A new year & cooking with quince

I hope you’re all having a great start to 2016! I have to admit that the holidays came and went a little quickly and I’m still not ready for the New Year to be in full swing just yet. I’ll be hanging on to our Christmas tree for another day (yes, it’s still up!), until I’m ready to stop living in post-holiday denial. 

Saying goodbye to 2015 was bittersweet for me. The tragic loss of an old friend, as well as seeing loved ones struggle through personal challenges were among the events that brought the year to a close.

Instead of committing to New Year’s resolutions (many of which I have broken over the years), I’ve made myself a promise to try out new things that I’ve been curious about, but haven’t gotten around to exploring.

A friend of mine asked me about cooking with quince a while back. Since I’ve always wanted to try something with this somewhat obscure fruit, starting the New Year off with an ingredient that’s totally foreign to me was a welcome proposition.

With its thick yellow skin and pale, hard interior, the quince is tough to peel, removing the core is challenging to say the least! Once I immersed it into an aromatic poaching liquid and let it simmer gently over time, something amazing happened. The quince transformed into a mound of sweet, succulent, rose-colored, fleshy deliciousness!

This quince in a peppered goat’s cheese and arugula salad is a great way to work fruit into a savory dish. I use the poaching liquid as a base for the vinaigrette. The result is a gorgeous salad – light, luscious, and totally satisfying.

Cooking with quince might just be the perfect metaphor for life. With a bit of patience and tender loving care, you can bring sweetness to any tough situation. Tenderness is only but a slow simmer away.

Quince, Peppered Goat’s Cheese, and Arugula Salad

Serves 4

Ingredients:

For the poached quince:

  • 3 quinces, peeled, cut into quarters, core removed along with any tough bits (proceed with caution, it’s a bit tricky to peel and cut)
  • 3-4 cups water (or enough to cover the quince)
  • ½ cup sugar (you can add a bit more if you prefer a bit more sweetness)
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • a generous squeeze of lemon juice
  • 1 cinnamon stick (optional)

Directions:

Cover the peeled quince quarters with water with a squeeze of lemon to prevent browning.

In a small pot, bring water, sugar, honey, cinnamon stick, and a squeeze of lemon to a simmer. Stir until the sugar has been dissolved.

Remove the quince from the water, and add to the simmering sugar syrup. Cover the quince with a parchment paper round, or cover loosely with a lid. Let simmer gently for 45 minutes to an hour, until the quince is pink and can easily be pierced with a fork. Let cool in the poaching liquid and discard the cinnamon stick.

* The poached quince can stay in the refrigerator for up to a week in the cooking liquid

For the salad:

  • 2 poached quinces, cut into long thick slices (save any remaining quince for another use, such as eating with yogurt or ice cream!)
  • 200 grams of baby arugula (rocket)
  • ¼ cup of pine nuts, lightly toasted
  • 1 cup quince poaching liquid, strained
  • 1 log of soft goat’s cheese (100-150 grams)
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • Freshly cracked black pepper
  • Salt

Directions:

Put the pine nuts in a small, dry frying pan on low/medium heat. Stir frequently until the nuts start to turn brown (about 3 to 5 minutes). Remove from heat immediately and transfer to a plate to stop the cooking process. Set aside to cool.

Bring the quince poaching liquid to a boil over medium/high heat. Reduce the liquid until it reaches a runny honey consistency – this should take about 3 minutes. Set aside to cool slightly.

Slowly whisk the olive oil into the quince syrup until both ingredients are emulsified. Stir in the lemon juice.

Roll the goat’s cheese log in the cracked black pepper, then break the cheese up into chunks.

Place the arugula in a large salad bowl. Add the vinaigrette and quince slices and toss to combine the ingredients. Add salt to taste.

Top the salad with toasted pine nuts and goat’s cheese. It’s now ready to serve!

Enjoy!

Copyright © 2016 Lidija’s Kitchen, including personal images taken by the author.

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