The Asian pear, also known as Chinese Pear, Nashi, Korean Pear, and apple pear is a wonderful treat and departure from the traditional European and American pears.
It's brown skin is thin but rough to the taste, so these pears are often served peeled. The flesh is bright white, very crisp and sweet the the texture more like a cross between apples and waterchestnuts. They are wonderfully sweet and retain their crisp texture even well ripened, which makes them ideal for salads and fruit platters.
Grown primarily in Asia, these pears are served simply raw, cut into strips and enjoyed by themselves. In Korea where they are widely popular, the pears are pureed and used as a main ingredient in that gorgeous marinating sauce for Korean BBQ. Throughout Asia they are given as gifts, prized for their unique sweet taste and amazing fragrance. The past few years have seen Australia, New Zealand, and most recently the Mediterranean isalnd of Cyprus growing the fruit with much success.
Because of its crispness, Asian pears don't yield terribly well to cooking. It's very difficult, for example, to make them into a jam or chutney, or bake into a pie or tart as you could with American and European style pears that are considerably softer in texture. That, coupled with how watery the Asian pear is, it would most certainly impact any cake or tart you'd try to make, creating a somewhat soggy mess. Therefore, we tend to enjoy them raw in America and Europe as well.
The other night I made sushi at home and was staring at a couple of Asian pears I had in my fruit basket on the counter. I wanted to do something different, something unpredictable with them. Getting inspiration from sushi, I decided to combine a traditional Italian appetizer and the Asian pear into a new twist on the classic Prosciutto Wrapped (insert your fruit). This time I inserted sliced Asian pear, fig jam, and mellow bleu cheese with great success. Each bite was the perfect balance of sweet, salty, creamy, crunchy; and it took me literally 5 minutes to make. I thought they would be a fun and whimsical appetizer to serve for your next dinner party or even Thanksgiving!
Prosciutto-Pear "Sushi" Rollsimported prosciutto
Asian pears, peeled and cut into 1 inch thick matchsticks
bleu cheese (recommend: Maytag, Gorgonzola, Stilton)
Take a slice of prosciutto and gently spread some fig jam on it. Line up a couple of pieces of pear and some cheese on one end of the prosciutto, then roll it up like a cigar. Cut the log horizontally, forming little rolls of goodness. Serve immediately and enjoy!