On Sunday night, Kevin and I were in the kitchen making chili (an Oscar-worthy meal, if ever there was one, especially when paired with guacamole). I was up to my elbows in chopped peppers and onions and garlic and Kevin was busy gathering up all the necessary spices. After rooting through the pantry for cumin and chili powder, he asked where the bay leaves were.
Mid-chop, without thinking, I said: “they’re in the cheese drawer.” (Why the fresh bay leaves were in the cheese drawer of the refrigerator is another question, for another time. Until then, don’t judge. There’s a lot going on in that fridge of ours.) As Kevin extracted the bay from underneath a mountain of feta and gruyere and Parmesan, it hit me that I love the fact that we have a cheese drawer.
I don’t mean that I enjoy the presence of the cheese (though I do), I mean I love that we’re in the habit of keeping our cheese in the same spot in the fridge, all the time. The fact that “cheese drawer” has a meaning that’s specific to our fridge, our kitchen. It’s the cheese drawer-type rituals, I think, that make a house a home.
Being creatures of habits, we’ve got a lot of these rituals. And a lot of them are most evident on Sundays, so I suppose it’s no surprise that it was a Sunday when the Cheese Drawer Epiphany (Epiphany? Too strong? Nahhhh.) hit. Sundays around here are grocery day, laundry day, make-soup-for-the-week day. Lately, they are Big Love day and sometimes catch-a-movie-in-Evanston day. In the summer, they’re Farmer’s Market day and they might involve a trip to the nursery for gardening supplies too. [Insert Old School-inspired jokes about yuppy married couples and their "nice little Sundays." It's okay, we can take it. We make the same jokes.]
But more than all this, Sunday is the day when I bake a loaf of bread—usually a quick bread—that we slice up throughout the week and carry to work for breakfast. It’s an unwritten rule that every Sunday must be structured such that we can carve out at least an hour to mix up some ingredients, bake them together and bask in the scents emanating from the oven.
Lest you think we’re complete bores—all routine and habit— you should know that the quick breads typically change from week to week. Sure, we have a couple favorites, but the rotation of recipes I rely on is constantly growing.
And this pear-pecan bread is the latest addition to the collection. In this recipe, grated pear lends the moisture that’s so important to a quick bread (while delivering on sweetness and flavor too), much like mashed banana, pureed pumpkin or shredded zucchini does in other recipes I like. In the spice department, I went with my standby cinnamon, but boosted it with a good bit of ground cardamom too. And, for a little crunch and texture, I threw in a handful of toasted, chopped pecans and diced pear. This one’s here to stay—so good that I might just make it again this (Quick Bread) Sunday.
Spiced Pear-Pecan Quick Bread
1 1/2 cups whole-wheat pastry flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 cup pecans, toasted and chopped
1/2 cup canola oil
1/4 cup buttermilk
1 egg white
1 cup sugar
1 cup peeled, grated very, very ripe pear (about 2 large)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla
1/2 cup peeled, diced pear
Preheat oven to 350. Grease a loaf pan; set aside.
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, soda, powder, cinnamon, cardamom. In a small bowl, toss the pecans in about a tablespoon of the flour mixture; set aside.
In another large bowl, whisk together the oil, buttermilk, eggs, sugar, grated pear and vanilla. Stir the flour mixture into the pear mixture until just combined. Fold in the pecans and diced pear.
Pour the batter into the greased pan and bake for about 1 hour, until a tester inserted in the center of the loaf comes out clean.