appetizers, snacks

spiced pear compote (a sweet addition to a cheese plate).

So I have a few little fruit-themed posts to do; ones you can kick around in case you need a little something extra for your Thanksgiving feast next week. Fruit doesn’t get much of a chance to shine during the holiday; sure, there’s cranberries, and maybe an apple pie, but always a side note, never a feature. And understandably so; there’s not the summer abundance of fruit right now. Even though there’s less of a choice right now, the ones which are available should be at your table. Or, at the very least, be invited over to hang out beforehand.

Take this pear compote, for instance. It doesn’t have to be on your official menu, but it can keep people away from nabbing too many pre-dinner forkfuls of the side dishes. It’s a bright little thing to serve up with a few cheeses and some french bread slices. Somehow it makes the whole “cheese and bread” thing seem lighter than usual, and adding it to the combo makes it little more well-rounded. Your guests will get all sorts of flavors and textures in one bite, so they’re not going to gorge themselves on it and ruin their appetites.

Experiment with this in terms of pairing (yeah, yeah; I’m not trying to pun it out here, but that’s the way it goes.) I liked it with french bread, and the pumpernickel leaves are just store-bought sandwich slices cut with a pie crust maple leaf cutter. Nothing to it. If you choose that route, I’d toast the bread with a little olive oil to make it a crostini of sorts; I gave you instructions for that below. If you don’t feel like messing with it, serve the French bread in slices, or go with a variety of fancy crackers. As for the cheeses, just think about a pear and what would taste best with it; a good, sturdy Parmesan, a nice Maytag, maybe some manchego or gorgonzola. Toast yourself some walnuts, if you have them, and throw them on the tray also. You decide based on what you like and the likes (and dislikes) of your guests. Give them a few options so they can mix and match.

 I wasn’t planning on making an appetizer (since there’s very few of us) but I need bait so people stay out of my kitchen. I feel like this would work perfectly for that. And – bonus – it travels well! Make it in the morning, let it cool, and take it to wherever you’re going to celebrate.

I’ll be back tomorrow with another little fruit idea for you. Something which would also work well in your cheese tray planning, perhaps. Or by itself.

Oh: and if you were being very shmancy about this, you’d whip up a batch of extremely easy parmesan sage crackers to go with. Your guests may pass out with joy. Peace on Earth.

 Adapted from Williams Sonoma’s Food Made Fast: Small Plates.

Spiced Pear Compote

  • 3 ripe pears (Bartlett/Williams or Bosc, something like that), peeled, quartered, cored, and coarsely chopped
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 3 tablespoons white wine (something fruity is good; nothing too heavy)
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • pinch allspice
  • pinch sea salt (to taste)
  • small sprig fresh rosemary* (leaves intact; you’re pulling this out later)
and for serving:
  • assortment of cheeses (Parmesan, gorgonzola, manchego, and Maytag are all good choices)
  • assortment of bread/crackers (water crackers are great; I also enjoy a harvest wheat, or even a sesame cracker. Breads? Go wild. French baguette, pumpernickel, sourdough, or pick up a specialty bread, like a cranberry walnut), sliced into rounds or cut with a cookie cutter and toasted (or not, but directions are below)
  • walnuts to scatter, but that’s optional.
*Regarding rosemary: my “small sprig” was about 4 inches in length, if that helps. Also, if you’re worried about this tasting only of rosemary, worry no more; the herb only adds a layer of flavor that some may say “hmmm…I taste something else in here, but I’m not sure…” but it’s not at all in-your-face herby. If I hadn’t known I put rosemary in there, i wouldn’t have guessed it myself, but it does a nice job at giving it a slightly savory feel and the flavor is excellent. Don’t be afraid.
Make your compote:

In a medium skillet over medium heat, bring your pears, cinnamon stick, wine, sugar, allspice and sprig of rosemary to a steady simmer, stirring gently a few times, but only to help dissolve the sugar and get the flavors disbursed.

Continue to simmer, stirring occasionally, for 12-13 minutes until your pears are translucent, very soft, and your liquid has reduced down and thickened slightly. Remove from heat, fish out the cinnamon stick and the rosemary sprig, and stir in your pinch (or more) of salt, carefully tasting as you go, until it’s how you like it. Let cool to room temperature before serving, or you can stick it in the refrigerator for a bit. You’ll serve this at or near room temperature.

This makes, depending on your pear size, between 3/4 to 1 cup of compote. Obviously for more guests, double or even triple the recipe. This may involve simmering for longer, so be mindful of that. If you’re having people over, I would make this the morning of, so you eat it at it’s most delicious. However, I see no problem with making it up to maybe the night before, if you absolutely must.

If you want to toast bread:

Do it your way, if you have a way. If you don’t have a way, use my way.

Preheat your oven to 400˚F.

