As circumstance has it, I don’t really cook too much anymore. With a nighttime restaurant job, my college self’s pastime of making overly elaborate meals for nearly every meal is essentially gone. On the bright side, things are a good deal cheaper with a steady diet of yogurt and toast but unfortunately much less inventive.
However the current circumstance and the changes this has brought to my lifestyle has created a change in palate. I used to gravitate toward long lists of ingredients and the challenges that they offered. I’ve now had to make peace with the fact that I can’t quite take on those challenges every day anymore. But it’s been an easy transition. Perhaps my constant proximity to food, and very beautiful and luxurious at that, satiates the need for it. I now need, seek, and crave things that are simple, quick, and filling. Whether I’m eating lunch before work or scouring the fridge after a long night, all I want is a meal that is starchy, crunchy, juicy, and salty all that the same time. In short, bread, cheese, and pome fruits.
Something about the combination of salty fatty cheese (cheddar and goat are my current preference) with chewy and filling bread all offset by a palate cleansing and thirst-quenching bite of an apple or pear really seems to be all I need right now. Even when I’m having it for the fifth day in a row, I still drive home maybe a little too fast in my anticipation for my nightly cheese on toast.
Fortunately for me the fall season is fast approaching and my pome fruit addiction is about to become tastier with the soon-to-come abundance of these gems. A fresh picked apple or pear in incomparable in every aspect imaginable. Apples, in their weight, seem halved and their flesh denser and drier. The skin is thick and floral and they take twice as long to eat as a regular apple, though whether this is from their savored tastiness or substantiality, I do not know. Yet they still have just the right amount of juiciness that they spray a fine mist of sticky nectar with that first crisp bite. With fresh-picked pears, they are heavy in their syrupy juice so that it relentlessly drips down the chin. The texture is minimally gritty and rather thick and creamy like butter. Pure and simple, fresh and raw - that is the way I best like my pome fruits.
To change up the pace with the starch aspect of my new typical meal I made these cheesy savory scones. The recipe is by Nigel Slater from his book Ripe. He suggests them as a perfect accompaniment to a raw pear. He is quite correct with that note as he is on most things fruit and vegetable related. The book in its entirety is exquisite and a must have for anyone fascinated by nature’s sweetest produce and both the sweet and savory applications for them. The recipe, too, is quintessentially British as a savory take on the teatime classic and a base for some of the country’s finest cheeses. They are light and airy as a biscuit yet a little more moist and wet from the melting cheese dispersed throughout. The touch of spelt flour and hazelnuts adds a deep nuttiness and slight sweetness to counterbalance the salty cheese. Eaten warm with a smear of butter, a clean arugula salad, and, of course, a fresh juicy pear, it is a lunch I’d be glad to return to as my circumstances require.
Goat Cheese and Thyme Scones (with pears)
recipe adapted from Nigel Slater’s Ripe
makes 4 scones
1 cup all purpose flour
¾ cup spelt or whole wheat flour
1 Tbs baking powder
3 Tbs cold butter cut into small cubes
3½ oz shredded sharp cheddar cheese
2 oz goat cheese
1 tsp. chopped thyme
¼ cup hazelnuts, toasted and coarsely ground
½ cup buttermilk
salt and pepper
pears, for serving
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. In a mixing bowl sift together the flours and the baking powder. Scatter the butter cubes over the flour and use your fingers to rub it into the flour until evenly distributed. Alternately, you could do this step in a food processor and transfer to a mixing bowl after. Add the goat and cheddar cheese, the thyme, the ground hazelnuts, and a pinch of salt and pepper to the flour and butter mixture and give a small stir to combine.
Pour the buttermilk over the flour mixture and use a fork to quickly bring the ingredients together into a firm ball of dough. If it looks a little too dry add a little more buttermilk. Dump onto a floured surface and shape into a round disk about 6 inches in diameter. Transfer to a lightly floured or parchment lined baking sheet. Using a knife, score a deep cross into the dough (making sure you don’t go all the way through to the baking sheet) so that you have 4 wedges. Sprinkle a little more cheese and thyme overtop.
Bake for 35 to 40 minutes until puffed and golden brown. Let cool for about 10 minutes before eating with a lovely autumn pear.