Saturday, November 7, 2009

Seasons for comfort

A few weeks ago, the trees were ablaze with color. My little balcony garden had cheerful company. Walking down the hall, the doorway looked full of bright leaves. My eyes would take a minute to adjust; it's as if those colors don't exist at any other time of year.

I recently made an acquaintance from South Africa. She is here in Oregon for a few weeks, wine tasting and visiting the sights. This week, she took a drive around the countryside and into the gorge. She had never seen trees with so many colors. Next week, she will experience her first American Thanksgiving. So far, she loves the fall season.

The markets are full of local apples and pears. I went a little crazy at the beginning of harvest. I bought more pears than I could keep track of. I usually eat "an apple a day" and get through a bag pretty quickly. But with the pears, I kept finding a few pears here, a few pears there - in the fridge, on the counter, in the fruit bowl. I decided to make a pear tart. While I love a flaky butter tart crust, I wanted to use the rest of my Amaretti cookies. So, what resulted was a pear almond ricotta cheesecake with an Amaretti crust.

Pear Almond Ricotta Cheesecake

Crust: 2/3 cup ground Amaretti cookes, 1/3 cup ground blanched almonds, 4 tbsp melted butter

Filling: 2-3 pears, 3 eggs, 1/2 tsp almond extract, 1/2 tsp rose water, 1/4 cup ground blanched almonds, 1 brimming cup ricotta

Peel, core, and slice 2-3 pears. Heat four cups water, 1 cup sugar, and any preferred flavoring such as vanilla or cinnamon. Substitute honey for the sugar, if you prefer. Add the pear slices carefully and poach for ~15 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside. If you want to reduce the liquid to make a syrup, feel free to continue heating the water and check back when it has reduced by half.

In a small bowl, combine the ground almonds, ground cookies, and melted butter. Press the crust into the bottom of a springform pan. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, beat eggs, then add other filling ingredients and mix together until combined. Pour over the crust into the springform pan over the pressed crust. Bake for 20 minutes or until the center moves only slightly when you move the pan.

This filling would work just as well in a tart crust.

*Thank you to Elizabeth Archers for the photo of my green Zebra tomatoes.

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