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Friday, September 24, 2021

Tatsoi and How to Use It


If you're like me, you dream about the food that they cook in animes. We've all seen the gorgeous footage of the food in the Ghibli films, where they seem to take your softest and most beautiful dreams and turn them into reality. Beautiful pillows of cake, gooey eggs and sausages, grilled fish...but what are those greens that they often chop and boil or put into stews? I'm going to make a very educated guess and call it here: it's tatsoi, my friends!


Important note: While this is sometimes known as: "Water spinach", it is not "water spinach!" Tagalog-speaking folks know water spinach it as 'kangkong,' and it's delicious in adobo. I do know that kangkong is not exactly the same thing as tatsoi, but I personally use the stuff interchangeably so I don't see the harm in you doing it as well. The flavor profile is practically identical. 

Actually, it's a green you can stick almost anywhere.

This will not have a recipe, per se, but a compilation of recipes as well as a brief profile of the item. Honestly, I could no sooner choose a star in the heavens to profile than I could talk about a single kangkong/tatsoi recipe. I thought it'd be much more fun to talk about all of the things you can do with it instead. But first, let's talk - briefly - about how to grow it!

I partner with an incredible place called KC Farm School at Gibbs Road. It's a gorgeous teaching farm that's less than 15 minutes away from my home in the heart of Wyandotte county and I love working with them, along with other local farms and farmers. Their mission is to empower individuals through hands-on experiences on the farm and to educate everyone on where food comes from.

Cute, huh?

In their CSA program, they grow all sorts of delicious goodies for everyone to take home and experiment with. Honestly, I could never cover every single thing they do, but I am always excited to put on my thinking cap and see what can be made from each week's surprise produce box. Tatsoi has been growing beautifully at the farm and I'm thrilled to talk about it. It's been going out for a couple of weeks now and I'm just now getting to it...last week we talked about soup! The fact of the matter is, though, that this green - which is tender like spinach but is more closely related to bok choi - is incredibly easy to grow and tolerant to a wide variety of climates, and can even grow in the shade. This is an excellent green to plant in the spring or fall when the weather is cooler and milder.

This week for recipes, I'm finally getting around to tatsoi and all the lovely things you can do with it. Shall we begin?

Photo credit to Kawaling Pinoy

How I know kangkong the best is through adobo. Of course, my mom braises hers in a lovely adobo manok at baboy with potatoes and serves it over coconut rice. I like to chop it up and put it in any adobo I'm making, but did you know that you can make a totally vegetarian adobo out of just this stuff as the star? Kawaling Pinoy has an excellent recipe that you can start with! Please note that you don't have to add the bacon or pork belly. Many a great adobo can be used with seitan or jackfruit for extra yumminess. 

Oh, you want my recipes for this, too? Why, sure!

There's absolutely no limit to what you can add to a mac & cheese

My usual go-to for just throwing something together is adding any green vegetable I like to a casserole-style dish. A beautiful lasagna would be great with this in the ragout. You can cream it with coconut milk and lots and lots of garlic. Statistically, however, when it would come to the amount of things I would make if I had this in my fridge and just wanted to incorporate it, I would use it in my vegan macaroni & cheese recipe. Chop it up and mix it in before you bake!

Oh, did the lasagna sound great? No problem!

Instead of cutting the pasta, leave it in sheets to dry for lasagna!


Of course, all you would do is chop it up and add it to your ragout at the end before baking. However, if you want to have something fun, you can use the greens themselves to make the pasta. What you do for this application is take my turnip greens pasta recipe and substitute it in equal parts - by weight, if you please - tatsoi for greens. The result will be a gorgeous green color that you'll be in love with. It's also a fun surprise if you have fussy kids that will freak the freak out if they know they're eating vegetables. 

Too "involved"? I get it - sometimes I want it quick and easy, especially after a long day's work!

This is just an example of what you can put in any egg fried rice!

If you're looking for a much quicker thing to do with tatsoi, try chopping it up and adding it to a protein-rich egg fried rice recipe? You don't have to use duck eggs every time, but I recommend it if you get your hands on it. This, of course, can be a quick lunch or a dinner!

Looking for breakfast? Let's do it then!


