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COMICE PEARS — Comice are among the sweetest and juiciest of all pears, and are a favorite in holiday gift boxes and baskets. Their flesh is silky soft, and can best be described as creamy in texture, abundantly full of juice, and very sweet. For many pear lovers, Comice is the pinnacle variety of pears. The sweet buttery flesh can find no better compliment than when served with soft ripening cheeses like Brie, Camembert or any of the blues. It is their extreme juiciness that earns them such high marks for eating freshly sliced, but also makes them a poor choice for cooking.

Ripening & Storage: Any area of green color on the skin of a Comice Pear may take on a slight yellow hue as the fruit ripens. However, color is not the best determination of ripeness. Best to check by applying gentle thumb pressure near the stem end. When the fruit gives slightly, it is ripe and ready to eat. A fragile fruit, take care to handle gently. Bruising may not be apparent right away, but can show as the fruit ripens. If a comice does appear bruised, it does not necessarily indicate damage to the interior of the fruit.

Comice Pear & Walnut Salad

2 Comice Pears, peeled, cored, dampened with juice from 1 lemon Salt (a good pinch), 1 T. white wine vinegar,1 t. Grain mustard, 6 T. Walnut oil, Ground black pepper, Handful of Roquette, Handful of fresh, bruised walnut halves & Small block of roughly crushed fresh parmesan

Preparation: Prepare pears as above.

Salad Dressing: Combine vinegar and salt in a screw-top jar and shake until salt dissolves. Add mustard and walnut oil, shake again to emulsify. (Shake again before adding to salad.)

Assemble the Salad: Slice pears lengthwise into thin segments. Place randomly on 4 serving plates along with Roquette. Scatter with bruised walnuts. Shake the vinaigrette dressing and immediately drizzle on top. With a potato peeler, shave the parmesan over the salad. Finally, dust with a little freshly ground black pepper.

CALNAVEL ORANGES — A single mutation in 1820 in an orchard of sweet oranges planted at a monastery in Brazil yielded the Navel Orange. The mutation causes the orange to develop a second orange at the base of the original fruit, opposite the stem. From the outside, it looks similar to the human navel, hence its name. Because the mutation left the fruit seedless, and therefore sterile, the only means available to cultivate more of this new variety is to graft cuttings onto other varieties of citrus trees. Two such cuttings of the original tree were transplanted to Riverside, California in 1870, which eventually led to worldwide popularity.

The Navel Orange peel is easily removed. Its flesh is sweet and naturally very juicy. It can be eaten out of hand, juiced, used in fruit salads, or used in jams and preserves.

Storage: Store oranges in a cool place outside the refrigerator if you will be eating them within a few days. Otherwise, refrigerate in a plastic bag or in the vegetable crisper section of the refrigerator.

CalNavel Oranges in Cardamom Syrup with Honey Whipped Cream

4 large CalNavels, peeled and segmented, 1/4 C. Granulated sugar,1/4 t. Ground cardamom,1/2 C. Heavy cream, 2 t. Honey  Serves 4-6.

Preparation:

Drain the orange segments in a strainer set over a medium bowl to separate. Set the segments and juice aside.

Put the sugar in a small heavy-duty saucepan over medium heat and cook, stirring often, until melted and light amber in color, 3 to 5 minutes. Take the pan off the heat and whisk in the orange juice. The mixture will bubble and clump; whisk until smooth again. Stir in the cardamom.

Put the orange segments into the juice bowl and add the syrup. Toss well.

In a large bowl, whisk 1 tablespoon of the cream with the honey until smooth. Add the remaining cream and beat with an electric hand mixer on high speed until soft peaks form, about 2 to 3 minutes.

Divide the oranges and syrup among dessert serving bowls. Top with additional whipped cream. Serve immediately.

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Tracie Burket
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