Slice your bread up into crostini-sized pieces (or do what I did, and cut little shapes out with pie cutter or small cookie cutters), and lay on a baking sheet which will allow you to fit them in a single layer. Drizzle with olive oil, season with a little fresh ground black pepper and salt (optional).

Bake in oven until you start to get a good toast on your slices; typically this takes 7-8 minutes total. Depending on the bread and how delicate/dense/dry/moist it is, it may vary, so use your eyes as your primary guide to how it’s doing. Remember; breads dry up once cooled, so you don’t want them so crunchy they fall apart on you. think “light toasting” and not “I’m putting butter and jelly on this.” Because you’re not.


You probably could have guessed this, but I like an “organized chaos” way of arranging a cheese plate; too finicky and the whole thing looks a shambles as soon as someone breaks into it. Go with a slightly haphazard approach and nothing ever messed with. I got a big serving block made of slate as a wedding gift 5 years ago; back then, I thought i’d never use it. I was wrong; I use it constantly, because something simple like that is a good staple to have when you do things like this. If you don’t have one, add it to your christmas list, and you won’t believe how often you get it out.

At any rate, scatter and stack your bread/crackers/cheeses/walnuts, in a loving fashion, on whichever plate suits you. Place the compote in a small serving bowl and add one of those cute tiny spoons. Watch guests ooh and aah and so distracted by the loveliness they forget to bother you in the kitchen.

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  • Reply Emma November 15, 2012 at 7:43 am

    Ooh yeah, yum. Phew, finally caught up. …for now. We’ll be at my boyfriend’s family’s house for Thanksgiving, and they have a very open kitchen so there is no chance to hide away and cook or bake things. Not that I want to hide, but I know all of the excitement of so many people will catch up to me. It always does.

    Then I’ll need to have a little meltdown where I sit in a corner and eat things like a huge-ass bowl of Chinatown turkey salad.

    • Reply shannon November 16, 2012 at 6:22 am

      i remember when i was little and we’d head to my grandma’s house for thankgiving (pre-divorce, dad’s side), we’d all get together and eat, and then curiously, mom would spend most of the rest of the afternoon in the kitchen handwashing everything, cleaning up, putting things away, redoing the dining room table…basically anything to hide out. So, having her own little meltdown in a corner. I didn’t understand the feeling at the time, other than being around all my cousins made me want to go hide and read a book. quietly. alone. thank you. i completely understand feeling worn out by big eventy things; evidently people have worn my family out for generations. 🙂 so i wish for you a little quiet time at your boyfriend’s family’s house, even if it’s not while actually in the kitchen.

      that chinatown turkey salad is the BEST leftover thing i’ve made so far. in a lifetime of thanksgivings, not just this year. I’m making a few other things today, and i hope i’m equally pleased.

  • Reply Amy @ Elephant Eats November 15, 2012 at 8:25 am

    Hahaha, I hate when people come into the kitchen too! I can be pretty bossy/possessive/controlling in that room…I don’t know what gets in to me. But really, it’s just best if people stay outta my way. I just got a gorgeous cheese board for a wedding present and can’t wait to use it. I’m definitely going to make this to go along with it when I have company over!

    • Reply shannon November 16, 2012 at 6:17 am

      you just described me in the kitchen to a T! I think we all just like things done a particular way, or had a specific vision of the final result, and we want to execute it. i get super intense, especially for big meals; i don’t like my concentration broken with lots of questions, or small talk, because i just want to get it done.
      weddings are the BEST for exciting serving stuff, right? i mean, obviously there’s the “marry the one you love the most” bit, but the serveware…:)

  • Reply Ashley November 15, 2012 at 9:14 am

    I’m fairly certain I’d eat the entire bowl of pear compote sans cheese. Though I’d eat the goat cheese on its own too. ha. I want to be a real adult putting out a artfully disarrayed cheese tray! It sounds so darn classy…

    • Reply shannon November 16, 2012 at 6:14 am

      it’s not even fancy, Ashley! i swear. it looks fancy, but it’s about the easiest thing to do in the universe (much more so than making actual appetizers), and you do come off looking like a pro. I usually end up wanting to say “people: I threw things on a plate for you. seriously. no work was had.”

      i’ve been eating it like apple sauce. because it’s sort of like a really good pear sauce, i suppose. I too have lopped off a goat cheese slice to eat solo, so i know how that is. i have no shame, really. 🙂

  • Reply natalie November 15, 2012 at 9:33 am

    so what happens when i end up just shoveling all the pear compote into my face with reckless abandon?? WHAT HAPPENS THEN!??!?? 🙂

    wish i was coming to YOUR house for Tgiving! I bet it would be the most delicious Tgiving I’d ever experienced!