The quiche is the perfect vessel for breakfast that you can make ahead the night before or simply assemble the morning of and have it baking. Take my quiche base and add fresh chopped tatsoi to it along with any breakfast meats, cheeses, whatever you like. I recommend putting the cheeses or greens on the bottom before any other fillings so that they won't float up to the top. This will also help prevent the greens from floating to the top and burning. If you want something even quicker, go for an omelette, or a smoothie.

I don't have smoothie recipes. I just throw stuff in a blender, usually with almond milk and a banana as the base. My quickest smoothie recipe ever would just be two large handfuls of spinach(or tatsoi), about a cup of almond milk, and maybe some nuts for extra fats, vitamins, and for mouthfeel. I don't always have frozen fruit on hand so I can't say that I use that a lot. If you need a little inspiration, though, feel free to use this chart.

Thanks, Maria Zamarripa, for this! Check out their site here

I hope this photodump has inspired you to get in the kitchen and use up the gorgeous tatsoi you might have lying around, or to see about picking some up for yourself. You can find it at most Asian markets or plant some now to grow all autumn long. Like spinach, you can keep pinching more off and it'll grow back! If you have things you normally do with tatsoi, I'd love to hear about it in the comments below. Thank you so much for spending a piece of your day or evening with me.

Happy cooking and happy eating. 

Thursday, September 16, 2021

Silky Smooth Tomato Eggplant Bisque


And - surprise - this version is vegan! 

Tomato soup has been one of my absolute favorites since childhood. When I was little, I had terrible separation anxiety so my dad would always bring me home for lunch during first, second, and third grade. This was a small enough gesture as a parent, considering that I only lived within walking distance of my elementary school, but I can tell you that it meant the world to me at the time. He wasn't much of a cook, but his special lunch that he would fix for me would be tomato soup and grilled cheese. 

Fast forward to my career as a chef and I get a job at this incredibly fancy country club - which shall remain nameless - and one of my first tasks is to produce a couple of gallons of their tomato eggplant bisque with Israeli couscous and saffron oil. I was a young sprig of a girl still and didn't realize exactly what I was making, but I followed the recipe to the letter and - when it was finished - I realized that I'd made tomato soup! This was not just my dad's tomato soup out of the can, though...this had depth and complexity like I didn't know it could have. While this here is not the exact recipe that I learned that day (which would be frankly unethical to share anyhow), this is my own version that I love to throw together when summer is turning to fall. After all, fall is soup season!

As always, thanks so much to KC Farm School at Gibbs Road for the veggies!

Tomato Eggplant Bisque

  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 3 cloves of garlic, crushed 
  • 2 medium eggplants, sliced lengthwise
  • 1 32 oz jar of chopped canned tomatoes
    • I made my own this year from the bounty of the summer. I don't have my canning recipe for that, but please check out my canning method and the recipe for Pickled Pears, if you're so inclined!
  • 1 14 oz can of full fat coconut cream
  • Kosher salt and cracked black pepper, as needed
Add a generous glug of olive oil to the bottom of a thick-bottomed soup casserole...aka a dutch oven. Heat over a medium flame and add the onion and garlic. Season generously with kosher salt and pepper and cover to let sweat for about 15 minutes on low. Meanwhile, lay your eggplant slices out on a cutting board and season generously with kosher salt. You're going to be drawing out the bitterness!



When 15 minutes pass, blot the bitter moisture off of the eggplant with paper towels. Don't worry about any discoloration that might appear; it'll all be blended into the soup. When your eggplant slices are patted dry, run your knife through them one more time to chop them into chunks. It doesn't matter too much how pretty they are, just as long as they're small enough to all fit into the pot. Uncover the onions mixture, give it a good stir, and add in your eggplant. Add your tomatoes, too, and bring them up to a boil. Reduce it to a simmer and let cook for about 5 minutes. Add the can of coconut cream as well as one can-full of water from the tap to rinse out any little goodies you may have left in there. Bring everything up to a rolling boil and stir well. Turn off the heat, cover, and let sit for at least 30 minutes. 

It's at this point that you can actually pop this in the fridge and let the soup base hang out overnight in the fridge if you so choose. This, like many fall meals, is an excellent dish to make ahead. Even better, the flavors will meld and mesh the longer it sits. The absolute ideal is 24 hours, but I won't make you wait. You can also - if you really want to - ladle this soup base into quart freezer bags and freeze them for up to 3 months. To be honest, I'll likely be doing this at least once in preparation for my baby. 

