Maybe it was because I felt like jumping ahead into fall when I picked up a couple pounds of Clapp and Bosc pears at the farmer’s market last weekend. Or maybe I found myself suddenly taken by their ladylike curves and freckled complexions. Charming and modest, and so delicately scented, pears are a graceful fruit, are they not?
Of course, once I got home, I realized I had absolutely no idea what to do with them. The thing is, I’ve never actually liked pears. I’ve never really even eaten one except for Asian pears which, as I understand, are completely different from all other varieties. My one encounter with a non-Asian pear was in college and it turned me off from eating them ever again. It had been a Bartlett—they were always available in the cafeteria—and its texture was strange and mushy and so different from the crispness and juiciness I was used to.
This recipe has restored my belief in pears. And apparently all I had to do was bake the fruit into a cake as beautiful-tasting as it smells. Also, I think I’ve found a variety that I like! For all of you who feel the same about pears as me, try a Bosc, which is pleasingly crisp. They’re the slender and tall ones the color of… well, autumn.
This cake is moist and tender, so moist and tender that parts of it melt in the mouth. I kind of love it. And I keep cutting off slices, teeny slices sure, but slices nonetheless. (I’m worried that unless some higher power intervenes, I’m going to eat most of it by myself.) And as my first upside-down cake, there was a certain giddiness that overcame me when it plopped out, perfectly.
I see this cake as a precursor for what’s to come in the next few months: lots of cinnamon-y ginger-y baked goods greedily consumed piping hot from the oven. And chai tea, and the pleasant crunching of leaves, and the crispness to the air. I am looking forward to the upcoming season.
As far as what varieties of pears to use, the recipe recommends Bosc all the way, but I thought the very ripe Clapp pears I used worked really well for the cake batter, mostly because they were so ripe and soft and juicy.
The recipe actually also called for baking the cake in an oven-proof skillet, but I opted for a regular 9″ cake pan and it was spectacular! I also ended up using only about 1-2/3 pounds of pears, I omitted the orange zest, and finally, I made my own crystallized ginger by cooking fresh minced ginger and sugar together for a couple minutes. The process caramelizes the sugar, which tastes wonderful, but hardens quickly, so you either need to mix the stuff into the batter quickly or, like me, pull out your mortar and pestle and grind up the hardened mixture.
Enjoy! I promise it makes a fantastic breakfast as well (if eating sugary baked goods first thing in the morning is your kind of thing, which it is for me!).
I’m very much a product of both my parents, which is hard to imagine because they’re pretty different from each other. My mom is one of those people who tells people what to do. I’m not sure she likes it so much as it’s imprinted into her genetic coding. And this is not limited to just family, or friends even. She will vocalize her opinion to everyone. On the other hand, my dad’s the reticent one. Even among his own family he’s quiet and earnest and not very expressive.
Sometimes I feel like these two sides are waging a war inside me. Should I intrude? Or should I not intrude? Should I let the French tourists sitting beside me, the ones I’ve been eavesdropping on for the last 10 minutes (I always eavesdrop), commit the terrible mistake of going to Little Italy where they believe good New York style pizza will be found? Mom won. I intruded.
All of that is to say, I’m debating just how forcefully I should tell/order you to make this recipe for pork meatball banh mi, or Vietnamese sandwiches.
I could make a few mild-mannered observations about how delightful the sandwiches turned out, with their flavorful, tender meatballs. And the spicy mayonnaise and quick-pickled carrots were quite tasty, all of it perfectly complemented by freshly sliced jalapeno and cilantro, and fresh French bread. These assertions are dad-like: humbly-put and modestly understated. And maybe they will be enough to convince you to make these.
But there’s the side of me that just wants to command you to make these sandwiches right now. NOW. Because they are that good, probably my favorite recipe yet (and there have been some unforgettable ones). Listen, just make them. DO IT. I’m telling you what to do, but I really don’t think you’ll bear any resentment towards me for being bossy. They are incredible!
(The danger of acting like my mom is that you’ll want to be all contrarian, the way I am when she becomes too naggy. Promise me you won’t. It’s for your own good.)
Looking through the list of ingredients, I think you can probably skip making the chili mayonnaise and just use regular mayonnaise (even though the chili is really tasty). And the original recipe actually called for both carrots and daikon, but I omitted the daikon and it was fine. The cilantro is crucial, however—I feel like it’s one of the underpinnings of the taste of banh mi.
Have a great week, y’all. And happy September!
If you follow me on Pinterest, you’ll have noticed that the activity on my Wedding board has increased lately (mostly because it used to consist of nothing). Bouquets, dresses, venues, they’re kind of the topic du jour. Du année is more like it. Chris and I are supposedly getting married next summer.
I would understand if nobody believed us. After all, ‘we’re getting married… soon’ is becoming something of a party line, a slogan of sorts. It’s good for when our moms call, or when our friends inquire—although I have noticed that the asking of the question has trailed off as of late. See, nobody believes us anymore.
Though we got engaged last summer, we decided to postpone our wedding by a year because we knew that 2012 was going to be extremely tumultuous: we both quit our jobs, went on an extended backpacking trip, then moved across the country. Who has time for wedding planning among all of that action?
Anyway, we’ve agreed to start planning in September, a prospect I’m not really looking forward to. All the details and the spreadsheets (I’m a Type-A wannabe), the tracking of said details, the eventual arrival at the point where I realize I can’t stop thinking about the details. And there will be lists, and the honing of lists, and the further honing of lists. Finally, the horrifying realization that we’re probably going to spend more on this one day than the two of us did during the whole four months that we spent backpacking through South America. Times two. Or three. I won’t let it reach three, I promise.
Below is one last ice cream recipe to mark our loss of innocence. Before we become initiated to the world of on-site versus off-site catering, sweetheart versus wedding party table, sleek versus poofy (dress, of course), signature cocktail versus open bar, and much, much more. All to come, my friends, all to come… (don’t worry, I promise I won’t inundate you with wedding details.)
Or maybe this recipe just marks the end of the summer months, and a successful conclusion to our very first summer in New York City.
I love the interplay of sweet and savory and this ice cream is both subtle and satisfying. I can’t decide if the thyme amplifies the honey or the honey amplifies the thyme, but it has a very distinct flavor I enjoy very much. Honey ice cream on its own tastes so pure to me: it loses its super-concentrated sweetness, and becomes creamy and floral and light. Thyme is by no means heavy-tasting, but it adds just that touch of… darkness, moodiness, a slightly off-kilter note that’s therefore more complex. An olfactory play on chiarascuro?
Here’s to the end of August, and the beginning of a countdown. 12 months, 11, 10….until I get hitched!