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Pear, Walnut and Gorgonzola Bruschetta

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This traditional garnished grilled bread is Italian cuisine at its best. Utter simplicity based on excellent ingredients, around a time tested formula. Food for the gods.

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When you are invited to an Italian family, you often get served a bruschetta [broosKAYtah, plural broosKAYtay] garnished with whatever nice ingredient they have around that day. It takes a restaurateur with great confidence to serve this in a restaurant, as in essence, a bruschetta is nothing more than grilled stale bread with a little garnish. It is also one of the easiest and most enjoyable starter you can make for an Italian meal. Today I'll show you a seasonal autumn bruschetta your guests will never tire of.

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Bruschetta with Gorgonzola, Walnuts and Pears
Rustic but elegant starter for 6 or light meal for 2
6 slices stale bread
12 walnuts
200gr/6oz Gorgonzola or another quality meltable blue cheese
2 pears
Olive oil
The critical ingredient here is the bread. You can really do a proper bruschetta with crap bread that has been waiting for you under shrink wrap for a whole month at the supermarket. You need proper bread. Stale is better than fresh.

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If using whole nuts, begin by cracking them as this can take some time and the rest cannot wait. Call me fancy but I love cracking whole walnuts using my latest nutcracker. Today, a German contraption where you place a walnut vertically...

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... then drop a steel ball to break it. Certainly not very efficient, but I have yet to see a guest who doesn't like to play with it for half an hour. Ideal to have your guests wait while the food is cooking - and they even get to eat the fruit of their work as crushed walnuts accumulate on the dinner table.

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Slice the bread thinly with a serrated blade and swift back-to-front movements.

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I like to brush the bread with a little olive oil before roasting it.

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Place the bread on a grate in a hot oven...

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... and toast until brown and crispy all over. Don't go for moist but for crispy. Your bread should end up as dessicated and crunchy as a fossil.

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Remove the rind from the cheese while you praise penicillium roquefortii for its mercies.

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Lay the toasted bread in an ovenproof dish for its last voyage, and cover with the thinly sliced cheese.

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Garnish with the walnuts...

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... and put back in a medium hot oven until the cheese melt. Don't use a powerful grill or you'll burn your walnuts before the cheese is melted. You can definitely prepare everything a couple hours before and do this last step only when the guests arrive.

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Meanwhile, peel the pears ...

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... core and cut them into cubes as thick as your middle finger. If you need to prepare this a few hours before, just place the cubed pears in a bowl of water with a drop of lemon juice to prevent them from turning brown.

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Garnish the bruschette with the pear cubes as soon as the cheese is melted...

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... and serve.

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This is Italian cuisine at its best. Utter simplicity based on excellent ingredients, around a time tested formula. Food for the gods. Serve this with a sweet white wine and go you'll be in heaven before the meal is over.

Published 10/11/2008
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If you do this recipe at home please let me know how it worked for you by submitting a comment or send me a picture if you can. Thanks!



63 Comments

  • #1
  • Comment by Rosa
  • on: 10/11/2008
They look really good! A delightful combo!

I really like your nutcracker!

Cheers,

Rosa
  • FX's answer→ Rosa thanks for visiting! Yes I love my nutcracker too, but I have more crackers to share for future articles about nuts!

  • #3
  • Comment by Xavier
  • on: 10/11/2008
Hmmmm, Gorgeous ! Pear (or apple too) and melted cheese are definitely a combination that rocks. If you like it but want to do a dinner of it, the pear and cheese pie is a must. I already tried it with Munster, Camembert, Gorgonzola and Brie. Each one its own personality.
If it's too strong for you a nice chicory salad with apples, walnuts and dices of beaufort can introduce you to this alliance with subtlety.
  • FX's answer→ Sounds like a great recipe Xavier, a fine way to honor the spirit of each cheese and let it impart its personality to the dinner!

  • #5
  • Comment by Stephan Eisen
  • on: 10/11/2008
Hi,

it seems a tasty food, easy to prepare.
The problem is it seems in Germany it gets harder and harder to find some good bread.
Bread mostly is some convenience product by now, I think.
What are your experiences in other countries.
I mean it was not like that 15 years ago.

Cheers,

Stephan
  • FX's answer→ Stephan, I know finding good bread can be an ordeal in many parts of the world. Although we are spoiled for choice where I live (5 artisan bakers within walking distance), Germans are great about baking their own bread. There are some many beautiful flour mills and breadbaking books you can buy in Germany, this might be your solution!

