Still not completely healed from dental surgery, I’ve been trying to come up with some more creative ways to get food into my system without expending too much effort or getting bored. This whole experience has given me a greater respect for those who cannot have certain foods or have dietary limitations. I have generally been fortunate not to have those.
Because I’m still not supposed to bite into anything at this point and the pears I had bought before having this procedure done were getting so ripe that they dripped juice when I cut into them, I needed to find a way to eat them soon. [Having memories from my childhood of the aroma of fermenting rotting pears (my parents still have a pear tree in their back yard), I am adept at picking up the point at which they become inedible.] Chewing the peel would, at this stage, still be kind of difficult. Baking them seemed to be a good way to work around these two issues.
When I lived in Italy, I had a friend who adored truffles, mushrooms and anything of that variety. He would gather up folks to make a trek outside the town were I lived to this restaurant that specialized in showcasing these foods each fall when they were in peak season. It was here that I first had white creamy cheese studded with black flecks of truffles. The marriage of dairy and fungus was heavenly to my tastebuds and senses, and it just melted in my mouth.
This was an extraordinary food memory I filed away along with others from my time in Europe. Then, a few years ago, at a wine and cheese catch-up evening with a few friends who’d also spent time in Italy, I was reintroduced to this combo. I fell in love all over again. Fortunately, this time, I was able to get a name and tracked down this particular cheese at a gourmet shop. Sottocenere(meaning under ashes) has a dark, black coating, a white interior, and flecks of truffles embedded throughout. For this dish, I wasn’t able to locate it, so I found a substitute at my local Italian market.My sister-in-law recently shared with me that she can’t eat certain fruits unless they are cooked and peeled. Her body can’t digest the peel. Combined with my own recent mastication challenges, I decided to see if I could create a dish that might bring together two things that are each favorites of mine in their own right, but which, at this point, are difficult for me to enjoy.
Pears with Cheese and Truffles
Prep time: 20-30 minutes Serving size: 2 people
1 ripe Pear, peeled and very thinly sliced (I used a Bartlett) 2 oz. soft Italian cheese with truffles, very thinly sliced (I used cacciota a la tartufoemon) Sliver of butter Arugula for serving, optional (in the UK arugula=rocket) Toasted bread, for serving, optional Truffle oil, very optional
Assembly: Very lightly butter bottom of a ceramic baking dish. Arrange one layer of the sliced pears in the dish. Place one layer of the cheese on top of the pears. Continue to alternate layering pears followed by cheese until finished with both, ending with the cheese layer.
Bake in pre-heated 300 degrees Fahrenheit (150 degrees Centigrade, Gas Mark 2) for 20-25 minutes, until the cheese is melted and the pears are soft. One sign that the dish is finished is if it is bubbling around the edges and the cheese is slightly golden.
Remove dish from oven and allow it to cool for a few minutes before serving. Serve with a salad of arugula and crusty bread. If feeling extra decadent, drizzle the pears & cheese with truffle oil for some additional earthy flavor.