THE KITCHEN DIVA: A love affair with pears

Research suggests that regularly eating pears and other fruits may guard against macular degeneration, the leading cause of vision loss.

I adore eating a perfectly ripened Bosc or Anjou pear. That first bite through that firm, greenish-golden skin into the sweet juicy fruit is a delight for the senses. Best of all, pears are a good source of fiber, antioxidants and vitamin C. Pears seldom cause allergies and are usually safe for infants and small children. Research suggests that regularly eating pears and other fruits may even guard against macular degeneration, the leading cause of vision loss.

If you're wondering about selecting, ripening or preparing pears, here's some great information from USA Pears:

Q: Where are USA Pears grown?

A: USA Pears are mostly grown in Oregon and Washington, which produce 88% of the nation's fresh pear crop.

Q: The pears I find in the grocery store are hard and green. Why?

A: Pears are a unique fruit in that they ripen best off the tree. As such, pears are transported when they're fully mature, but not always ripe. This assures that pears you buy are in good condition to properly ripen at home after you buy them.

Q: How can I keep cut pears from browning?

A: Browning, or oxidation, is a natural process that occurs when cut pears are exposed to oxygen. It can be slowed by "acidulating" the cut surfaces with a mild solution of 50% water and 50% lemon juice, which can either be brushed on or dipped in. Although this won't completely stop the browning, it will provide you with a little extra time to enjoy your delicious fruit. You also can use natural anti-browning products such as NatureSeal, which will slow browning for over a week.

Q: What should I do with my pears when I get them home?

A: If the pears are ripe, they can be used right away or refrigerated to slow further ripening. If they need to be ripened, you must leave them at room temperature. Some people put them in a paper bag to help them ripen faster. Be sure to check them daily so they don't get overripe.

Q: How long will pears keep in the fridge?

A: Once they are ripened, pears will generally keep in the refrigerator for three to five days. Unripe fruit can generally be kept for a week or more, however, pears will not ripen properly inside the fridge.

You also can arrange them in a fruit bowl and place them on the kitchen counter, dining room table or even in the living room so you can enjoy their beauty as they ripen.

This recipe for Roasted Pears with Camembert Cheese and Chutney showcases this lovely fruit in a delicious new way.

ROASTED PEARS WITH CAMEMBERT CHEESE AND CHUTNEY

Apple Cider, Raisin and Pecan Chutney

1/2 cup unsweetened pear or apple cider

1/4 cup honey or agave syrup

1 large shallot, minced

1/3 cup golden raisins

3/4 cup chopped roasted pecans

2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

1 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary

2 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided use

1 teaspoon ground black pepper

1/8 teaspoon allspice or ground cloves

1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper or red pepper flakes

Roasted Pears

3 large, ripe USA Pears, such as Concorde, Comice, or Green or Red Anjou

2 tablespoons olive oil

6 slices Camembert cheese

4 cups baby arugula leaves

For the Chutney: Bring the cider, honey or agave syrup, shallot and raisins to a boil in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until the mixture thickens, 10 to 15 minutes.

Off the heat, stir in the pecans, vinegar, rosemary, 1 teaspoon of the salt, 1/2 teaspoon of the black pepper, the allspice or ground cloves, and the cayenne pepper or red pepper flakes. Cool the chutney to room temperature before serving, or place in a container and cover with an air-tight lid and refrigerate up to 1 week.

To Roast the Pears: Heat oven to 375 F. Halve and core the pears and place in a baking dish. Rub them with 1 tablespoon of olive oil to lightly coat, and sprinkle all over with 1 teaspoon of salt. Position the pears cut sides down and roast about 30 minutes.

Turn them over and continue roasting until tender, 5 to 10 minutes more. Lay a slice of Camembert on top of each and continue roasting just to melt the cheese, about 2 minutes.

To Serve: Toss the arugula with the remaining tablespoon of olive oil, and the remaining salt and ground black pepper, and divide among 6 salad plates. Place a warm pear half over each and top with a spoonful of the chutney. Serve immediately.

Angela Shelf Medearis is an award-winning children's author, culinary historian and the author of seven cookbooks. Her new cookbook is "The Kitchen Diva's Diabetic Cookbook." Her website is www.divapro.com. To see how-to videos, recipes and much, much more, Like Angela Shelf Medearis, The Kitchen Diva! on Facebook. Recipes may not be reprinted without permission from Angela Shelf Medearis.  (c) 2019 King Features Synd., Inc., and Angela Shelf Medearis

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