Poires au parmesan en salade

Fruit became a major issue this summer down in Burgundy, where a great year for fruit of all kinds — cherries, plums, apples and pears — turned my garden into a paradise for fruit-loving wildlife of the alarming variety (more on that later). Now that I’m back in Paris, where I can safely gather fruit from the market, I decide to try my hand at a salad featuring pears topped with parmesan and roasted to mouth-watering succulence.

Poires au parmesan en salade / Salad of pears roasted with parmesan

Preparation is very simple. You quarter the pears and (ahem) pare them, place them in a baking dish, top with grated parmesan and bake for about half an hour. When they’re golden brown and still warm, you place them on a bed of greens dressed with garlic-infused olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Simple, but…

In the country it was impossible to gather the hundreds of pears falling off the tree in the back yard due to the profusion of hornets and wasps buzzing around them. Now before you start thinking I’m some kind of sissy, allow me to describe a French hornet. It is very different from the frightening elongated variety we sometimes saw during my childhood back in Wisconsin — in that it’s even more terrifying. Picture a buzzing yellow-and-black striped poisonous flying object about the size of a woman’s baby finger, or even thicker.

When I first bought my cottage in Burgundy, I was told by the neighbors that one sting of a hornet was enough to kill a horse. In previous years, you’d see one every now and again, but they didn’t come close to the house. This year, they were everywhere, particularly under the pear tree and feasting on the many apples that fell to the ground early due to the summer heat wave here, right in front of our front door. And, yes, they came into the house — until I got the bright idea of keeping all the doors and windows closed, never mind that it was a beautiful sunny day. (Also unlike my childhood, France does not believe in screens over windows.) Wasps were also out in force, and in fact they still are — even in Paris, where they’ve made outdoor café lunching into a dangerous sport.

What Paris doesn’t have is the small creature called the lérot, a cousin of the dormouse that thrives on fruit. I discovered the lérot my first year down in Burgundy. Incredibly cute, with a black mask over its eyes and a long, tufted tail, it would run along the branches of the plums trees out in back, happily eating its fill. I happily watched. I was less happy when I discovered that the lérot likes to come indoors at night. Not just one — the whole family. I could hear them partying in the attic. Was I imagining things? To prove I wasn’t dreaming, they left a trail of droppings behind them.

This year a veritable army of lérots invaded the garden, chirping to each other from the fruit trees. I won’t mention what they did inside the house. And it wasn’t just my place. The whole area is infested, as a friendly chap at the garden store informed me when I asked what could be done about it. Nothing much, apparently.

A country friend blamed the population explosion of rodents and stinging insects on the weather — a very cold winter, a very wet spring and a heat wave that started in May. Whether or not this is true, I was very happy to leave the wildlife behind this week and come back to Paris, where my kitchen is critter free. As we head into autumn, I’m looking forward to creating many new dishes to share with you over the months ahead.

Happy cooking.

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9 Responses to Poires au parmesan en salade

  1. Dianna Rienstra says:

    Congratulations on a critter-free kitchen! I loved watching the lerots in Provence as they traversed the power lines. They did not venture inside! I hope you are happy back in Paris! xo

  2. Susan says:

    Thanks for the good read with my morning coffee. Critters and various vermin can’t be avoided in the country. Squirrels and bunnies have decimated my little patch of vegetables this summer. Have gotten 3 tomatoes in total from 8 plants. Missed your recipes over the summer – glad you are back.
    Susan in Ontario

    • Meg says:

      I sympathize. The bunnies in Burgundy prefer roses to tomatoes. They burrow down and eat the roots. I lost a sprawling, gorgeous heirloom red rose bush thanks to this, and also a beautiful wisteria vine over the front of the house…

  3. Meg says:

    Hello all and thanks for the comments! Rita, I’m afraid the post is not available in French, but you could perhaps try Google Translate. I hear it’s not too bad…

  4. Rita Lugrine says:

    This is a wonderful post. Is it also translated into French?

  5. Dory Green says:

    Another voice from NYC where it has remained hot and awfully humid. Your sojourn in Burgundy sounds fearful with flying and creeping creatures. Glad you’re safely back in Paris and hope that future summers will be less trying. We can both now enjoy the autumn (and you are safely insulated from the endless distressing political events roiling the U.S.). Love the pear recipe. Simple enough even for a dunce like me in the kitchen.

  6. Laura says:

    I really enjoyed reading this Meg. The description of wildlife in Burgundy is wonderful and educational. And, no, you sure aren’t a sissy…those hornets sound horrible! I hope they don’t cross the pond and end up in NY. Our weather was quite the same as yours…incredibley hot and humid all summer. Your simple pear salad recipe is something I will try soon. Good to see your blog again.

  7. David Lewis says:

    Super post, Meg. So you had a good summer?
    Bises, David

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