Mid-October may be my favorite time of year to visit the farmer’s market. The squash, the apples, the rutabaga, the turnips. The leaves crunching under your feet and settling prettily among the produce. The weather getting colder and yet somehow, miraculously, the colors everywhere growing more vibrant. This week I bought an armful of Bartlett and Bosc pears from my Fulton Street Farmer’s Market, and turned them into a savory side and a sweet ending. Enjoy!

roasted parsnips and pears

4-5 medium parsnips, peeled
3 medium red onions
7-8 pears, unpeeled
juice of 1 lemon
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon thyme
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Quarter the pears lengthways and remove the core from each slice. In a large bowl, toss the pears with the lemon juice.

Chop the parsnips into long, thin wedges. Parboil the parsnips for three or four minutes, drain, then toss with the pears. Halve the onions and cut each half into six wedges; toss with pears and parsnips. Add olive oil (be more generous if needed), thyme, salt and pepper to mixture and toss until well-coated.

Spread the mixture onto a large roasting tin. Roast for 30-35 minutes in oven, stirring once or twice. Serves 6-8. Special thanks to Zoe for the inspiration for this dish!

pear and pumpkin pie

poaching your pears // preparing your crust

1/2 tablespoon allspice
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon lemon zest (about 2 lemons)
1 bottle dry red wine
2 cups water
1 cup sugar
4 pears (I used Bosc)
pre-made pie crust for a 9-inch pie (nothing fancy here)

In a large saucepan combine all poaching ingredients except pears and boil, stirring, until sugar is dissolved (Sprout note: I used a cheap pinot noir for my dry red wine. Worked great.)

Peel pears and simmer in wine mixture, covered, turning occasionally about 20 minutes. Remove pan from heat and let stand, covered, turning pears occasionally for even color, about 30 minutes. Discard poaching mixture (Sprout note: I saved a glass of the poaching mixture and sipped on it while cooking. Tasted like autumn liquefied).

Halve pears lengthwise. Remove stems and core with a small knife. Cut pears lengthwise into 3/4-inch-thick slices.

Roll out dough and fit dough into a 9-inch pie plate. Pinch edges to form that pretty scalloped circumference. Chill shell for 30 minutes.

making your filling // assemblage

3 large eggs
3/4 cup heavy cream
1 can pumpkin
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
a couple dallops of apricot jam

Preheat oven to 375°F.

In a large bowl, whisk together filling ingredients until combined well.

Pour filling into shell and bake in middle of oven for 35 minutes. Remove pie from oven and arrange pears on top of filling (be painstakingly pretty here; aesthetics are important).

Bake pie 20 minutes more, or until custard is set and pears are tender. Cool pie on a rack and brush pears with jam. Chill pie, covered loosely, at least 4 hours. Serve pie with cool whip, preferably beside a cozy fireplace. Thanks to for this mouthwatering recipe!

bonus recipe: maple vinaigrette

It’s always helpful to add some green freshness to a plate, so for this meal I put together a simple salad of mixed greens, bell pepper, and, of course, sliced pears (for some reason I had a bunch lying around). What made the salad really pop was a drizzling of this maple vinaigrette–subtly sweet and oh so autumnal.

1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup real maple syrup
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon thyme
salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients. Serves 6-8.

the dinner

It sure is good to be home in Grand Rapids, if even just for the weekend. Spending the afternoon in the kitchen with my mom, a camera, and some soundtracks in the stereo is the best way I can think of to pass a Sunday. To top it all off, the finished product was shared with my favorite sister-friends, Liz and Jennie. I can’t imagine life gets much sweeter than this.

Taking center stage on the plate beside the pear and parsnip dish and the simple salad was a stuffed acorn squash, the filling comprised of rice, sun-dried tomatoes, walnuts and other deliciousness. If you want the recipe, talk to my mother. And as a side note, everything happened to go down smoother with some locally brewed Bell’s Best Brown Ale. What a feast!

the dessert

Would you believe me if I told you the night got better? After dinner, Julie and Bets arrived for a slice of the pear and pumpkin pie. Yes, some were hesitant about the unconventional pairing, but after every plate was scraped clean, more than one guest was overheard saying it was the best pumpkin pie she had tasted.

Perhaps, next month, your Thanksgiving table would benefit from a creative spin on the classic November pie, or from an intriguing veggie side. As always, let me know what you try!

5 Comments Add yours

  1. I totally know what you mean! I can’t wait to have a Saturday off work so I can go to our local market. All of this food just looks so delicious – I love autumn.

  2. Carol Hanko says:

    Claire – your postings…your pics….your writings are SO much fun! Just a thought….maybe you could make your pie for all of us for Thanksgiving dinner this year (hahaha)!!! Love you!

  3. Jennie Caley says:

    It was such a wonderful meal Claire! Thanks again for sharing your delicious skills with us =)

  4. Rachel says:

    Hey Claire, I’m an on again off again cook. But your blog may be the impetus that gets me back into the kitchen. Your presentation of food in the gorgeous photos combined with the hearty, unique and delectable recipes you show in delightfully prepared manners, all accompanied by your real, humorous yet lovely commentary is getting me in the mood to hang “open” on the kitchen door. It might surprise my husband, but that’s a good thing 🙂

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