When you're ready to have your soup, bring it up to a boil again and immediately remove from the heat. Add your soup base mixture to the pitcher of a blender and blend on low for 2 minutes, then medium for 45 seconds, then high for 1 minute. If you must do this in batches, that's a-okay. The goal is to create a silky-smooth bisque of a soup with a bright red color. If you're feeling fancy, make yourself a grilled cheese sandwich to go with it. 


You may garnish this with fresh herbs if you like, but to serve it I simply prefer a drizzle of good olive oil and a few grinds of black pepper. Some people like to have it with parmesan cheese, and I've even heard of a person or two using a dash of hot sauce and a crispy fried egg. Honestly, do whatever makes you happy. This is your soup when you make it. 

I love this dish because it's a gorgeous color, vibrantly healthy, filling enough to be lunch or dinner, and it reminds me that my dad loved me enough to try in the only way he knew how. I especially love dipping a grilled cheese sandwich into this soup, but I love it just as much while drinking it from a mug with a few crackers sprinkled on top.

I hope this end-of-summer dish has inspired you to use eggplants and tomatoes together. You may not think they work, but I assure you they do. Eggplants and tomatoes are both nightshades, you know! This means they are from the same family, but please don't eat the greens, lest you get sick. Oddly enough, though, any nightshade vegetable will give you the benefit of all of the gorgeous antioxidants they contain, which are vital in repairing cells that were damaged due to stress. I don't know about you, but I could use some stress relief in my life...

Thanks so much for spending a piece of your day with me. I hope I've inspired you to cook in your own kitchen today and to preserve the bounty of your garden through food prep, food stocking, or even just taking tons of pictures of the stuff before eating it. Happy cooking and happy eating!

Thursday, September 2, 2021

Pickled Asian Pears

 

Not many have heard of pickled pears. In fact, everyone I've told about the plan for this week's blog has been both confused and intrigued at the concept. It's pretty funny for me to think about, especially because it's one of my favorite things to do with lots of pears. I don't necessarily enjoy eating pears, and the kind of pears I always seem to find are the ones better suited for cooking than eating straight off the tree. I'm sure that not many here in the states have even heard of the concept of pickled pears but I'm glad to be the one to introduce it to you. This, along with Upside Down Caramel Pear Cake, is one of my favorite things to do with the plethora of gorgeous Asian Pears that do so well out here in the midwest. 

For this method, we'll be using a water bath canning method because I don't own a pressure cooker. I do have a large stock pot which I use for - you guessed it, stocks - and canning. You can find these on the cheap online or in many restaurant surplus stores. I'm using 32 oz quart mason jars for this project, and while you are more than welcome to use that size, you may use whichever size you have access to. This recipe makes enough brine for two of these jars, so please adjust accordingly. 


Pickled Asian Pears
yields 2 32 oz/quart jars or 4 pint jars

  • ~1 lb Asian pears washed thoroughly, quartered, and cored
  • 1 c + 3 Tbsp 5% white vinegar 
  • 1 c white sugar
  • 2 c water
  • 2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Per jar
    • 1 star anise
    • 10 white peppercorns
    • 4 spiceberries or 2 allspice berries + 1 peel of orange zest, pith removed

For this project, you'll need:


A few notes from a canner! You can simply write the names of your items on the lids with a sharpie instead of using labels, and they will come off later with a bit of hand sanitizer. You can use tongs instead of a jar lifter in a pinch. You can use a pair of chopsticks as a bubble freer. A slotted spoon works just as well as a 'headspace tool' for your needs. I've literally never used a 'lid lifter' before so I see no reason you need it. 

Other things that are nice to have: 

  • A wood cutting board to rest your things on
  • A few clean tea towels
  • Some good music and a long phone charger
This is what I like to call a "day off" project, as it takes some good amount of preparation and mental headspace, so you'll likely want to do this on a day off to relax. Canning and preserving things can be extraordinarily relaxing, but it can be a bit of an ordeal. It's late summer when I'm writing this, which means that I have more tomatoes than I know what to do with. I'll be multitasking and canning some chopped tomatoes and marinara sauce while we chat about pickled pears, so please ignore the pictures of tomatoes you may see in the background. 

