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Salad of Pears, Roasted Beets and Three Aphrodisiacs

Salad of Pears, Roasted Beets and Three Aphrodisiacs

Once again food bloggers all over the world are scrambling to come up with a creative and  tasty response to the Paper Chef challenge. Invented by Owen at Tomatilla!, the Paper Chef (hommage à Iron Chef) provides four "secret ingredients" and a weekend in which to gather them, cook with them and put up a post about the results. The winning entry gets bragging rights and a spiffy winner's badge to be displayed on the blog.

The previous month's winner also gets to be the judge (or "supreme ruler," as some have pronounced themselves) and this month the ever creative and energetic MagicTofu, of Slurp and Burp, is the Paper Chef majordomo. Mr. Tofu has decreed the target ingredients to be pears, beets, limes and -- in honor of Valentine's Day -- any ingredients with aphrodisiac powers.

Salad of Pears, Roasted Beets and Three AphrodisiacPears, beets and limes immediately said salad to me, because of the sweet-sour juxtaposition of the lime and pears, and because beets bring a nice textural element to the mix, and their tangy sweetness always pairs nicely with a sweet-sour dressing. For aprhodisiac ingredients I consulted, where I found a list of 27 foods believed to have aphrodisiac qualities -- 18 of which I had in the house already, for what it's worth. I chose ginger, honey and pine nuts for my aphrodisiac ingredients, and fashioned an elegant Valentine's Day salad of roasted golden beets, ripe Bosc pears, fresh goat cheese, and a dressing made from lime juice, honey, ginger and toasted pine nuts.

Aside from looking great, this combination turned out to be a really nice meeting of textures and flavors. The honey-lime-ginger dressing had a lively, interesting flavor that really did feel like a food of love, and the similar textures of the roasted beets and pears, with their quite different but compatible flavors, made for an interesting mouthful, especially when the creamy goat cheese and crunchy toasted pine nuts got in on the action.

The presentation, too, worked well for a special Valentine's Day dinner, since it suggested a big open flower, thus evoking one of the most popular of romantic gifts for Valentines Day, as well as bringing the frankly sexual connotations of big open flowers into play. Talk about your food porn!

As usual, we had fun with the Paper Chef challenge, so thanks once again to Owen for inventing and nurturing the Paper Chef event, and to MagicTofu for hosting and judging this month's edition!

Salad of Pears, Roasted Beets and Three Aphrodisiacs

Serves 2.

1 medium-large golden beet
1 medium shallot, minced
1" piece of ginger, peeled, minced
3 T honey
3 T canola or other flavorless oil
1 T lime juice
2 tsp balsamic vinegar
2 T pine nuts
1 ripe Bosc pear
1/4 C fresh plain goat cheese
1 T lime zest
salt, hot sauce to taste

Wash, dry and coat the beet with some olive oil. Roast for about an hour at 400º until fork tender. Cool and peel.

Place the minced ginger and shallot in a mortar bowl and grind to a paste. Add the honey, oil, lime juice, and vinegar to the bowl and whisk vigorously to emulsify.  Season with salt and hot sauce to taste.

Toast the pine nuts in a dry skillet on high heat, stirring constantly, until they turn mottled brown. Remove from the pan and allow to cool.

Slice the pear in half and remove the core and seeds. Cut longitudinally into 8 thin wedges. Slice the beet into 8 thin half-moon-shaped pieces. (There will be scraps of pear and beet left over.)

Arrange the beet slices and pear wedges on the plate in a pinwheel and use a pastry bag with a fluted head to pipe the cheese into the center of the arrangement.  Scatter a scant pinch of salt over each plate and then spoon the dressing over the beets and pears and scatter on the pine nuts. Garnish with the lime zest.


Alternate color scheme. I considered using red beets, in honor of Valentines Day, but decided that the golden color was more harmonious with the flavors of honey and lime. However, if you decide to go red, consider simmering the beet peels in water for a few minutes and then dunking the pear slices in the resulting red broth to turn them pink!


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Outstanding! The flavors just leap off the page. I'm planning my mother's birthday dinner and this would be a perfect start.

Beautiful! You even used a piping bag!

For some reasons, I can easily picture myself eating this during an early fall picnic. It must be those golden colors.

Once again, I'm adding this to my "to make" list...Nena will love it.

Lovely entry, Stephen! And your pantry sounds like a real Aphrodite's cave!! :)

really lovely - I'm going to have to do a best of the Paper Chef sometime soon - the creativity always blows me away.

Nice! I like the use of the pine nuts in this. The way they break up the colors makes the plate look very organic. Well done :-)

Gorgeous! I like the pinwheel effect in the second photo. We typically get lots of beets from our CSA in the late summer and into fall, so I'm going to have to save this recipe to try then.

I love how simple this appears but so creative at the same time. Good stuff, Stephen!

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