Harvest Pear & Ginger Muffins

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Fall is here! It’s time to break out the flannel shirts and SOCKS (always one of my favorite things about the return to colder weather) and more importantly, it’s finally cool enough to get back in the kitchen and turn on the oven.

The first thing I’ll be making are these Harvest Pear & Ginger Muffins. The quintessential fall muffin, they are moist and packed with spices- ginger, cinnamon, and cardamom- along with chunks of pear, golden raisins and crystallized ginger for a little extra zing.

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A great tip I learned from Ina is that adding a generous splash of the right liqueur, or in this case, liquor, can really enhance the flavor in a baked good or dessert. Warming up the pears and raisins in bourbon plumps up the raisins and makes the pears even juicier, and what’s a fall treat without a little bourbon?

Thanks to the Greek yogurt and molasses in the batter, these muffins are incredibly moist, BUT as with any muffin or cake recipe, it’s crucial not to overmix the batter (you’ll end up with tough muffins) or overbake (the muffins will be dry.)  So basically, do less, and you’ll do great!

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Finally, like avocados, pears tend to be rock hard at the grocery store, so find the ripest ones you can, and let them sit on the counter for a day or two if possible. I found that Bartlett pears (red Bartlett pears are beautiful if you can find them) work the best for this recipe, but ripeness is more important than variety here.

Happy Fall!

Harvest Pear & Ginger Muffins

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups diced Bartlett pear (2 small)
  • ½ cup golden raisins
  • ¼ cup bourbon
  • 7 oz whole-milk Greek yogurt, such as Fage
  • 1/3 cup dark brown sugar, lightly packed
  • 1/2 cup molasses
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 2 1/2  cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • ½ tsp ground cardamom
  • 1/3 cup minced dried crystallized ginger, plus extra for sprinkling

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Place 12 paper liners in a standard muffin pan.
  2. Combine the pears, raisins and bourbon in a small saucepan, bring to a simmer, remove from heat and set aside. (Alternatively, combine the pears, raisins and bourbon in a small bowl and microwave on high for 30 seconds and set aside.)
  3. In a large bowl, combine the yogurt, sugar, molasses, honey, egg and vanilla and whisk until combined.  Add the raisins and pears (with the extra liquid), and the crystallized ginger, and mix until combined.
  4. In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, ginger, cinnamon, cardamom and 1/3 cup crystallized ginger. Add the dry ingredients to the wet and mix until just combined. Don’t over-mix!
  5. Scoop the batter into the prepared muffin pan, filling each cup almost to the top. Sprinkle each muffin with a little crystallized ginger and bake for about 20 minutes, until a cake tester inserted in the middle comes out clean. Cool for five minutes, then remove muffins from the pan. Repeat with remaining muffin batter.
  6. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Lobster & Corn Risotto

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Labor Day might be the unofficial end to summer, but isn’t the first week of September a little early to be drinking pumpkin coffee? Last time I checked, it’s supposed to be 90 degrees in New York this weekend. So for now, I’ll be eating tomato salads and drinking watermelon cocktails, but when the temperature finally does start to drop, even slightly, I’ll be making this Lobster & Corn Risotto. A great recipe for the inevitable transition from summer to fall, it calls for summery ingredients- corn on the cob, cherry tomatoes and lobster meat- in a dish that’s warm and comforting on those first nights with a chill in the air.

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Risotto has a reputation for being dififcult to make, but once you understand the basic process- cooking the rice slowly by adding hot stock in small amounts- it’s really not hard, and infinitely adaptable to the season or what you happen to have in the fridge.  This recipe doesn’t even require stock- by boiling the corn cobs in water, you can make your own quick corn stock in twenty minutes.

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Fact: lobster meat is expensive. There’s no way around it. I wanted to know if taking the time to cook them yourself would be a worthwhile way to avoid the steep price of cooked lobster meat.  Short answer? Not really. While cooking lobsters isn’t difficult, you need a giant pot and a lobster cracker, and you need to be okay with making a huge mess. All in all, it’s a lot of work for the relatively small amount of meat called for in the recipe. But by all means, give it a try. If nothing else, you’ll have a newfound appreciation for lobster rolls, and the all the equipment you need to make them.

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img_6377(photos by Simon Bordwin)

Lobster & Corn Risotto

Ingredients

  • 3 large ears corn on the cob
  • 2 tbs extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tbs unsalted butter
  • 2 cups thinly sliced leeks, white and light green parts, cleaned of all sand (1 leek)
  • 1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
  • ½ cup dry white wine
  • 1½ tsp kosher salt
  • ½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 ½ cups cherry tomatoes, cut in half through the stem
  • 1 tsp freshly grated lemon zest
  • 1 tbs finely chopped fresh tarragon
  • ½ cup freshly grated Parmesan
  • ¾ lb cooked lobster meat

Directions

  1. Remove the husks and silk from the corn and cut off the kernels as close to the cob as possible. You should have about 2 cups of kernels. Set the kernels aside. Break the cobs in half and place in a medium saucepan with 10 cups of water. Cook over low heat for 15 minutes. (The stock should remain at a low boil so it reduces slightly.)
  2. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil and butter in a medium pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the leeks and sauté for 5 to 7 minutes, until tender. Add the rice and stir for one more minute. Add the white wine and simmer over low heat, stirring constantly, until most of the liquid has evaporated. When the stock has been cooking for fifteen minutes, remove the corn cobs and discard, keeping the stock at a simmer as you cook the risotto.
  3. Add the stock to the pot with the leeks and rice, one ladleful at a time, stirring almost constantly and waiting for the stock to be absorbed before adding more. This process should take about 25 minutes.
  4. When the risotto has been cooking for 15 minutes, add the tomatoes, corn, salt and pepper. Continue cooking and adding stock, stirring almost constantly, until the rice is tender but still firm.
  5. When the risotto is done, turn off the heat and stir in the lemon zest, tarragon, Parmesan and lobster meat, reserving a few pieces of lobster meat for serving. Serve immediately, with the reserved lobster pieces on top of each serving.