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Other varieties have become more common in recent years, but when customers buy pears in the United States, they're most often reaching for Bartlett pears.

An offspring of varieties brought to the New World from Europe in the 1700s, the Bartlett pear also ends up canned and juiced into nectar. It's a favorite for baked desserts because of its tendency to remain firm when cooked.

Bartlett pears are usually picked when still partly green, as they ripen readily in a fruit basket or on the countertop.

Pear care: This fruit doesn't do well in the refrigerator, and needs to ripen at room temperature. If you want them to ripen faster, put them in a paper bag and close the top. That traps ethylene gas naturally produced by the fruit, and help it reach velvety sweetness.

In this Mark Bittman recipe, juicy pears are tossed with rich cheese, walnuts, leafy greens and vinaigrette for a dish substantial enough to anchor a fall dinner. Substitute blue cheeses or feta for the Gorgonzola, if you like, or use another variety of pears.

> Pear and Gorgonzola Green Salad with Walnuts

2 large ripe Bartlett pears

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1/4 pound Gorgonzola cheese

6 cups mixed greens, about 5 ounces, torn into fork-sized pieces if necessary

For the vinaigrette:

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

3 tablespoons or more good-quality wine vinegar

1 heaping teaspoon Dijon mustard, or 1/2 teaspoon dry mustard

1 shallot, peeled and chopped

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Peel and core pears. Cut into 1/2 -inch chunks and toss with lemon juice.

Put walnuts in dry skillet and toast over medium heat until aromatic and beginning to darken, 3 to 5 minutes. Let cool. Meanwhile, crumble Gorgonzola.

To make the vinaigrette, put oil, vinegar and mustard in a blender. Blend until creamy, about 30 seconds. Add shallot and pulse until minced. Add salt and pepper to taste.

When ready to serve, toss pears, cheese and greens with as much vinaigrette as you like; you don't have to use it all.

Crumble walnuts over salad and serve immediately.

e-mail: agalarneau@buffnews.com