It was a warm night in Provincetown, Massachusetts, when I first discovered the magical combination of pear and goat cheese. I was an intern at the Fine Arts Work Center. The world was my oyster that summer. I had gotten probably the worst haircut of my adult life (pixie cut = no), but I wasn’t letting that stop me – I had an internship, a job, a cool town to hang out in, and fabulous roommates to boot.
That night, the night of the pear-goat cheese revelation, I had gone to my boss Dorothy’s apartment for a party. Her assistant, Mark, poured me my first gin and tonic, and once I added an extra lime, I was happy, happy, happy. I was told it was a signature drink in Cape Cod. I quietly sang to myself, “I think I’m gonna like it here.”
Dorothy is a tall woman with big presence to her – she’s friendly, energetic, and has long, curly, red hair. I went into the kitchen to say hello to her, and she was bustling around like a ball in a pinball machine – pinging off of counters and stove, opening and closing the oven door, and generally adding warmth and verve to an already warm kitchen.
As I stood there, feeling slothful, drinking, she handed me a plate of little toasted pieces of baguette, smeared with something white, and then topped with a slice of pear. “Goat cheese,” she explained. “It’s bread, goat cheese, honey, and pear.”
I took one bite of these adorable little snacks, and I was transformed. Sweet pear, tangy goat cheese, sweet honey, perfect baguette. I could have eaten the whole plate of them. And often, when I serve a similar appetizer, I’m tempted to do just that, pushing people away and muttering “my precious” between bites.
The salty-sweet combination is one of my favorites. I look for ways to mix the two tastes whenever I can, sprinkling sea salt on chocolate chip cookies or adding honey to salty cheese on crackers.
In last month’s Bon Appetit, there was a recipe for an Artichoke and Feta tart. It’s made with puff pastry, and it seemed terribly easy, but I also thought it sounded terribly adaptable (a good combination for a food blogger). The recipe below is an adaptation on the tart.
This recipe is adapted from the Artichoke-Feta Tart featured in Bon Appetit. It is also highly adaptable. I personally think it would be excellent with Gorgonzola instead of goat cheese and with more pancetta (side note: everything is better with more pancetta).
1/3 cup heavy cream
4 oz. log goat cheese, divided
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1 sheet puff pastry (from 17.3oz package), thawed
1 Anjou pear, halved lengthwise and then sliced lengthwise
Large pinch of dried thyme
4+ slices pancetta (or more – more is good), cut into strips or bite-sized pieces
Olive oil for drizzling
1 large egg, beaten
1. Preheat oven to 425. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper or silicon mat.
2. Unfold puff pastry on parchment paper/silicon mat. Score the pastry by cutting the surface very delicately (just the surface; do not cut all the way through) around the perimeter, leaving a one-inch border between score marks and the edge of the pastry. Then, using a fork, prick the inside of the innermost rectangle; this keeps the center from puffing, while allowing the border to puff into a beautiful crust. Like so.
3. In a food processor (or using a whisk, fork, or spoon – a lot less work and clean-up), blend half of the log of goat cheese with the cream. Add salt and pepper to taste.
4. Spread cheese mixture evenly over the puff pastry inside the rectangle. Sprinkle with thyme.
5. Arrange pear slices in a single layer. Top with strips/pieces of pancetta (don’t cook pancetta first; it will cook up in the oven). Sprinkle with the remaining goat cheese (you’ll have to crumble and sprinkle as you go). Drizzle with a little olive oil.
6. Brush the one-inch border with beaten egg. Sprinkle lightly with kosher salt.
7. Bake until pastry is puffed and beginning to brown, about 12 minutes. Then lower the oven temperature to 375 degrees and bake another 20 minutes until golden brown and both pancetta and pear look cooked through. Slice and serve warm.
This tart is simple to make, completely customize-able, and looks impressive. The flaky puff pastry mixed with sweet pear, salty pancetta, and tangy goat cheese makes for a delicious, light dinner.