The Joys of Pear Season
Recipe Corner... Recipe Corner... Recipe Corner...Thursday, October 21, 2021
We are blessed to live in Jamaica. Though there are times that we don't admit it, or it's difficult to realise, this land of ours continues to nourish and sustain. During the first year of the pandemic, our arable land seemed to do double duty in keeping us fed. We value our farmers. However, during pear season, there seems to be extra praise to go around.
At certain times of the year, giving someone a pear can exceed gifting a fruitcake. Thursday Food witnessed a staff member at a local pharmacy beside himself when a co-worker arrived with three pears. All for him. That's what we call friendship. In the Caribbean, the roots of avocado, aka alligator pear, go back to 1200 BC — centuries after the first avocados were consumed in (approximately) 10,000 BC in Mexico.
Despite this long horticultural history, it wasn't until 1900 that alligator pear trees received serious attention when horticulturists discovered that grafting the plants was easy. That resulted in Mexico, Chile, the Dominican Republic, and Colombia establishing flourishing avocado industries and leading the world in production.
In addition to their deliciousness, alligator pears are rich in fibre, numerous vitamins, including K and A, and minerals such as magnesium and potassium. Other health benefits include the fruit's anti-inflammatory properties, improving cardiovascular health, and regulating blood sugar and blood pressure. Fun fact: As they teem with healthy (monounsaturated) fats, avocados are a great alternative to animal fats such as butter and cream. But more on this later. And, according to researchers, “Avocados also contain antioxidants that are good for your eyes and brain, such as lutein and zeaxanthin. These antioxidants may lower your risk of age-related macular degeneration (AMD), cataracts, and neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's.”
There are hundreds of avocado varieties, including hybrids, classified into two cultivars (groups): A-type and B-type cultivars. Per information gained from the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA), we are most accustomed to the Simmons, Collinson, and Lula varieties in Jamaica. For those of us who travel to the States and bemoan the tiny pears that California seems to grow like weeds yet can't keep up with demand, those are Hass pears.
Jamaicans seem to be content with limiting the culinary reach of avocados. Yes, during pear season, we delight in eating a generous 'peg' with each meal. Some of us have mastered guacamole, while others have found the creamy texture adding a slice or two gives morning smoothies an allure. But there's so much more we can do with pears, especially during pear season. Here are three tried and tested recipes approved by our Thursday Food resident chef.
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Salt Fish Buljol
While keeping a healthy rivalry alive, we must celebrate Trinidad and Tobago for this inventive use of salt fish and avocado. The name is derived from a Trinidadian patois phrase meaning “burn jaw” because of the dish's spiciness. Well, spicy for the colonisers. Buljol, though almost identical to Jamaica's pick-up salt fish, is served cold. The saltiness and fieriness are balanced by the addition of chunks of creamy pear. This recipe is inspired by the one found in The Multi Cultural Cuisine of Trinidad and Tobago and the Caribbean, aka the Naparima Girls' High School Cookbook.
½ pound salt fish, prepared (soaked, boiled twice, deboned, skin removed, and flaked)
2 cups avocado, cubed
1 cup tomato, chopped
¼ cup scallion, chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons parsley, chopped
2 teaspoons Scotch bonnet pepper, finely diced
2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
1 clove garlic, finely diced
1 small yellow onion, diced
Fresh lime or lemon juice
Place prepared salt fish, parsley, scallion, tomato, thyme, Scotch bonnet and avocado in a medium-sized bowl. Set aside.
Sauté onions and garlic in olive oil until the onions are soft and translucent. Remove from heat and cool.
Add onions and garlic to other ingredients in the bowl and gently mix, be careful not to mash the pear. Finish with a squeeze of fresh lime or lemon juice and enjoy with fried Johnnycakes.
Salmon with Avocado Crema
Something is comforting about a perfectly cooked fillet of salmon. In addition to being extremely versatile (you can use it in sandwiches, flaked and tossed with pasta, or served atop leafy greens), salmon topped with herbaceous avocado crema makes for a delightful mouthful.
For avocado crema:
Half of a medium-sized avocado, mashed (around 2/3 cup)
¼ cup plain Greek yoghurt
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 tablespoon fresh dill, chopped
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon cracked black pepper
2 4oz salmon fillets, skin removed
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
½ teaspoon sea salt
For the salmon: combine the garlic, olive oil, lemon juice, herbs, and spices and smother over salmon. Let it marinate for an hour before placing the fillets on a baking sheet lined with aluminium foil and greased with olive oil. Chef's note: non-stick trays warp at high temperatures. Place salmon in a 450F preheated oven for 12 minutes (medium doneness). Let rest until it reaches room temperature.
For the crema: Place all the ingredients in a food processor and purée until smooth.
When you're ready to serve, place the salmon fillet atop steamed veggies, salad, sautéed callaloo, or quinoa, and liberally drizzle on the avocado crema.
Avocado Tarragon Ice Cream
The high-fat content of avocado makes it ideal for making ice cream without the addition of dairy. See, we told you we'd come back to this. Without being intentionally vegan, this recipe creates a luxurious frozen dessert with an appealing mouthfeel and showcases avocado's versatility.
The addition of fresh tarragon (fresh basil can be substituted) highlights the complex and nuanced flavour of avocado that, when prepared as a dessert is somewhat reminiscent of matcha (Japanese green tea). This recipe was created by the Groundnut Supper Club in London, founded by three chefs of West African descent.
2 large avocados
2 lemons, juiced
11/3 cups light brown sugar
15 fresh tarragon leaves (or 3-5 basil leaves, depending on preference)
A pinch of salt
Scoop the avocado flesh from the skin, roughly chop, and add to a blender with the other ingredients. Blitz until you have a silky-smooth green paste. Place the mixture in a freezer-proof container and cover. Freeze for at least four hours before serving.