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The Perfect Fall Dessert: French Pear Cake

French Pear Cake

This cake is unlike any other I’ve made. Well, except for the apple cake that it’s based on.

But, here, in this rebooted version, pears replace the apples and pecans replace the walnuts. The pears are peeled and thinly sliced and then mixed into a very light batter. During a second trip into the oven, the brown sugar and pecan topping firms up and turns golden brown, with an almost custardy cake beneath. It’s really pretty amazing.

There may seem to be a number of steps, but don’t fear, it all comes together very easily and the only special gadgets you need are a cake pan and a couple of spatulas. So give this fall dessert a try!

French Pear Cake

French Pear Cake

French Pear Cake

French Pear Cake

French Pear Cake
About 8 servings; Adapted from the Apple Lady Apple Cake in the Paris Cookbook by Patricia Wells

Cake
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar
1 tbsp baking powder
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1/3 cup 1% or 2% milk
3 large pears, cored, peeled, and sliced into thin wedges — I used 2 Anjou and 1 Starkrimson

Topping
1/3 packed brown sugar
1 large egg, lightly beaten
3 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
1/4 cup roughly chopped pecans

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Decide on your pan. I have made this cake in a round cake pan and also a loaf pan—both worked just fine, but for the best presentation, you will also need to flip it out of the pan, and then onto a serving plate. You can also use a springform pan and skip the flips entirely.

Once you have decided on the pan, butter and flour the pan or, in a pinch, coat the inside with non-stick cooking spray.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Stir to blend. In a separate bowl, mix together the vanilla extract, eggs, oil, and milk. Then add that to the flour mixture and stir until well blended.

Add the pear slices and combine to thoroughly coat them with the batter. Your bowl will contain mostly pear slices, covered with a bit of batter.

Spoon the mixture into the prepared pan. Place the pan in the center of the oven and bake until fairly firm and golden, about 35 minutes. (I have found that both a cake and a standard loaf pan take the same amount of time.)

Meanwhile, while the cake is baking, prepare the topping: In a small bowl, combine the sugar, egg, and melted butter, and stir to blend. Set it aside.

When it’s done, remove the cake from the oven and turn the temperature down to 350 degrees F. Pour the topping mixture over the cake and sprinkle with the pecans.

Return the cake to the oven and bake until the top is a deep golden brown and the cake feels quite firm when pressed with a fingertip, about 15 minutes. After 10 minutes take a peek and make sure the brown sugar is not burning. If it’s getting too dark, cover loosely with foil for the last 5 minutes.

Transfer the cake pan to a rack and allow to cool for 10 minutes.

Run a knife around the sides of the pan and release and remove the springform side, leaving the cake on the pan base. Or, if using a regular cake or loaf pan, after running the knife along the edges, put a plate over the top of the cake and flip onto the plate. The cake will be upside down. Take another plate and put that on top of the cake and flip again. The cake should now be right-side-up on the second plate.

Serve warm or at room temperature, cut into thin wedges. Store in the refrigerator for up to three days.

Oven-Roasted Salmon with Green Romesco Sauce

Salmon with Green Romesco

Romesco, a Spanish pepper and nut-based sauce, is typically made with red bell peppers, producing a bright red and flavorful summery sauce. This version mixes it up a bit with mildly spiced poblano peppers and it’s easily one of my most favorite things to do with poblanos. It’s also suitably fall-ish, in my opinion.

Besides, no matter the season, what’s not to like about roasted peppers, vinegar, garlic, olive oil, and nuts? This romesco recipe is adapted from the cookbook, Grilling for Life by Bobby Flay. But really, I’ll let you in on a little secret–you don’t have to grill anything if you don’t want to. You can of course, but your oven will do all the work quite easily.

Speaking of the oven, the salmon gets a sear in a hot pan, then finishes cooking in that very appliance. When we had this meal, some warm and tender lentils were tossed with a little of the romesco sauce for a great side.

