For pear lovers, bubbling crisps and cheesy hot sandwiches

A bowl containing a pear dessert with a scoop of ice cream.
Caramel Pear Crisp.
(Mariah Tauger / Los Angeles Times)

While out to dinner with my colleague and L.A. Times restaurant critic Bill Addison, we ordered an old-fashioned pear and blue cheese salad served over tender greens, which had just returned to the menu It broke the mold with the addition of lightly pickled gooseberries and chunks of soft avocado.

The pears — a soft, buttery variety called Warren — were cut into thick wedges and complemented the fatty avocado and blue cheese, providing some crisp, sweet balance. The salad reminded me how much I love pears. When I’ve been preoccupied with nothing but apples all fall, pears are a delightful change of pace.

That salad also reminded me of my Chopped Pear Salad With Buttermilk Dressing from a couple of years back. I chop pears into large cubes and toss them with equally large chunks of Gruyère cheese (sharp cheddar also would be great) that then spill over butter lettuce and are drizzled with a tangy buttermilk dressing. It’s one of those salads that you can turn into a full meal on its own but is also ideal next to a quarter of a roast chicken.

Of course, I love pears for baking as well. Genevieve Ko’s simple Caramel Pear Crisp dresses the fruit with a crunchy oat and almond topping that bakes up bubbling and fragrant. A dish of baked pears, basted with wine and honey and scented with thyme, is a wonderful dessert to bake on a cold morning to fill your house with the smells of fall — let it sit out all day, getting better and better as it sits, until you’re ready to serve it.

And then there’s Euro Pane’s Pear Spice Cake, which bakes ripe Anjou pears in a simple cinnamon-spiced batter. It’s a cake teeming with the fruit and rich walnuts.

But my favorite use for fresh pears harkens back to that salad from this past week. Thickish slices are sandwiched with blue cheese between two slices of hearty sourdough bread, then grilled-cheese-ified until crunchy and hot outside and gooey and sweet inside.

Pears in Pomegranate Wine With Honey and Lemon Thyme

In this recipe, pomegranate wine is used as a poaching liquid and then a brilliantly hued, sweet-tart sauce for the pears, but you can use regular red wine too. Allspice berries and thyme flavor the honey in the sauce, but change it up and use cinnamon sticks, cardamom pods or a slice of fresh ginger in their place, if you like.
Get the recipe.
Cook time: 45 minutes.

Pears poached in pomegranate wine with honey and sprigs of thyme
(Glenn Koenig / Los Angeles Times)

Chopped Pear Salad With Buttermilk Dressing

I prefer a firmer-when-ripe, less mealy pear for this salad, like a Comice or, if you can find them, Warren pears from Frog Hollow Farms; their texture and aroma stand up best to the cheese, walnuts and creamy dressing.
Get the recipe.
Cook time: 15 minutes.

A pear and Gruyere cheese salad with butter lettuce
(Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)

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Caramel Pear Crisp

Oat and almond crumbles bake onto the pears and crackle on top while softening to a comforting chew where they meet the fruit’s juices. Extra crisp mix bakes in a separate pan and gets granola-crunchy to sprinkle on top for serving.
Get the recipe.
Cook time: 1 hour.

Caramel pear crisp in a bowl, with a tray of extra granola-like topping next to it.
(Mariah Tauger / Los Angeles Times)

Pear Spice Cake

This simple and humble spice cake is a showcase for pears. Anjou baked up the best in the cake, so buy them a couple days before you need them to ensure they’re ripe by the time you want to make the cake.
Get the recipe.
Cook time: 1 hour 45 minutes.

A square of pear cake on a white plate
(Anne Cusack / Los Angeles Times)

Grilled Blue Cheese and Pear Sandwich

Like many true comfort-food classics, the grilled cheese sandwich is a great canvas for limitless combinations. Pears pair exceptionally well with blue cheese in this iteration. You want a blue cheese that isn’t too overwhelmingly pungent, so look for a mild American or Danish blue cheese.
Get the recipe.
Cook time: 25 minutes.

A stacked grilled blue cheese with pear sandwich
(Bob Chamberlain / Los Angeles Times)

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