First thing's first when it comes to pickling: sterilize everything. For you, this means get your big stock pot of water and bring it to a boil. I let my jars boil for about 3 minutes, as well as my lids and tops, before letting out to dry on a wood cutting board. The important thing with glass jars to remember is that they're incredibly sturdy but the thing that will harm or weaken them are extreme temperature changes. This means you should never put a hot jar on a cold countertop or let a drop of cold water hit the steaming hot jars. This could result in a crack, break, or - even worse - a shatter. You don't want any of those things. 

To prepare the pears, wash them thoroughly before quartering and coring them. Some of the pears I had were larger, so I cut them in wedges instead of quarters. You may also peel them but I personally don't see it as necessary. All you must do is pack as many pears into these clean and sterilized jars as possible while leaving your headspace. Headspace is just the little bit of air that must exist in every canning jar. Just look for the little line where the jar's threads and the jar's body begins. This infographic chart will help!

Thank you Fix.com for the help!

When you've packed your jars thoroughly, let's prepare the brine by combining the sugar, vinegar, water, salt, and the bay leaf in a pot and bringing to a boil. Reduce to simmer and cook for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, add your spices to each jar. Spiceberries are a gorgeous foraged item found in the midwest of America and we haven't yet figured out how to cultivate it. I'm a part of an incredible project with Prairie Birthday Farm to grow them and I'll hopefully be able to dry and sell them in the coming years. Until then, if you can't get your hands on these lovely native spices, use allspice berries and orange zest in each jar. Just drop the spices in the tops of each jar you fill and call it square.

When your brine is finished, remove the bay leaf and discard. Pour the hot brine over the fruit until you get the proper amount of headspace and everything is covered appropriately. Tap down a bit with your slotted spoon and press the sides of the fruit gently with your chopstick or bubble freer tool to - you guessed it - get any air bubbles out. Wipe the tops and mouths of the jars well with a clean paper towel to make sure they are dry and add the lids. Screw on as tight as you can. 

The canning of your pears happens by adding them to the boiling water using your tongs or jar lifting tool and letting them process for 40 minutes. This is convenient for yours truly because it takes about 45 minutes for chopped tomatoes and marinara sauce to process in a waterbath canning pot. Aren't I a lucky duck? Let's take this time to talk about canning and preserving food, and why you should be doing it. If you'd like to skip this, click here to go back to the recipe.

I am writing this in September of 2021, during the hopefully ending curve of a global pandemic, with the US still topping cases globally. I live in the USA and I personally am feeling disheartened as I'm seeing no end in sight. I am feeling even more disheartened because I am about to bring a new life into the world and I hoped to have introduced them to a better world than I had come into when I was a child. My own life has changed dramatically since February of 2020 in many ways, and I am still learning to adapt. 

One of the first things I did when I was furloughed like so many other Americans was to turn inward and decorate my home. I also began volunteer work and dove further into my relationships with local farms. I am so very fortunate to live in a part of the country where fertile lands span wide and small farms are able to sell fresh produce that I cannot grow myself for lack of space or expertise. For me, this includes squash, fruit trees, and other things that require more space than I have access to. With my own small garden, I grow cherry tomatoes, herbs, mulberries, and more strawberries than I often know what to do with. I have found that I'm also gifted in growing sunflowers, lilacs, roses, and more perennials to add to my local pollinator's diet. I find work now as a manual therapist and an herbalist, so this is excellent news for my tea-making business. While I navigate how I organize my space, however, I'll be growing less and less food because of it. 

Growing your own food is a wonderful joy that gives you a unique sense of self and confidence. It's highly relaxing to be able to witness life from start to finish and to be able to reap the benefits. I won't always be able to eat every single tomato that ripens, nor every strawberry or green bean or mint leaf when it's exactly ready, which is why teaching myself how to preserve the bounty of the harvest has been so important. Canning, drying, and freezing all of the food I've been able to produce has saved me not only money, but peace of mind, and that is something you cannot put a price on.

My husband and I will hopefully soon welcome our child in the late fall, when all things in nature come to fruition, so I'm sure I'll have absolutely no time or energy to be able to prepare foods or go to the store while caring for a newborn. I realize that not every new mother has the ability to stay at home with their new babies for more than a few weeks, and I am so grateful that I'll be given more time than that to get to know my new little love. With a pantry that's full of the spring and summer's bounty, along with a full freezer, I'll know that I will have one less thing to worry about in the coming months. This is especially comforting for me to know since the Farmer's Almanac has been saying that the winter of 2021 will be one of the coldest and most bitter we've had in years. 

