Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Pick of the Week: Asian pear aka apple pear

I've always called the golden delicious apple looking/pear tasting fruit an Asian pear. Last week, Stop & Shop had them on sale for $1 each, but was calling them apple pears. Whatever you call them, even though they are a bit pricey, I think they really are worth the splurge. Apple pears have the crisp texture of an apple, but the taste is mildly pear, with a slight kick of apple. Bite into one, and the texture is apple, but the juice that is dribbling down your chin is all pear. You might be tempted to say that this is one child that has taken the best qualities from each of its parents, but actually the apple pear is not a cross between an apple and a pear, but its own distinct variety. It started life in Asia, hence the root of one of its names. Now it’s grown in many places, including California, which explains the less exotic moniker.

Choose the apple pear as you would an apple. It should be hard, with no signs of bruising or soft spots. At market, they are usually ripe.

Store them in the refrigerator, where they should keep about a week. Don't expect them to soften like a pear; they keep the apple consistency.

Apple pears are perfect for poaching, but they need more cooking time to soften than a regular pear requires. The following two recipes are from, both extremely flavorful. The first is a take on the traditional Korean Kimchi, a spicy mix of leafy cabbage and vegetables, something I first tasted about 15 years ago at a nail salon in Fairfield. I fell in love with this spicy dish, so when I found this version that included apple pears, I thought I would give it a try. Unlike a traditional Kimchi that is quite spicy, this version is mild but very flavorful. If you want some heat, add a few jalapenos.

The second recipe is an inviting salad that is special enough to serve to guests, or delicious enough to paint a dull winter day a bright, sunny yellow.


7 Tblsp. coarse kosher salt, divided

1 large head of Napa cabbage, outer leaves discarded, cabbage quartered lengthwise with root ends left intact

1 Tblsp. sugar

1 tsp. fish sauce (such as nam pla or nuoc nam)

1 Asian pear (about 12 ounces), peeled, cored, cut into matchstick-size strips

½ lb. daikon (Japanese white radish), peeled, cut into matchstick-size strips

6 scallions (white and pale green parts only), cut into matchstick-size strips

3 garlic cloves, minced

· Mix 6 cups water and 6 tablespoons coarse salt in very large bowl, stirring to dissolve salt. Place cabbage, cut side up, in water so that water almost covers cabbage. Put heavy plate atop cabbage, then top with iron skillet to weigh down to submerge cabbage in water. Set aside at room temperature 10 to 12 hours.

· Drain cabbage; discard water. Rinse cabbage under cold water. Mix 4 cups water, 1 tablespoon coarse salt, sugar, and fish sauce in same large bowl. Let brine stand until salt dissolves, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes.

· Mix pear, daikon, scallions, and garlic in medium bowl. Lift each cabbage leaf and distribute some radish mixture between each leaf (about 1 to 1 ½ tablespoons). Nestle layered cabbage in bowl of brine as tightly as possible. Put heavy plate atop cabbage, then top with iron skillet to weigh down to submerge cabbage in brine. Set aside at room temperature for 24 hours. Refrigerate kimchi submerged in brine for 24 hours. DO AHEAD: Can be made 3 weeks ahead. Remove weight. Cover and keep refrigerated in brine.

· Lift cabbage from brine, allowing excess brine to drip back into bowl. Place on work surface. Cut crosswise into 1-to 2-inch slices and serve.


½ cup coarsely chopped walnuts

1 Tblsp. water

1 tsp. sugar

Large pinch of cayenne pepper

Large pinch of coarse kosher salt

1½ Tblsp. extra-virgin olive oil

1½ Tblsp. vegetable oil

1 Tblsp. balsamic vinegar

1 large bunch watercress, thick stems trimmed

2 heads of Belgian endive (preferably red), sliced crosswise

1 ripe Asian pear, halved, cored, thinly sliced

· Combine walnuts, 1 tablespoon water, sugar, cayenne, and kosher salt in small nonstick skillet. Stir over medium heat until water evaporates and nuts are dry and golden, about 4 minutes. Remove from heat; cool. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Store airtight at room temperature.)

· Whisk olive oil, vegetable oil, and vinegar in small bowl to blend. Season dressing to taste with salt and pepper. Combine watercress, endive, and pear in large bowl. Add dressing and toss to coat. Sprinkle with nuts.


  1. Asian pears rock. Even though they are pricy, they are the best ingredient in any Korean beef marinade.

  2. Can you share some recipes, Ann? If I know you, you have a ton!