Recipe Rehab: Nutrient-rich Pear Crisp

Our weekly feature, Recipe Rehab, takes a recipe — sometimes basic, sometimes decadent and sometimes just plain unhealthy — and turns it into a scrumptious and healthy dish, pumped up with nutrition. Sometimes all it takes is a few alterations to cook a dish that would make even your nutritionist proud.

Tis the season for ripe, juicy, sweet and delectable pears. And if you had as many pears in your refrigerator as I do, you’d pick a pear recipe this week, too. I have always loved pear crisp, even more than apple crisp, and I have created an infinite amount of recipes for it throughout the years (read: never wrote down what I did and made it different each time). It is simple to add nutrition to pear crisp, so here goes . . .

Ingredients (adapted from original recipe):

Crisp Topping
1/2 cup walnuts or almonds, or a mixture of both
1 cup sprouted or whole grain flour
1/4 cup sucanat
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
a pinch sea salt
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter

6 ripe pears (about 2 pounds), peeled, cored, and cut in 1/2-inch dice
3 TB grade B maple syrup
2 tablespoons sprouted or whole grain flour


Preheat the oven to 375°F. Toast the nuts until fragrant, about 7 or 8 minutes, and chop them medium-fine. Combine the flour, sucanat, cinnamon, and salt in a mixing bowl. Cut the butter into small pieces. Work it into the flour mixture with your fingers until crumbly. Add the chopped nuts and mix well – the topping should hold together when squeezed. (The topping can be prepared up to a week ahead and refrigerated.)Put the diced pears in a large mixing bowl. Add the maple syrup and taste; adjust if necessary. Sprinkle the flour over the pears and mix gently. Turn the mixture into an earthenware dish (I just use my Corning ware) just large enough to hold the fruit, slightly mounded at the center. Spoon the topping over the pears, pressing down lightly. Place the dish on a baking sheet to catch any overflow and bake on the center rack of the oven for 40 to 50 minutes, until the topping is dark golden brown and the juices have thickened slightly. Serve warm with ice cream or Armagnac-flavored whipped cream, says the original recipe, but why not try a dollop of organic whole milk yogurt?.

Serves 4 to 6.

Rehab Rundown

Grade B maple syrup is darker, richer and stronger than the other grades of maple syrup. It is more often recommended for cooking because of this. Not only do I love the taste, but the grade B is more mineral-rich than other grades, and that equals more nutrition.

You probably know by now that I almost always replace the butter in recipes with a healthy fat, like coconut oil or almond butter. For this recipe, I am keeping the butter, as long as it is organic, for a couple of reasons. First of all, there is just something about that butter taste in the crispy part of a crisp. If you think the taste of coconut oil would work here, it would be a good substitute. Also, the melting point of coconut oil is 76 degrees, while butter is much higher. The texture of the crisp will be less crumbly and more pasty with the coconut oil for that reason. Not a bad thing, but will change the recipe just a bit.

So you might be tempted to use that white flour in your pantry, but go the extra step and use the whole grain or sprouted flour I recommend. You’ll be adding fiber, vitamins, minerals and even some veggie and protein if you use the sprouted version.

Pears are on the foods you should always buy organic list. So unless you want to be consuming more pesticides than nutrients, splurge for the organic this time.

Use unrefined sea salt. It supplies vital minerals.

Rehab Roundup

  • Sucanat is worth the search — and the price, probably at least double that of sugar. Try your local health food store, food coop, whole foods market or natural foods section of your regular supermarket, or order online.
  • Whole grain wheat flour is widely available, although I recommend spelt, which can be found at all the aforementioned places as well as online. Sprouted spelt flour is the healthy pinnacle you are striving to reach; I have only found it online.
  • My favorite unrefined sea salt is Orsa Pink Mineral Salt.

There you have it — my 7,483rd take on pear crisp. Sometimes I like to toss in a handful of fresh cranberries or blueberries to add some tasty zing and antioxidants. What do you add to your pear crisp to make it special?