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I bought some beautiful Comice pears at the farmers market without a definite plan for them. They were just so luscious, shapely, and evocative of autumn that I had to get them.  Fortunately,  my friend Sharon arrived at our house with this delicious dish. She brought it as a first course, but it could work just as well as a warm salad (I suggest placing each pear half on a bed of arugula or frisée, lightly dressed with lemon juice and olive oil, toasted walnuts sprinkled over), a side to chicken, pork, ham, duck, turkey, game, or as a dessert (perhaps with a little warm real maple syrup drizzled over).  It would also be great with sausages, ham, or bacon at breakfast or brunch.

If apples is what you have on hand, treat them the same way, with blue cheese or something different (extra sharp Cheddar or very aged real Gouda comes to mind). If hot sauce isn’t your thing, try brushing the pear halves with some port, sherry, Madeira, or Marsala.

With the holidays coming up, this is just in time for an easy way to serve a lot of people.


  • 1 firm (not ripe) pear per person
  • Gorgonzola, Roquefort, Stilton, or other blue-veined cheese
  • Hot sauce of your choice (Sharon used Tabasco; I used Penzey’s Berbere spice)

Wash pears and slice in half lengthwise. Remove the core/seeds with a spoon or an apple or pear corer. (I will tell you right now, I have never seen a home kitchen with an actual pear corer. I didn’t even know they existed until high school ceramics class, back in the 1970s, where we used them for easily trimming wet clay bowls thrown on the wheel.)

Sprinkle the cored pear halves lightly with hot sauce, Berbere, port, or whatever. Then carefully place some sort of blue-veined cheese on top of the halves. I used about 1 tablespoon cheese on each half, but more is good too. Or less. Your choice.

Put cheese-topped pears in a baking dish. Bake at 350 – 375 until pears are easily pieced with a fork or knife, maybe 25 – 45 minutes. These can be made ahead and rewarmed.




As I understand it, real ricotta cheese is made from whey left over from other cheese making.  But since I didn’t have any whey, leftover or otherwise, I made this ersatz version. This is from Ina Garten (AKA The Barefoot Contessa) and is incredibly simple. Since ricotta cheese purchased at the supermarket costs $4-and-up, I will be making this instead of buying it from now on.  Thanks to Lynn M. Kennedy for pointing me in the right direction.


  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 4 cups milk
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons white wine vinegar

Thoroughly wet two layers of cheesecloth or a clean dish towel (not terry cloth unless you like little bits of fabric in your cheese) and wring out. Lay cloth over a mesh strainer placed over a deep bowl or pot.


Combine milk, cream, and salt in a heavy saucepan and place over medium heat. Stir occasionally. Do not attempt to speed this up by turning the heat up – milk scorches easily.


Bring mixture to a rolling boil. When it starts to boil, it will froth up and boil over fast and makes a really awful mess, so remove it from the heat right away.


Pour in three tablespoons white wine vinegar, stir, and let sit until curds form. Might take one minute, might take 20. If it doesn’t start to separate, stir in another tablespoon of vinegar.


Pour mixture into the damp cloth and let drain.


It will slowly start to sink in the middle.


When cheese is as creamy as you like, scoop into a container, cover, and refrigerate four or five days.


You will be left with whey. I have read that this can be added to soups, bread dough, mashed potatoes, and so forth. I have also read it can possibly be made into cheese. Right now I have it in my refrigerator and I will investigate further.


A few notes:

I made this with an additional two cups of half-and-half along with the cream and milk.  The addition of vinegar is what causes the curds to form, so any combination of milk/cream/half-and-half ought to work nicely to make ricotta. Play around.

Ultrapasturized dairy products may take more vinegar to clabber up.

This can drain as little as 25 minutes or you can let it drain a few hours for a really creamy cheese.


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I can’t take credit for this. All thanks go to Jessica at How Sweet it Is for this amazing mixture of deliciousness. I will take credit for being a Google ninja and finding it, though.

So you see, I was having my annual Summer Solstice dinner on June 21, which was – surprise!  – the actual Summer Solstice. I think Middle Eastern and Greek food goes especially well in the summer, so I was looking for those kinds of dishes. (For some reason I only have one cookbook dedicated to that region, and it seems to be on loan somewhere.) And that was when I found the directions for a Greek Layered Salad, which also comes from Jessica at How Sweet it Is.

But it was the Crazy Feta that really sold  me. All by itself, this stuff is so fantastic; made into a Greek salad, it approximates Nirvana.

Here is what you do.


  • 1 pound feta cheese
  • 1 head of garlic
  • 3 Jalapeno peppers
  • juice and zest of 1/2 a lemon
  • olive oil
  • pepper

Slice the top quarter off the entire head of garlic, just enough to expose the cloves (do not peel away the papery skin). Place head on a sheet of aluminum foil. Drizzle with a very small amount of olive oil, then wrap the foil around the garlic and place it at one end of a small baking dish. At the other end, put the Jalapenos. Put the dish in the oven at 400 degrees.

Turn the Jalapenos after about 15 minutes.  After about 30 minutes, remove the dish from the oven.  Place the peppers in a paper or plastic bag and let them steam about 15 minutes. Then cut the stem end from the Jalapenos, remove the seeds, and remove the blistered skin. Chop peppers finely.



I couldn’t find blocks of feta packed in water at the Grocery Outlet, but I did find these two packages, which totaled 1 pound.Works for me.

Mash the feta with a big fork. Add the zest and juice of 1/2 a lemon, the minced Jalapenos, and about 1/4 cup olive oil. Then take the roasted garlic and squeeze the sweet caramelized cloves right out of their skins into the bowl.

Mash mash mash. You want this to be spreadable and dipable but not runny. You may need more olive oil.  Taste and add pepper (and salt, if necessary).


When the consistency seems just right to you, pull out a bag of chips and cram everything into your face  cover and store in the refrigerator for one week.

This is an essential ingredient in the next recipe, Greek Layered Salad.

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