’ish log shape, leaving about 1 cm free to each side.
17) Gently lift the lower end of the pastry with your thumbs – fingers holding the filling in place – and carefully blanket the filling with the pastry as tightly as possible. Use the pastry, and the fact that this inner layer won’t be visible later, to tug and push the filling into a neat and even log within the blanket.
18) Once that’s done, brush the rims of the sheets with another hint of butter and tightly roll up the log to the other end of the pastry, folding in the rims like you would in the process of wrapping up a cylindrical present. Or a burrito, if that visual works better for you.
19) Give the log another dab of butter all around and place it, pastry-end down, in a pan large enough to comfortably hold both logs.
20) Repeat the same with the second log, wrapping the remains of the filling up as tightly as possible as well.
21) Set the pan onto medium heat and, once the pastry flaps are sealed, keep turning the logs every 1-2 mins to keep the delicate pastry from burning up.
22) As soon as they’re nicely golden and crispy all around, take them out of the pan. Cover them with aluminum foil to keep them warm while you finish off the salad.
The Apple-Elderflower Dressing
1 small Shallot, roughly chopped
¾ Fuji Apple, peeled, cored, roughly chopped
2 Tbsp Elderflower Syrup
1 Tbsp White Balsamic Vinegar
1 Tbsp Grapeseed Oil
1 Tsp Lemon Juice
Salt and freshly cracked Black Pepper
Enter one of my personal favorites and possibly one of the quickest-to-make dressings in my collection~! Not counting dousing a bunch of tomatoes with balsamic, salt and pepper, of course…
1) Place everything in a food processor, blender or stick-blender appropriate container.
2) Use your weapon of choice to whizz the lot into a smooth and silky sauce.
3) Taste, season, ta-daaah!
200g Lamb’s Lettuce
¼ Fuji Apple, finely sliced or grated
2 Tbsp dried Cranberries
1) Divide the lettuce leaves onto two plates.
2) Arrange the apple on top of each serving.
3) Scatter the cranberries on top and dot the heaps with the dressing just before you’re ready to serve.
4) Either serve the cheesy cigars to the side or spare yourself further knifework at the table and slice the logs into bite-sized pieces and dress up the salads with them. Word of advice, don’t try to cut the cigars too thinly though, they’ll just fall apart.
5) Serve up and dig in!