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Monday, November 19, 2012

Thanks & Giving

Fall in So Cal

Thanks Mother Nature (and Melissa's Produce) for giving us the amazing Korean Pear.  Crisp, sweet, refreshing, and generously sized, Korean pears are very different from other "pears" because I think their unique, exotic flavor is superior and their crunchy texture and bright, white flesh inspire me to get busy in the kitchen on a couple of fall recipes.

Double Duty Ingredients
One of my favorite cooking tricks is to try and use ingredients in more than one way, because not only do you get at least two delicious dishes but you've used everything you've bought and wasted nothing.  Starting with the Korean pears, I selected dried cranberries, Meyer lemons, pepitas (pumpkin seeds), pecans, and apple cider as the foundation for both recipes.

Pilgrims Pilaf is a recipe I created a while back and have revised for this Thanksgiving with the addition of diced, fresh, juicy Korean pears.  I used a combination of toasted basmati rice and a wild rice blend as the foundation or to simplify you can easily use Melissa's Basmati with Wild Rice.  To make this a genuine pilaf, you first briefly toast the dry rice in a bit of oil until lightly browned, then proceed according to package directions.  You can use the pilaf on its own as a warm side dish, as a filling for roasted winter squash, or chilled and served on a bed of greens as a fresh, seasonal salad.  Find the base recipe below.

The second recipe is a sweet, flaky strudel inspired by chef Tom Fraker.  Korean pears, dried cranberries, pepitas and pecans are enrobed in filo dough in this versatile recipe that you could proudly place on your Thanksgiving dessert table or enjoy for breakfast the morning after.  Don't make this too far in advance of when you plan to serve it or you will eat it all yourself and there won't be any left for anyone else.  That would make you a bad (but very happy) person, so let's try and keep the giving in Thanksgiving, shall we?

2 wire hangers + mesh produce bags + seasonal embellishments
Usually the Thanksgiving meal is filled with wonderful, tried and true family favorites.  That's all good, but if there's room to fit in something new why not get your own creative juices flowing.  While you and yours enjoy a delicious holiday, please remember to also give thanks for what you're grateful for and give what you can to help others.  It will make everything even better.  Try it, it really works.

(P.S.  Some diced fresh Persimmons would add even more fall fabulousness to both recipes.)

Pilgrims Pilaf
1 1/2 cups wild and basmati rice blend
1 1/2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1 Korean pear, diced and sprinkled with Meyer lemon juice
1/3 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup pepitas, lightly toasted
1/4 cup pecans, chopped
Pilgrims waiting for Pilaf
2 green onions, diced
1/3 cup cilantro, chopped
1/3 cup Italian parsley, chopped
1/4 cup grape seed oil 
1/4 cup apple cider
1 tsp. Meyer lemon zest
fresh ground pepper & Kosher or sea salt to taste

In a medium pan heat the vegetable oil, add the rice, and saute about 5 minutes until lightly toasted.  Add water according to package directions and cook until done.  Fluff with a fork.

Add the remaining ingredients, toss to combine, and serve as a side dish.  You can also use this as a filled for a cut half or quarter of a winter squash, drizzled with a little oil and roasted at 325 degrees for about 30 minutes.

To serve the pilaf as a salad, let the rice cool to room temperature.  Add the other ingredients to the rice, whisk the dressing ingredients together and drizzle over the rice, toss, and serve on a bed of mixed greens.


Seasonal Strudel
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1/3 cup apple cider
6 sheets filo dough
1/3 cup Earth Balance (or butter), melted
1 Korean pear, diced
1 tsp. Meyer lemon juice
1 tsp. Meyer lemon zest
1 Tbsp. light brown sugar
1 Tbsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. five spice  
1/4 cup pepitas
1/4 cup pecans

confectioner's sugar for dusting 

Soak the dried cranberries in heated apple cider for at least 20 minutes.  

On a baking sheet covered with parchment paper, lay out one sheet of filo dough and brush with melted butter.  Place a second sheet of filo dough on the first sheet, brush with butter, and then repeat with the remaining sheets.

In a medium sized bowl, toss the diced pear, lemon, brown sugar, spices, pepitas and pecans together.  Place the mixture along the length of the filo stack, leaving at least a 2 inch edge where you'll start rolling the strudel as tightly as possible.  After rolling, pinch the ends or fold the ends under the strudel.  Brush the remaining butter over the outside of the strudel.  Bake at 350 degrees for about 25 minutes until golden brown.  

Remove from oven, let cool slightly, dust with confectioners sugar, and enjoy.

                    Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!



  1. This is wonderful! I LOVE your idea of taking the same selection of ingredients and making two recipes from them. Both sound so scrumptious (much more appealing to me than standard Thanksgiving foods). Pilaf made with such good rice and such delicious additions must be just wonderful.
    The strudel sounds delicious too. Does the Korean pear soften or give off liquid when baking? Is "five spice" something like pumpkin pie spice?
    Happy Thanksgiving!

  2. You and I are on the same page re: waste not. The Korean pears soften slighly but don't give off much liquid. Five spice is aka Chinese 5 Spice which I'm sure you're familiar with. Thanks for your comment!