And if you do find yourself with any leftover sauce, it’s especially tasty with pasta with some crumbled goat cheese on top.

Salmon with Green Romesco

Salmon with Green Romesco

Salmon with <span style= . . . → Read More: Oven-Roasted Salmon with Green Romesco Sauce

Three Days in Montana: Roadtripping, Eating, and Drinking in Big Sky Country

Three Days in Montana

I think if I had to live somewhere other than Oregon, I could maybe live in Montana. Maybe. And while I would miss the ocean and the desert of my adopted home state, I would cherish the big blue skies and the quirky mountain towns of the Treasure State.

During a roadtrip to our eventual destination of Fargo, North Dakota we spent a few days in Big Sky Country—it’s an incredibly long state to drive through. Missoula in the western region is almost 350 miles from Billings in the east and once you hit Billings, you still have another 247 miles until you finally come to the North Dakota border.

Watch out for rattlesnakes

If you do find yourself roadtripping along interstates 90 and 94, there are a number of Montana communities that are definitely worth your time, here are a few of them.

Three Forks, Montana

This small town between Butte and Bozeman offers a few things—the historic Sacajawea Hotel, where you’ll be offered a glass of bubbly when you check in. There’s a summer farmers market in Three Forks and a quaint main street for strolling after a bison burger (complete with fire roasted . . . → Read More: Three Days in Montana: Roadtripping, Eating, and Drinking in Big Sky Country

Fried (or not) Avocado Tacos with Creamy Poblano Ranch

Avocado Tacos with Poblano-Buttermilk Dressing

If you haven’t already tried coating avocado with breadcrumbs and then frying, what exactly have you spent your life doing?

It’s okay. You can start now. Using this preparation, the outside gets delightfully crunchy and inside, the avocado is all ripe and creamy. But, if you’d rather not fry, you can achieve pretty much the same results by baking the coated avocado wedges in the oven.

This recipe produces wonderful summer tacos–little avocado wedges on a tasty refried beans pillow. Garnished with shredded cabbage and cheese, as well as salsa, you really can’t go wrong here. Plus, if you prepare the Poblano Ranch Dressing too, you’ll make it better!

I’ve made these tacos both ways; frying in peanut oil and baking in the oven. I found that the frying leads to a bit more of a uniform and golden crispiness, but rotating the avocado wedges in the oven did a fairly good job of even browning as well.

Since avocados can be bland, the key to maximum tastiness is to season the flour well and also to hit the finished avocado wedges with a sprinkle of kosher salt.

Avocado Tacos with Poblano-Buttermilk Dressing

. . . → Read More: Fried (or not) Avocado Tacos with Creamy Poblano Ranch

Kerrin’s Multigrain Chocolate Chip Cookies

Multigrain Chocolate Chip Cookies

Really, what is better than a fresh gooey chocolate chip cookie straight out of the oven? Air conditioning? Well, yes. But…it’s not the chocolate chip cookie’s fault that August 4th is National Chocolate Chip Cookie Day! Do not blame the cookie if the weather is too hot to even think about turning on the oven.

That said, and as I write this on the 3rd, we’re about to break records for the hottest day ever on Earth in the Pacific Northwest (108 degrees F in Portland), so let’s think back to a cooler time–gentler time when I opened up my copy of Dorie’s Cookies and found this amazing and alt chocolate chip cookie recipe.

Buckwheat flour! Whole wheat flour! A sprinkle of fleur de sel on top! They are healthy! Kind of…for cookies. In this version, I also added vanilla and I upped the nuts, as one tends to do if the occasion calls for it.

So, if you can safely turn on your oven, you might want to celebrate August 3rd by baking a batch of these wonderful and interesting chocolate chip cookies.

Spoiler: The cookie dough needs to chill in the refrigerator for at . . . → Read More: Kerrin’s Multigrain Chocolate Chip Cookies