Oh, Man. These are So Good You Won’t Believe It.
This all came about because I bought Korean pears at my local Korean grocery store. Now, I’ve bought these many times in my regular grocery store and even at Costco, where they’re simply labeled Asian pears. But what I’ve discovered is the pears that actually come from Korea are vastly superior. Besides being huge, when you cut one of these in half, they are so juicy they almost explode. And yet they maintain that distinctive crisp and crunchy texture.
I wouldn’t even entertain the notion of cooking them. I wanted them in their raw state. I used one in a great salad and then I came up with these toasts. I began the day before by infusing warm honey with dried lavender petals * and gochugaru * (Korean red chili flakes). I let it steep overnight, but if you only made it an hour ahead of time, you’d still get plenty of flavor.
I then strained out the solids and was left with a beautifully flavored honey. The heat from the gochugaru * isn’t excessive. In other words, you get a hit of chili flavor, but your mouth won’t be on fire. And the lavender * adds a gorgeous floral tinge to the honey. You won’t use all the honey for this recipe, so you’ll have some extra on hand to enjoy on biscuits, fried chicken, etc. Or you could do what I did and simply buy more goat cheese in order to make more of these toasts. One batch only left us with wanting more.
I thought the intense tartness of fresh goat cheese was the way to go here. I added some extra virgin olive oil to give it a fuller and more rounded flavor, along with freshly grated lemon zest, a pinch of salt, and plenty of black pepper.
The only thing left to do was to slice up some good bread, brush it with a little olive oil and toast it. I think it’s important to toast the bread until it starts to char. That’s where the interesting flavor lies. I had a loaf of ciabatta that worked perfectly, but a baguette would also be nice.
After spreading on the goat cheese, I added a couple thin slices of those great pears, drizzled on the honey and sprinkled the top with crushed pink peppercorns *. Their berry-like flavor seemed like a natural for these toasts. A garnish of mint leaves added a nice grassy freshness to the whole package.
All the flavors work together to produce one of my favorite things I’ve eaten in awhile. I was thinking that if you can’t get your hands on really good Korean pears, a thinly sliced apple would be delicious. I wouldn’t go with a super tart apple, such as a Granny Smith. I’d lean more toward a fuji, or even a honey crisp. I think a firm and slightly under ripe peach or other type of pear would also be good. So, there’s no need to put off making these if you can’t get a Korean pear. I know I’m gonna be making these with other fruits, depending upon what is in season. Serve these as a starter or an accompaniment to an otherwise simple meal. You’ll be happy. I promise.