  • #7
  • Comment by Cris
  • on: 10/11/2008
This is a wonderfull, so easy and so delicious. I love gorgonzola with pears or figs but perhaps the same bruschetta with stilton with some Port it could be a good idea too.By the way,I like your nutscracker, It's so design!.
  • FX's answer→ Cris, I also love Stilton with Port, you could certainly use Stilton for this dish but you'd serve the Port in a glass on the side. This would really work great I think, and very much in line with the original character of this dish which is about finding a perfect match amongst ingredients available in your kitchen.

  • #9
  • Comment by aidee
  • on: 10/11/2008
Yum!

Reminds me of a basic italian pizza permutation which no doubt is an extension of your documented classic: gorgonzola, thin pear slices, rocket and walnut meal.

Perfect for summer in Australia!


  • FX's answer→ Oh yes this sounds like a great gourmet pizza, although maybe the Rucola might be slightly too much for me!

Very elegant bruschetta!

A favourite ristorante of mine served a similar bruschetta, with cambozola, black olives, and a touch of balsamic reduction. Sublime.
  • FX's answer→ You can do your own bruschetta with whatever fine ingredients you have around the kitchen!

I like the idea of getting guests to participate in their own manipulation via the walnut cracking...the blue might be a tough too strong for me, but perhaps some creamy camberzola would do the trick....

JG
  • FX's answer→ Johnny, this particular blue cheese has very muted flavors, nothing like Roquefort. You can definitely use an even softer blue cheese since there are no other strong flavors to stand up to in this dish.

  • #15
  • Comment by Angela
  • on: 10/11/2008
Oh this is so perfect for the season and what great flavor pairings. I love your still life shots of the pear and walnuts! I just borrowed a bunch of off-camera lighting and equipment and have been playing around it. I will never go back!
  • FX's answer→ Angela, glad you decided to move on with the lighting! You should subscribe to the Flickr group called Strobist and use some large shoot through umbrella, they go for about 25$ nowadays, great stuff!

  • #17
  • Comment by Cynthia
  • on: 10/11/2008
This combo is always a winner.
  • FX's answer→ Indeed!

  • #19
  • Comment by Helena
  • on: 10/11/2008
Mmm ... yum. I've had a cheese pear walnut without the bread, and the bruschetta I've had (Italian versions I've tried anyway) always featured tomatoes.

Great to know cheese pear walnut go well together with bread. I never thought of that. I guess sometimes, I don't dissect or think about the base ingredients behind what I'm served when I eat out.
  • FX's answer→ Helena, there are as many bruschette as there are cooks. The common southern ones are made with olive oil, fresh tomatoes and oregano, but in the North they are often garnished with melted cheese.

  • #21
  • Comment by WanderingTaoist
  • on: 10/11/2008
Great combination. I love it with honey on top, the only small problem is that the honey usually drips off the bruschetta. Any solutions to this, anyone? Thanks for the yummy photos, FX.
  • FX's answer→ You certainly seem to dig earthly pleasures for a taoist, albeit a wandering one! There are many sorts of honey under the sky, usually the one used with such dishes would be the very soft Acacia. It is very liquid but if you try another less soft honey it might work better.

  • #23
  • Comment by Jutta
  • on: 10/11/2008
What gorgeous pictures! Definitely will try this yummy combination. Please tell me where I can get that nutcracker.
  • FX's answer→ Jutta, I bought it in Cologne from a cookery store where I spent the better part of the afternoon.

  • #25
  • Comment by Traci
  • on: 10/11/2008
So, Francois, how many takes did you do before you got that PERFECT shot of the nutcracker ball hitting the walnut? :)
  • FX's answer→ Well Traci, in fact I got this one from the get go. The timing between dropping the ball to shutter release seemed well in sync for some reason. Unfortunately I did not have enough light to be able to increase the shutter speed, which would have resulted in a clearer picture of the steel ball complete with reflections, and maybe little fragments of walnuts exploding. I'd need to work with a high-speed sync box and in a dark room with a flash to get this. Will try soon!

  • #27
  • Comment by maria
  • on: 10/11/2008
I love your website, recipes, experiences, etc.  Your photography is great as well, but there are times when your shots are repetitive and superfluous.  For example: one photo of a walnut being cracked would be enough.
  • FX's answer→ Maria (or Lina), wow, for one extra picture I get a nasty comment. Let's see. I start from about 600 pictures for one article, then select about 50 for the article. Finally about 30 make it to the finished article. In this article I have only 17 pictures on one page. Sure, the two pictures of the walnut cracker look similar, but I'd have a rather long paragraph should I have eliminated #8. Yes it could have been omitted and not hurt the story, but you make it sound like most of my articles are long-winded and visually pleonastic. Is that really so?

