When I woke this Sunday morning, the first full fall day, there was a distinct smell of burning wood in the air. I noticed it again from my perch outside a local coffee shop as I read the paper. This wasn’t an alarming aroma, more a cozy one, the kind that rises from stoves and fireplaces when called into action on the first chilly day post-summer. It’s autumn, my favorite season, and one up until now I’ve lived out in New York.
I’m told the Pacific Northwest fall is beautiful, and from the early indications I’ve noticed on my morning trail walks, I have no doubt it is. Yet I can’t help feeling the subtle pangs of nostalgia for those autumns in New York. I’m sure every place, especially those who have spent a considerable amount of time and tourism marketing dollars touting their “leaf peeping” tours, and “fall foliage outings” believe their autumnal exhibition is the best. Perhaps it is. But there’s just something about being in a city of millions and escaping into the luxuriant acreage of Central Park when the leaves start to change. Like a typical New Yorker, the rule seems the showier the better, and every maple, oak, elm, and their hundreds of cousins try to outdo each other like models on the catwalks of Fashion Week.
But it’s more than just the riot of yellow, ochre, orange and bright red. The light and sound in the park seems to change when fall hits. It’s somehow quieter, as though the leaves on the ground, or just the sheer noisy colors everywhere hush the surrounding cacophony. Just walking through the park when the leaves are at their peak calms mind and satiates soul. Central Park in fall is the antidote to the big crazy city. Sure it’s nature just being nature, but I’m still awestruck at her beauty every year. The air turns clean and crisp, you catch the first whiff of chestnuts roasting in sidewalk carts, and it’s no wonder Vernon Duke paid tribute to it all in song. So while I’m very much looking forward to the beauty autumn in my new home will bring, I’m still going to miss my autumn in New York.
Living in Hood River in the fall means pears. A lot of beautiful ripe pears. I’ve been playing around in my kitchen lately with “variations on a theme”, and since we are in the midst of pear season, this week’s theme involved them and my favorite tart dough recipe of late using semolina. Yes, I’ve recently posted two variations on ways to use my semolina crostata dough, but since I’m a firm believer that there is never enough pie in this world, here’s one more. Fresh Ricotta, Pear, Pecorino and Pancetta Crostata.
Fresh Ricotta, Pear, Pecorino and Pancetta Crostata
- ½ Semolina Crostata Dough
- ½ cup Fresh Ricotta (or store brand whole milk ricotta if you don’t have time or inclination to make fresh)
- 1 egg, separated
- 1/8 tsp fresh ground pepper
- ¼ tsp salt
- 1 small bartlett pear cut in half and cored.
- ½ tsp grated lemon zest
- 2 TBSP roasted chopped walnuts
- ½ tsp finely chopped fresh sage
- ½ ounce (one slice) Pancetta, rolled and sliced into strips
- 1 TBSP grated Pecorino Romano
- ½ ounce Pecorino Romano slices (about six thin strips) – (the easiest way to get nice thin slices is to use a vegetable peeler and just run along long side of wedge of cheese to make strips.)
Preheat oven to 425°F. Roll out crostini dough into a rough circle about 9-inches wide. Put disk onto a parchment lined cookie sheet and set aside.
Dice one half of the pear into ¼ inch pieces (doesn’t have to be exact, just a fine dice). Cut 6 thin slices, lengthwise, about 1/8th inch thick from the other half.
Mix together the ricotta, egg yolk, lemon zest, salt pepper, diced pear, chopped walnuts and sage. Spread ricotta mixture over the pastry, leaving a generous inch from the edge all around. Scatter the strips of pancetta over the cheese. Lay the slices of pear and strips of pecorino around in a circle on top of the pancetta, alternating between a slice pear, and a slice cheese. (They can overlap). Fold the edges of the dough over the filling to make about 1”-1 ½” crust around the edge.
Make and egg wash with the egg white and 1-teaspoon water, and brush the crust. Sprinkle over the tablespoon grated pecorino, and a good grind or two of black pepper.
Bake for 20 minutes, or until crust is golden brown. Serve warm. Calories: about 285 per slice.
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