Chilled pear soup is a delicious and unpredictable way to end a fall meal. The peppercorns in this mouthwatering recipe add a sultry dimension to the pears, and the blue cheese offers a lively compliment. Serves 4 to 6.
2 pounds (4 to 6) ripe pears, preferably Bartletts, peeled, cored and sliced
2 slices of fresh ginger
2 teaspoons whole black peppercorns
1/2 teaspoon whole white peppercorns
2 cardamom seeds (not pods)
Tiny pinch of salt
1 cup fruity and aromatic white wine, such as Wattle Creek Viognier, chilled
2 to 3 ounces blue cheese, such as Pt. Reyes Original Blue
10 to 12 fresh mint leaves, thinly shredded
2 tablespoons fresh pomegranate arils, optional
Put the pears and ginger into a medium saucepan and add 2 1/2 cups water.
Cut a small square of cheesecloth, put the peppercorns and cardamom seeds in the center, gather up the edges of the cloth and tie securely with kitchen twine. Add to the saucepan, tucking it down into the pears.
Set the saucepan over medium heat and bring to a gentle boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer until the pears are tender, about 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from the heat, cover the pan and let steep until cool.
Use tongs to remove and discard the ginger slices and spice bag.
Use an immersion blender to puree the soup or set a food mill over a deep bowl and pass the pears through it. Cover the soup and chill for at least 3 hours and as long as overnight.
To serve, stir the wine into the soup and ladle it into shallow soup plates. Slice the blue cheese into one-half ounce wedges and set in the center of each portion. Scatter the mint leaves and the pomegranate arils, if using, over the soup and serve immediately.
“It is important that the wine has a touch of sweetness,” says Geoff Kruth, master sommelier and wine director of Farmhouse Inn and Restaurant in Forestville, California. He suggests two classic pairings: Mark Hebrart NV Brut Rose 1er Cru Champagne for its bubbles, which makes for a nice contrast to the soup, and Domaine Huet 2008 Vouvray Le Mont Demi-Sec for the pleasing manner with which it engages the blue cheese.