    • Reply shannon November 16, 2012 at 6:09 am

      i believe the suggestion “make a triple batch” applies in this situation. because, yes; i’m not going to lie. most of this got eaten via spoonful at my house. I’m pretty sure i’m going to multiply the ingredients somehow and make a boozy pear crumble with it once i figure out the logistics behind it.

      i think there should be a blog friends thanksgiving; national holiday, canada included (so, continental holiday?) since we all get so excited about food, it just should be a day we travel to any of our blog friends’ houses and eat. EAT. EAT.

      i hope your family/BF’s family isn’t reading this….you’re in trouuuuubbblllleee… 🙂

  • Reply Jen @JuanitasCocina November 16, 2012 at 5:58 am

    And this is why i love you…not just for pears and pure fruitiness. But because you cut shapes in your toast!

    Do you see what Shannon does? She has like star-shaped toast, people.

    • Reply shannon November 16, 2012 at 6:01 am

      confession: it’s actually more difficult for me to NOT cut shapes in my toast than to just go ahead and cut them. it’s the way i am.

  • Reply movita beaucoup November 18, 2012 at 6:48 am

    The other day at school, we had a snack table filled with bread (French baguettes), apples, pears, walnuts, olives, and cheese. Goat cheese, blue cheese, cheddar cheese. It was heaven. And since then I haven’t been able to stop thinking about stilton and pears. Like, I’m dreaming of them. And then you go and post a spiced pear compote recipe. When I’m in my pyjamas. And don’t have single pear in the house. WHAT ARE YOU TRYING TO DO TO ME, WOMAN?

    • Reply shannon November 19, 2012 at 5:49 am

      it’s like i’m right there in your head.
      i could eat what you described on your snack table every single day for dinner. easily. A version of that was actually my birthday dinner this year; i just wanted something to pick at and which didn’t involve an oven. And there’s something SO luxurious about pears, and Stilton, and french bread. also, wine.

      If you had wine at school i’m totally enrolling. Because your school lunches ROCK IT.

  • Reply Angie November 21, 2012 at 11:28 am

    Regarding the rosemary – I don’t have any fresh, but I do have dried. Do you think I should put in a pinch of finely chopped dried or skip it all together? I’m determined to make this for the weekend, even if I eat it all with a spoon!

    • Reply shannon November 21, 2012 at 1:30 pm

      hi angie! regarding your rosemary, I think you’d be better off skipping it. it was my addition, and i like the background flavor it adds, but only when fresh – it seems like in recipes like this, it’s fresh or nothing. If it were a rosemary cracker i’d say dried is fine. Also, with a fresh sprig, you can pick it out, leaving no pesky leaf pieces. Dried, not so much. I promise even without the rosemary it’ll be great!

      • Reply Angie November 26, 2012 at 5:04 pm

        I did eat it all with a spoon & it was delicious!

        • Reply shannon November 27, 2012 at 6:41 am

          yay! a girl after my own heart. 🙂 I started throwing it on some greek yogurt and granola and only stopped because it was gone. It will be made again, for sure. happy you liked it!

  • Reply Lynne Knowlton November 26, 2012 at 8:06 pm

    I seriously want to jump into every single one of your photos and EAT IT ALL. My gawd….your photos are stunning and don’t even getting me going on that Movita Beaucoup cake. Ok, this post isn’t about that cake, but I had to throw it in the mix. I think it is high time that we become best buds so you can bake me a cake too. Cause I always need cake. LOVE. LOVE. LOVE. Keep rockin’ it.
    Lynne xx

    • Reply shannon November 27, 2012 at 6:39 am

      Lynne, thank you! Y’know, i STILL think about that Movita cake and how much fun i had making teeny miniature doughnuts and spending basically half my adult life on decorating something. Surely the same will prove true with the Ginger House (in progress). I saw you ALREADY TURNED YOURS IN, you overachiever. (and i mean that as a HUUUUUUGE compliment; i adore overachievers.)

  • Reply Katherine @ eggton December 4, 2012 at 7:37 pm

    Have you ever had Saint Augur? It’s a creamy blue that’s my new favorite. When I lived in NY I got a blue cheese at Murray’s that they recommended eating chocolate with, so I got one of those Tazza or whatever chocolate disks and kind of jabbed at it to break it up and put those out on the cheese plate. The combination (on bread or just by themselves) was phenomenal. Anyway, I haven’t tried Saint Augur with chocolate yet, but it reminds me how awesome the it is to find a blue cheese and accompaniments that perfectly suit your taste.

    • Reply shannon December 8, 2012 at 9:04 am

      ooo, i don’t think i HAVE had Saint Augur! I’m adding to the list of ones to look for. I love cheese recommendations; i only have a very basic knowledge of cheeses, nothing super smart, but i want to know more. I love it when i find a perfect cheese, either standalone or with something alongside)…it feels like an accomplishment (and also that i learned something, which is always great). pass any cheese recommendations along to me, for sure.

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