What does this have to do with you? Nothing, really. I suppose I'm telling you this because I want to share with you a piece of my own situation, in case you relate, and so that you may better understand why a full pantry with homemade canned goods that you've created with your own two hands will be beneficial to you. I personally don't want to be going out to the store in the middle of a cold winter and I doubt that you will, either. Canned and pickled fruit doesn't always sound like the best thing ever, but it's going to provide you with much-needed vitamins during those colder months when you're going to want a reminder of the summer.

When your timer goes off, remove your jars from the water bath and set them upon your wooden cutting board. Do not under any circumstances stick these in a cold area, especially the fridge, for at least 24 hours. What you'll want to do next is to move them to a place in the kitchen that they will be undisturbed and cover your jars with a clean tea towel. While you're cleaning up, don't be alarmed if you hear bubbling or popping sounds coming from the jars. This is the sound of air leaving and everything compressing and decompressing in the right way. This is all a good sign!

The next day, give your jars a good wipe and label them accordingly. Like I mentioned earlier, you can forego the bought labels and simply write the names and dates of the items on the top of the jars with a permanent marker. Don't worry - they'll come off using hand sanitizer or rubbing alcohol when you're ready to reuse them! Store the jars in a cool, dark place until you're ready to eat...I recommend at least waiting a week to get some good pickling flavor in there, but this will stay good for at least 6 months in the cabinet. You'll know if things go bad if the seal on the jar pops, if it starts going cloudy, or if the jar starts leaking for any reason. Otherwise, keep it cool! I will admit, though, I've got pickled fruits, jams, and jellies in my cabinet from two years ago that are still good. Please refrigerate after opening, though! And do try to use within the same month...



I love pickled pears because they're spicy, sour, and sweet, have a great texture, and are excellent on ice cream and cakes during the holidays. Of course, you can use it on a charcuterie board and have the jar open on the table for Thanksgiving or for the other fall and winter holidays, but these are just fine to eat out of the jar, or sliced up on a turkey sandwich. There are so many uses for pickled pears, and I hope you are curious enough to make some, too. The best part about pickling things is that you don't have to eat them straight away!

I hope you've enjoyed learning about pickling pears today. I truly hope I've inspired a bit of curiosity in your mind about preserving food and eating seasonally, and that you try this out for yourself this winter. Keep an eye on my Instagram, and I'm sure you'll see me break out a jar over the holidays. Heck, I might even put these straight into my caramel pear cake! 

Like this? Check it out here!

Thank you so much for spending a piece of your day or night with me. Happy cooking and happy eating!

Friday, August 27, 2021

Egg Drop Curry, Filipino Style

 



This will not be your traditionally authentic "Broken Egg" curry that you may find in Mumbai. Actually, I'd never even heard of "Broken Egg" or "Egg Drop" curry until my friend Sneha told me about it. If you're looking for something of a more South Asian flavor, may I offer you this wonderful recipe from My Ginger Garlic Kitchen? It's delicious, has gorgeous photos, and will guide you - step-by-step - on how to do it. This is a Filipino style curry...or should I say "kare"?

Please allow me to explain: If you're of Filipino descent or if you are familiar with Filipino cuisine, you've likely heard of the dish "kare-kare" which is an extremely delicious peanut and oxtail stew that has green beans and eggplant in it. My mom reports that her maids took four days of preparation to make it in the big house in Pampanga. I don't have four days of mental planning available to me at this time, so I'm going to do a quick version. My own Kare-kare is not nearly as extravagant as how they would prepare it in the Philippines, but I daresay it is quite tasty in its own right. Why is this important?

"Kare" is derived from "curry" as the Philippines has been a huge trade hub in the Southeast Asian seas since before the beginning of colonization. It is said that it's nearly impossible to say what is purely Filipino food because it's just so naturally diverse and has evolved to be the world's first-ever fusion cuisine. I thought it would be fun to try a "kare" version of this curry, and it turned out to be quite tasty. Here we go!

