cranberry, pear, and ginger chutney

Why do cranberries only get love around Thanksgiving time?  I guess dried cranberries have sort of become a thing over the past decade or so (thanks Craisins) but fresh cranberries need to take center stage more often, too.  Why?  Because they are beautiful and delicious.

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I don’t think I was ever subjected to old-school cranberry sauces (of the jelly mould variety) in my youth, and if I was I must have blocked it from memory.  As an adult I’ve become quite fond of cooking cranberries down into chutneys to serve with turkey or spread on sandwiches.  I thought I had a winner of a recipe in years past until I tried this one this year.  This one involves pears, ginger, lemon and orange zest, cinnamon, cloves, and shallots.  It’s a whole lotta beautiful in a bowl.

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Once you’ve cooked the cranberries long enough they start to soften and burst and become wonderful.  Yes I made this chutney for Thanksgiving but I totally think it would be good any time of year that you are able to find fresh cranberries.  When paired with a little Brie cheese it makes an out-of-this-world grilled cheese.  Trust me on this one.  It would also make an excellent addition to a burger off the grill  in the warmer months or an excellent accompaniment to a cheese plate with some crackers, grapes, and candied nuts.  Dream big.  Just don’t save it for only one day a year.

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Cranberry, Pear, and Ginger Chutney (modified slightly from recipe found at

  • 2 cups apple cider vinegar
  • 1 cup finely chopped shallots
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped peeled fresh ginger (from about 2-ounce piece)
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons finely grated lemon peel
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons finely grated orange peel
  • 1 cinnamon stick, broken in half
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 12-ounce bag fresh cranberries
  • 1 1/4 cups (packed) golden brown sugar
  • 2 large firm Bosc pears (about 18 ounces total), peeled, cored, cut into 3/4-inch cubes (about 2 1/2 cups)

Combine apple cider vinegar, onion, ginger, lemon peel, orange peel, cinnamon stick pieces, crushed red pepper, and ground cloves in heavy large saucepan. Boil mixture until reduced to 1 1/2 cups, about 10 minutes. Add cranberries, brown sugar, and pears; stir over medium heat until sugar dissolves. Reduce heat to medium-low; cover and simmer until pears are very tender, berries collapse, and flavors blend, stirring occasionally, about 30 minutes. Remove from heat; discard cinnamon stick pieces. Using potato masher, mash mixture coarsely. Transfer chutney to bowl and cool. DO AHEAD: Can be made 3 days ahead. Cover and chill. Bring to room temperature before serving.

black sesame pear tea cake

I credit my days living in New York’s Chinatown for helping me discover the beauty of black sesame.  It was always my flavor of choice at bubble tea shops and at the Chinatown Ice Cream Factory which in turn inspired me to recreate the ice cream at home.  I had never baked with black sesame seeds before but had torn out a recipe for Black Sesame-Pear Tea Cake a while back that intrigued me so decided to give it a whirl.

The recipe instructs you to combine several tablespoons of whole black sesame seeds along with a half-cup of ground up seeds as well.  I put my coffee grinder to use and worked those seeds until they turned into a beautiful paste.  Besides black sesame seeds, the only other ingredient that is slightly out of the norm in the recipe is almond meal which can be found in most any grocery store these days.  Bob’s Red Mill makes a great one.

Word to the wise: I often have buttermilk on hand for various baking exploits but it can easily be made in your kitchen in a pinch.  Simply put a tablespoon of white vinegar in a measuring cup and add a cup of milk and let them sit for 5 minutes.  Voila!  Way easier than changing out of your sweatpants, putting make-up on in the off-chance of running into someone you know and driving to the grocery store to buy some while in the midst of your baking project.  You’re welcome.

Be sure to use a ripe pear– mine was slightly less than ripe and even though it softened in baking I think the pear flavor would have been more pronounced if I had used a properly ripe pear.  I can assure you it was still delightful though.  It’s the kind of cake you make when you want to have a lovely cup of tea and not feel like a total fatty after a meal.  It’s light and sweet and the black sesame has an almost savory flavor, not unlike peanut butter.  In other words, totally awesome.

Black Sesame-Pear Tea Cake (found at

  • ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more
  • 1 ½ cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup almond flour or almond meal
  • 2 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons plus ½ cup black sesame seeds
  • 1 1/3 cups plus 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • ¾ cup buttermilk
  • 1 (medium) firm but ripe Bosc pear, peeled, cored, cut into 1/4″ cubes

Preheat oven to 325°F. Butter one 9x5x3″ loaf pan or six 4x2x2″ paper or metal loaf pans. Whisk 1 ½ cups flour, next 4 ingredients, and 2 tablespoons sesame seeds in a medium bowl. Grind remaining ½ cup sesame seeds in spice mill to form a thick paste, about 2 minutes.

Using an electric mixer, beat ½ cup butter and 1 1/3 cups sugar in a large bowl until well combined, 2-3 minutes. Add sesame paste and beat, occasionally scraping down sides of bowl, until blended, 1-2 minutes. Add egg and egg yolk. Beat until pale and fluffy, 3-4 minutes. On low-speed, beat in flour mixture in 3 additions, alternating with buttermilk in 2 additions, beginning and ending with dry ingredients. Toss pear with remaining 2 tablespoons flour in a small bowl; fold into batter.

Spoon batter into prepared pan; smooth top. Sprinkle with remaining 2 tablespoons sugar.

Bake until a tester comes out clean when inserted into center, about 1 hour 40 minutes for large loaf and 45-55 minutes for small loaves. Let cool in pans on a wire rack.