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Entries in Pear (2)


Pear and Pecorino Ravioli

Karen’s parents both fell two weeks ago.

One resulted in a likely cracked rib. 

The other resulted in a coma. 

Karen’s parents aren’t old. They shouldn’t be falling.

Long divorced, to learn on the same day that they had fallen, was eerie. And heartbreaking. 

Standing alongside your wife, as she tries to keep tabs on her mother, who assures us she’ll be OK even though we know there’s more pain than she’s really letting on...while she’s dealing with nurses and doctors and relatives and lawyers and accountants and’s a maddening feeling, my not being able to fix this. 

But there may be little left of her dad to fix.

He should be, the doctors and nurses say, he should be coming off the ventilator. His body doesn’t agree. There is bleeding in his brain. And there is swelling. And there is pneumonia. And heart failure came along like a dirty little bastard because his body simply didn’t have enough to deal with.

He went into the hospital talking. About falling down the stairs. About the neighbor who found him. About his two daughters.

And that was it.

That was all he said.

And then he was in a coma.

Best case, the doctors say, is that he will have extremely limited verbal and physical ability. 

Best case.

“He won’t be the same person he was if he wakes up.”


We were ready to rally. We know how to quickly mobilize and solve shit. That is what we do.

But her dad’s body is simply unable to rally, to gain traction on something, to pull him out of his state of somewhere else. 

And so we all wait. 


And since there is no way to solve this one, no way to fix this...we cook.

We need busy hands. Kids and a job fill most of that need. But at night while we’re talking about what comes next, I cook. Anything she wants.

Ravioli. Pecorino and pear. With fresh pasta, made in our kitchen for the first time. Perfect the technique. Make it great. Make it better than what we had in Florence. Remind ourselves of easier times, when we came home pregnant with our son.

Click to read more ...


Pears in Pernod Caramel via Pane e Salute

Thanks to Foodbuzz for including this post in 22 December's Top 9.

Karen and I live a life of food regrets. Foods we wish we had tried, places we wish we had visited. Typically, it’s because we couldn’t afford something (The French Laundry, Per Se) or didn’t know about it. Big Sur Bakery comes to mind. And so does a special restaurant in Woodstock, Vermont.

Several years ago (pre-kids, pre-NYC), we flew to Vermont for a work conference Karen had. We figured since she was headed there in the middle of the Fall foliage season, we’d make a long weekend out of it. So we rented a car, popped in a brand new Claire Holley CD, and headed for the hills and the leaves.

It ended up being the final days of peak foliage, and every view out the car window made us think the whole thing was a bit of a put on. Really, Vermont? Is anywhere this perfect? We kept waiting to see some stagehands moving the scenery, especially when we headed to the Von Trapp Family Resort during which I quietly hummed “So Long, Farewell” because that is what you must do when climbing the hills of the family estate. It’s a requirement.

We knew we wanted to head to the Ben and Jerry’s factory so that Karen could go to their graveyard of retired ice cream flavors to pay her respects to Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookie Dough (R.I.P.), but other than that, we had no plans. Just drive, look, and be together. It was late 2001, and being together was what we needed then.

Lots of happy discoveries came along the way. Not too far from B&J’s was an apple cider mill that had a hot cider donut machine right behind the checkout counter. Hot fried donuts. Really, nothing better. So hot they burned our mouths. Perfect.

There was also the Quechee Gorge, a valley of stunning beauty. We were just driving along, saw people hanging their heads over a guard rail looking down. Not knowing what was what, we parked at the gift store on the other side, and walked to join the gapers. Stunning. Also, “Quechee” became a nickname for each other during our trip, getting shortened to “Queech.” Vaguely inappropriate.

And not too far from Quechee was Woodstock, Vermont. A perfect little Vermont town, seemingly created for tourists. It’s almost too perfect, really. It’s the kind of place you dream about opening up a little restaurant and living out your dreams with the Queech of your dreams...and then you find out someone already did that.

Deirdre Heekin and Caleb Barber, we discovered, have a special restaurant there. Once again, we missed out on something wonderful because we didn't know there was something wonderful to be had. So, we bought their cookbook once it was available.

Pane e Salute is the name of their restaurant and of their first cookbook (they have two additional cookbooks).The subtitle of the book is “Food and love in Italy and Vermont.” Having experienced both food and love in the same places, this book spoke to us and our dreams. 

It’s easy to romanticize the outcome of someone's journey, disregarding the effort of the journey itself. So, let’s be easy for a minute. From the first line of the preface, they had us mentally packing our bags and dreaming big:

“The day after we got married, my husband Caleb and I flew on one-way tickets and moved to Italy.”

And so begins the journey and the discovery of wonderful food.

Their book is divided up by season and then by course (antipasti, primi, secondi, contorni, dolci). While every recipe we’ve tried was excellent, the first we made remains our favorite, especially because of the giant leaping flames.

Pears in Pernod Caramel are sexy as hell. A simple caramel with a quick saute of the pear. Then a shot of smooth star anise-flavored Pernod to the pan, a tip toward the flame and then magic. Prep + cooking time = 10 minutes. Simple perfection. And worth a trip back to Woodstock to taste them for the first time all over again.

Recipe | Pere in Caramello al Pernod (Pears in Pernod Caramel) via Pane e Salute by Deirdre Heekin and Caleb Barber

  • 1 T butter
  • ¼ c heavy cream
  • ⅛ c sugar
  • 3 ripe but firm Bartlett pears
  • ¼ c Pernod
  • Mint leaves, sliced thinly

Peel the pears (veggie peeler comes in handy here). Cut the pears in half from stem to bottom. Use a measuring teaspoon to remove the core and the little nobby on the bottom.

Heat a large pan over medium heat. Melt the butter in it. Add the cream and sugar. Stir and cook aggressively for a couple of minutes. It will bubble. Add the pears to the pan so that the cut sides are face down and cook for a few minutes. Remove the pears from the pan and place on your serving plates. 

Now, work carefully. Measure the Pernod into a glass or bowl. Do not add the Pernod directly from the bottle to the pan. Bad things will happen. This is gonna go up in flames quickly. 

Using the Pernod in the glass or bowl, carefully and quickly add the liquor to the pan. If you’re cooking with gas, carefully tip the edge of the pan toward the flame, but be ready. Flames are a comin’. If not using gas, carefully bring a lit match toward the pan. Either way, set the flaming pan down on the stove and let the flames burn themselves out of existence. Then pour the caramel sauce over the pears. Sprinkle the mint around if you have it. Eat.