I love the pictures that you have for your site, and you just can never have too many pictures of a cool nutcracker. I love that you captured the essence of the bruscetta as well, while you were photographing it after you had cut it. You had crumbs all over the table, which makes me feel as if it were an authentic Italian preparation. Indeed, something is wrong with your fare if there are not a thousand small little breadcrumbs all over after you have started your first round in antipasti. That is what Nona said so, at least.
  • FX's answer→ Jason indeed proper bruschetta should be so crumbly that as you bite it should explode in a thousand crumbles!

  • #31
  • Comment by Laura D.
  • on: 10/11/2008
I like ALL your photos, FX.  And I like that word, "pleonastic."  I'm a proofreader, but I had to get my dictionary out for that one!
  • FX's answer→ Laura, thanks for your support! I have to eliminate so many nice pictures to avoid repetition that it feels like cutting my little fingers over and over again. So when some person creeps out of the woodwork to say that there is one too much, I wonder if the nitpicking does not hide something else.

  • #33
  • Comment by Charlie
  • on: 11/11/2008
Hey! You do fantastic work with this website, so don't let silly comments get you down. Thank you for all your efforts.
  • FX's answer→ Charlie, no problem, such comments say more about the person that makes them than about their subject I guess!

  • #35
  • Comment by Kimberly in Medford, NJ
  • on: 11/11/2008
Wow!  This was outstanding.  I used Stilton and we drank a bottle of Eroica 2006 Riesling Columbia Valley Washington State.  My palate sure appreciates your genius.  
  • FX's answer→ Kimberly, thanks for trying this and glad it worked for you!

  • #37
  • Comment by Meramarina
  • on: 11/11/2008
Well, FX, I enjoyed your smashing photos, and personally, I'd love to play with such a device.  It seems to be a little bit like having your own personal, low-tech particle collider, to be used in the creation of new, fresh and delicious states of matter! Of course, one inconvenience might be cleaning up all those fundamental but not-so-fun nutshell particles. I hope your guests help!
,
As for the recipe, my impressions were:  "Huh?" then  "Hmmm . . . " and then "Mmmmm!!!"  Somehow, the pear slices on top make the flavor combination very interesting;  the result must be sweet, tart and crunchy all at once, nutty and nice.

MORE photos, please!  Even office equipment loves them.  I forgot to switch to text-only for printing, and the printer ate the paper.  It had good taste, at least!

Best regards from New Jersey, USA
  • FX's answer→ Marina, thanks for your appreciation! Yes the particles scattered across the rooms tend to drive me nuts, but hey, that's what it said on the package. Soon I hope to include two other walnut screws / nutcrackers that are quite unique. You could try this with Stilton and port or figs as well. Let me know how I should change the site's interface so that it is easier to switch between high/low resolution and Priting mode. Seems many people have problems with it despite many changes I tried.

Love the nut cracking device!
  • FX's answer→ Thanks Pete, when I saw it in the shop, seeing how well made it was, I knew that was one for the blog!

  • #41
  • Comment by Judy
  • on: 11/11/2008
Great article; I can hardly wait for the article about nutcrackers.  Did you imply that this beautiful device is, perhaps, not terribly efficient? If it is efficient and doesn't cost an arm and a leg, I would love to get one. I have friends in Germany. . .

Thanks for your entertaining and inspiring recipes.
  • FX's answer→ Judy, it is certainly not very efficient and you need a very hard nut to crack it efficiently, otherwise you'll have to do this 4 times before you can eat. And it's not especially cheap either! But nothing you can do yourself with a piece of wood, a string and a pétanque ball!

  • #43
  • Comment by don siranni
  • on: 11/11/2008
Fx,the way real nutcrackers do it:an egg-crate style conveyor belt moves under a fine saw that slices a small hole in the top of the nut.Then a synctonized nozzle injects propane into the hole.The belt then drops the nuts down thru on open flame,whereupon they explode and the results fall into a water pool,which flows over a weir.The shells sink and the very perfect halves float over the weir into a dryer.
    Sorry about this windy email-just couldn't resist having some fun with you,and your entertaining cracker-but mines' even more fun!
  • FX's answer→ Don, I think I'll stick to the hammer and flat stone!

  • #45
  • Comment by Lynn
  • on: 12/11/2008
Hi FX,

This recipe is sure to be on my menu this weekend.  We're lucky to have good bread in Berkeley, as well as good pears.  I envy your nutcracker collection, although I'm much to cheap to buy one so beautiful if it doesn't work so well.  I guess that one's more like an entertainment than a really cooking tool.  Looking forward to seeing your other nutcrackers.
  • FX's answer→ Lynn indeed this nutcracker is about being fun to use, a playing piece and conversation starter, but definitely not a production tool. I love Berkeley and visited the Mark Twain room in your library when doing some research years ago. Love the Bone Room, a shop that sells all sorts of zoological specimens for still life photographers. Nice place!

