Two weekends ago, an ordinary conversation with my friend Ali about our bridesmaids dresses for an upcoming wedding veered off into an in-depth discussion about pears. Not because we are both concerned about looking like pears in our spiced wine frocks (though that is a possibility given my recent birthday indulgences), but because when I get an idea for a recipe in my head, I can’t stop thinking, talking and bugging my friends/loved ones about it.
“What kind of pear should I get for a grilled sandwich with ham, goat cheese and arugula?” I ask.
“Hmmm… maybe Bartlett because they are sweeter and will offset the arugula?” Ali responds after a moment’s hesitation.
I scrunch my nose up at the rows of under ripened Barletts in front of me. They certainly won’t do. And even if they were ripe, I’m not so sure they’d hold up to the heat of my oven.
“What about red pears?” I counter.
“I don’t know… I actually don’t really know much about pears.” Ali admits.
We hang up, and I begin fastidiously studying the red pears. Something in my gut (my gallbladder perhaps?) is telling me “red pear, red pear, red pear.”
After ten minutes of obsessive searching, I find a suitable one, collect the rest of my fixings (some Black forest ham since I’ve already got the arugula and goat cheese in my fridge) and then head home to make the savory sweet grilled cheese sandwich that’s been dancing in my head all week.
The sandwich, as is typical with most things I do, quickly becomes a complicated affair. I roast shallots alongside my pear to add another savory note, I make my own balsamic honey dressing, I toast a few walnuts to add some crunch, and then I neurotically pick out the fatty bits in my slices of deli ham. My efforts, while seemingly ridiculous for something as simple as a grilled cheese sandwich that takes less than fifteen minutes to eat, ultimately pay off. My lunch is an unequivocal success. And as is the case with most of my kitchen successes, I feel compelled to follow it up with a repeat performance the following day.
Grilled ham, pear, goat cheese, arugula sandwich
2 slices whole wheat bread
2 ounces Black forest ham (fatty bits extracted)
½ a small red pear, sliced thin
1 shallot, sliced thin
1 tablespoon walnuts, chopped and toasted
1 ounce crumbled goat cheese
Honey balsamic dressing (Made with balsamic vinegar, olive oil, honey, lemon juice, Dijon mustard, salt, pepper)
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Toss shallots with olive oil, salt, pepper and roast approximately 20-25 minutes. 5 minutes before they are done, add the sliced pears to the pan.
Meanwhile, prepare dressing by combining balsamic vinegar, olive oil, honey, lemon juice, Dijon mustard, salt and pepper to taste (I never measure – I just throw things in until it tastes yummy.)
Top one slice of bread with de-fatted ham and roasted pears. Sprinkle walnuts, shallots, goat cheese over the pears, and then finish with arugula. Drizzle with balsamic vinegar and then cover with the other slice of bread.
Bake in oven (at 375-400 degrees) on a cookie sheet for approximately 5-10 minutes or until both sides of the bread are toasty and the arugula is wilty.