The finale of Colorado’s bounty
Now is the time to enjoy the last of the Colorado pears. Though the majority of the pears grown in the U.S. come from the Pacific Northwest, Colorado’s harvest signifies the finale of our local bounty. The pears are picked from the tree before they are ripe. You can allow them to ripen at room temperature, or hasten the process by placing in a paper bag. Once ripe, they will last only a day or two.”A fall classic combination is pears, walnuts and blue cheese,” said Mike Mayer, executive chef at Restaurant Avondale. “Use these three ingredients together in appetizers, salads or desserts and you are sure to create a winning dish.” There are more than 3,000 varieties of pears around the world, but only a handful of heirloom strains have been developed in this country. Look for these, and try them all to determine your favorites.Green Anjou is a hearty, all-purpose pear whose green skin does not change color as it ripens. The flesh is dense, making the Anjou a good choice for snacking or cooking.The Red Anjou is sweeter and more moist, and with its brilliant red skin, makes a beautiful addition to salads and cheese boards.The Bartlett turns from bright green when picked, to a golden yellow as it ripens. It is sweet and fragrant, with a creamy texture delicious in salads and desserts. Its red counterpart has a similar flavor and can be used interchangeably.Bosc pears have an elegant shape, with a long, tapering neck. The color is a burnished russet, with a honey sweet flavor. Considered the prettiest pears, this variety is perfect for the classic poached pear.You may also see Comice, Asian, Seckel and Concorde pears which have their subtle differences in flavor and texture. Enjoy the recipes here, or simply slice a ripe pear and assemble on a decorative plate with some blue cheese, walnuts and dried cranberries for a lovely fall lunch or appetizer.Pear and prosciutto bruschetta32 crusty French baguette slices2 medium ripe Bartlett pears, cored and chopped1/4 cup minced red onion1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme2/3 cup crumbled blue cheese, softened1/3 cup butter, softened32 small strips prosciutto Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Place baguette slices on a baking sheet and bake for five minutes or until lightly browned. In a small bowl, stir together pears, onion, olive oil, vinegar and thyme. Let stand for five minutes, stirring occasionally, to marinate. In a small bowl, stir together blue cheese and butter until smooth. To prepare bruschetta, spread about 1/2 tablespoon of the blue cheese mixture on each toasted baguette slice. Top with prosciutto and a small spoonful of the pear mixture. Serve immediately.Pear salad with endive and radicchio 2 ripe pears1 head radicchio1 head Belgium endive1 bunch frisee1/2 cup blue cheese, crumbled1/2 cup walnut halves, toasted1 shallot, peeled and roughly chopped1/2 cup olive oil1 1/2 tablespoon walnut oil1 1/2 tablespoon red wine vinegar1 tablespoon Dijon mustard1/2 teaspoon sugar1/4 teaspoon saltFreshly ground pepperCompose four salads combining first six ingredients decoratively on four plates. Mince shallots in food processor. With machine running, add both oils, vinegar, mustard, sugar and salt and pepper and mix 10 seconds. Drizzle dressing among salads. Serves four.Pear cranberry crisp1 1/2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats1/2 cups chopped walnuts1/2 cups packed brown sugar1/3 cups flour1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon5 tablespoons canola oil3 1/2 pound ripe but firm Anjou pears, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces1/2 cup pure maple syrup1/2 cup dried cranberries2 tablespoons flour2 tablespoons lemon juice2 teaspoons minced crystallized gingerVanilla ice cream or whipped creamPreheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. To prepare topping: Combine oats, walnuts, brown sugar, flour and cinnamon in a medium bowl. Drizzle with oil and stir until evenly moist. To prepare filling: Combine pears, maple syrup, cranberries, flour, lemon juice and ginger in a large bowl and mix well. Transfer the mixture to a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Sprinkle the topping over the pears. Bake the crumble until the pears are tender and the topping is golden, 45 to 50 minutes. Let stand for at least 10 minutes before serving. Divide among serving bowls and top with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream. Serves eight.Sue Barham is the marketing director for Restaurant Avondale in the Westin Riverfront Resort & Spa. Avondale (www.avondalerestaurant.com) opened in September 2008 and features straightforward, seasonal American cuisine. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.