Egg Drop "Kare"

  • 3 large tomatoes
  • 1 leek, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 c raw peanuts
  • 1 Tbsp dried coriander
  • 1 /2 tsp dried cloves
  • 1/2 tsp dried cumin
  • 1 whole star anise
  • 10 leaves basil
  • 2 Tbsp garam masala powder
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • 2 c water
  • 1 c fresh beans, chopped
  • 1/2 large onion, sliced lengthwise
  • 2 small or 1 large bell pepper, sliced
  • 6 eggs
  • Lots of Parsley or fresh coriander, chopped
  • Garlic rice, as needed, to serve
The day before*
Chop the tomatoes and add to a casserole dish with the chopped leek, garlic, and a generous glug of oil with some salt and pepper. Cover and roast for at least an hour and a half at 300 degrees F. You can also stick this in a crock pot at your lowest setting and leave it all day to stew. Allow it to cool in the fridge before using, ideally overnight, but will be fine if you do it early in the morning and let it cool all day in the fridge. 

The day of*
To a large Dutch oven or any thick-bottomed stewing pot with a lid, add a healthy glug of either coconut or canola oil and heat on a medium flame. Add all of your dried spices, along with your peanuts, and toast on medium-low until quite fragrant. This shouldn't take more than two or three minutes. After that, lower the heat and add the garam masala and basil, along with the stewed tomato mixture from earlier. Allow this to stew on low for about 5 minutes, stirring every so often. Add the coconut milk and bring to a boil before turning off the heat. 

Add your mixture to the pitcher of a blender and blend on low for 1 minute. Turn the blender up to medium and blend for a full 2 minutes, or until absolutely everything has been pulverized. Add the lovely orange-red mixture back into the pot and rinse out the blender with two cups of warm water to get the extra goodies off the sides before adding that all together. 



Add your chopped beans - I had green beans and long beans from the farmers market and CSA, so I used those. I also had some gorgeous bell peppers and fresh onions, and these are classic flavors in kare kare, which is the meaty Filipino stew that usually has beans and eggplant in it. Since we're only going for a nod to kare kare as well as traditional masala curry, we'll be sticking to the beans alone. Either way, now is the time to add your fresh vegetables and stir in to coat.

You can now turn off the heat at this point and let this mixture hang out until you're ready to serve it. This is an excellent make-ahead meal that you can even make in large quantities and freeze in bags for later! If you'd like to continue making it, please read on. 

Prepare any rice you plan on serving with. If you'd like to add an extra protein to this dish, you may add chopped chicken thighs, seitan, tofu, etc., but I don't believe it's necessary. This is a wonderful vegetarian dish that's high in folate and protein from the peanuts and eggs!

When you're ready to serve, simply bring your curry mixture to a gentle simmer over a low flame until it is hot. Taste for salt at this point and ready your eggs. You can crack an egg and pop it directly in to the simmering broth, but I like to be a little gentle with mine by cracking each egg into a small bowl or cup individually to ensure that I don't get any bits of shell inside. 

As the name suggests, drop the egg in and let the curry broth accept it into its embrace. The trick is to drop the egg from about four inches above the surface of the curry so that it creates a hole for itself, lest it just sit on top. Repeat this in a clockwise motion until you've used all the eggs you want to use. Cover and set a timer for 5 minutes. When the timer is up, simply turn off the heat and let sit for another 2 minutes before serving over rice and garnishing with lots and lots of parsley.



I love this dish because it is creamy, nutty, and somehow bright, but it is an excellent 'end of summer' dish to use up all of those seemingly random vegetables that you may not know what to do with. Even better, the peanuts are high in folic acid, which I - as a human that is currently growing a human - very much need. Peppers, tomatoes, and green beans? Not a usual combo for the average American - at least not as far as I've seen - but I think they go great together with this dish. Surprisingly, my husband loved it too, even though it was a vegetarian meal.

Thank you so much for spending a piece of your day with me. I hope you have a wonderful morning, evening, or night. Happy cooking and happy eating!

Monday, August 23, 2021

Upside-Down Caramel Pear cake




When August turns to September, it is the time for pears. Small, dense, mild Asian pears grow very well in the Midwestern USA. I'm so fortunate to be a part of a small farming community in the middle of a bustling city because I always have access to the best produce when it's fresh. I don't have enough land to justify a pear tree, and I'm currently in constant battle with the woodland critters that vie for my peaches, but that doesn't mean I don't love pears when they are in season. 