  • #47
  • Comment by ET
  • on: 13/11/2008
I could never appreciate blue cheeses! Always found it disgusting to have mold on your cheese. But then I'm Asian, so well. Not used to it I guess.

By the way, thanks fx for always tagging vegetarian food! Vegetarian me appreciates it :)
  • FX's answer→ Thanks, I know blue cheese, like many fermented foods, is not something people enjoy right away. You should start with a teaspoon diluted in cream as pasta sauce and work from there. If you want to like blue cheese, of course!

  • #49
  • Comment by Richard Hughes, M.D.
  • on: 14/11/2008
I enjoyed the pear, gorgonzola bruchetta. It could be a European dessert, with some cream sherry! Thanks, Richard.
  • FX's answer→ Richard, I think this would best just before the dessert. In French we have an expression to say that somebody mentioned something during the second part of a meal: Entre la poire et le fromage - between pear and cheese. And then comes the dessert!

  • #51
  • Answered by fx
  • on: 16/11/2008
Guys, the nutcracker in the pictures is made by http://www.take2-design.de/ and apparently they have models with a stone ball too. You can buy them off Ebay.de
  • #52
  • Comment by jen
  • on: 24/11/2008
I am wondering if there is a substitute for the bleu cheese that will be edible for pregnant women.  I am wanting to serve this, but know that it may be dangerous for pregnant women to eat any type of soft, unpasteurized cheeses.  Thanks for any help you may offer.
  • FX's answer→ Jen, if you believe blue cheese is harmful to unborn babies you really need to way for the birth before eating this. There is no substitute, the whole thing revolves on blue cheese versus sweet pears.

  • #54
  • Comment by NN
  • on: 25/11/2008
Good day, meneer. No doubt, the lady behind that nasty comment is stuck on a dial-up connection—which explains her aversion to repetitive photos (and is also in itself a sufficiently severe punishment for her sins). NOW, it's Tuesday afternoon, no new posts, and I'm going into FX withdrawal…
  • FX's answer→ Nathan, I was wondering is somebody would notice my not publishing on Monday ... and I'm glad you did! So I just published another article.

  • #56
  • Comment by Angelo
  • on: 03/12/2008
Francois,

You are truly a man after my own heart.

I made a "variation" of your recipe a few months back. I had some really firm pears and a small bottle of port I had received a few Christmasses ago. I poached the pears in the port until tender (the way they do it in Portugal, except they serve the poached pears with a sabayon)and had it with some blue cheese (Roquefort) and walnuts. I am lactose intolerant (as most asians are) but this combination was soooooo good that it was truly worth the pain and discomfort.

Cheers!

PS. pay no heed to the nitpicky woman Maria. I like the extra shots you put in.
  • FX's answer→ Poached pears in port seems decadently delicious - well done! Are you lactose intolerant because you didn't eat any cheese in your childhood? If so, is there no bacteria colony you could take as a health supplement that would help your stomach digest lactose?

  • #58
  • Comment by parshu.narayanan
  • on: 29/12/2008
Hi Fx, it seems delicious, and i want to get as close to the appetizer as I can - I can get all the ingredients except Gorgonzola in Haryana, India where I live, could you suggest a packaged "supermarket" alternative pl. btw Angelo's desription of asians as lactose-intolerant is mystifying to me as an Indian, perhaps he meant only East Asians (China-Japan) and not South asians (Indian subcontinent) because as we say in my part of the world, the only culture we have in (the very rustic & pastoral State of)Haryana is yoghurt:-).
  • FX's answer→ Parshu, I really don't recommend any supermarket blue cheese, there has been one more scandal last year as to how they are made, well let me tell you that they would not be considered proper food for a brahmin!

  • #60
  • Comment by Lucia
  • on: 23/11/2009
Ayer por la noche sorprendi a un grupo de personas con esta sencilla receta, la presentacion es un lujo y el sabor es estupendo, gracias y sigue compartiendo tus ideas.
  • #61
  • Comment by Noam
  • on: 08/12/2009
so simple, so delicious! really excellent blue cheese, walnuts, pear - heaven!
  • FX's answer→ Yes, a heavenly treat prepared in minutes.

I had something similar to this at a house party not too long ago.  Except we also added some very good honey on top of the cheese and nuts and it was so delicious!

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