Asian Pears, also known as Japanese Pears, Nashi Pears, or Apple Pears are deciduous fruit trees that grow well in well-drained soil and benefit from slightly acidic conditions. They are not self-pollinating, so they need a pal to be next to in order to produce fruit. Although they can grow large, they will usually be quite small if you buy them from a local grower, which is absolutely okay. The flavor is extremely mild and therefore can lend themselves to both sweet and savory dishes. I love these pears because the dense texture and low moisture content make them ideal for baking. Fruit that keeps its shape during the cooking process is a rare treat; don't waste that opportunity!

Upside-Down Caramel Pear Cake
adapted from Better Homes & Gardens, Fall Recipes edition
  • 8 oz/1 cup/2 sticks of vegan butter, divided 
    • Of course, use dairy butter if that's what you have on hand. I like Miyoko's for this recipe!
  • 2/3 c + 3 Tbsp packed light brown sugar
  • 5 small Asian Pears, peeled, halved, and cored
  • 2 eggs, room temperature
  • 1/2 c maple syrup
  • 3/4 c warm water
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 c/10 oz all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
Take half of your butter and chop it into cubes. Add the other half to the bowl of a standing mixer and set it on your stovetop to warm while you work. Add your chopped cold butter into either one 13" bread loaf pan or two 9" loaf pans. (You can also use a cast-iron skillet or a 9" round cake tin, but I did mine in a loaf.) Place in a cold oven and turn it on to 350 degrees F. Meanwhile, whisk all of the dry ingredients in a mixing bowl and set aside.

It's not the prettiest now, but bear with me!

Check your butter in 10 minutes. When it's melted, add 1/3 + 3 Tbsp brown sugar to the pan and mix with a spatula to make sure that it's fully incorporated and in all of the corners. Arrange your pears, cut-side down, in the bottom of the pan, and do your best to ensure even spacing. Add it back into the oven and let roast for 20 minutes. Let's work on the batter next!

The butter in your mixing bowl should be sufficiently warm by now, so let's use a paddle attachment to whip that butter into shape. You're going to want to whip it until it's light and fluffy, and then add the remainder of your brown sugar. Let mix on low for 30 seconds, turn the speed to medium, and beat until the color has lightened and the sugar has dissolved. Add the eggs one at a time, letting mix for a full minute between each one. Add the maple syrup and mix until homogenous. It should smell divine!

With the mixer on low, add in half the flour mixture and stir until just combined. Add in the water and vanilla extract and mix. Add the remainder of the flour and stir until combined, making sure to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl with a spatula to ensure that absolutely everything has mixed well. Set the bowl aside in a cool spot in the kitchen until your 20 minutes are up. This will allow the mixture to hydrate and rest!

When the timer for the oven goes off, remove the pan from the oven and let it sit on the counter for 2 minutes. Give your batter a quick stir and gently pour over the hot pears and caramel as evenly as possible, making sure to scrape every last bit of batter from the bowl. Gently push the batter over the corners and do your best to cover the pears. The caramel will rise up so try not to harm yourself! Slow and steady wins this race. 

When you've got yourself sorted in the batter, return the pan to the oven and bake for 30-35 minutes, or until the cake is fully set and cooked. You can test this with a skewer! Take this time to clean up, as it's probably smart to clean as you go. At the sound of the timer, remove the cake from the oven and let sit for 10 minutes on the counter before flipping onto a serving vessel. You can use a long platter, a fancy plate, or even a rustic wooden cutting board, like yours truly. You can let the cake cool completely before cutting a slice for yourself, but truthfully, I couldn't wait that long and just gave it a five-minute rest before cutting into it. 



This cake is so incredibly tender, light, and is full of fall-adjacent flavors of caramel and spice. Pears are a wonderful fruit to eat and turmeric is an excellent spice to add to your cakes. I don't want to get too preachy about the benefits of turmeric, so I'll just say that it adds pretty color and a beautiful aroma that balances out the pears and caramel. This is excellent as a dessert with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or as a sweet treat for breakfast with your morning coffee. Make sure you keep it covered and wrapped on the counter, and it will stay good for a week. I doubt that it will last that long, though...

Thanks so much for spending some of your day or night with me. Happy cooking and happy eating!