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Lesson Learned: Quick and Easy Pear Tart Recipe

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Several weeks ago, my mentor and dear friend Nathalie Dupree and I hosted a cooking class fundraiser for the Atlanta Community Food Bank. We had a very ambitious menu, essentially preparing a modified Thanksgiving spread for 50 attendees, including a two-hour demonstration class — in less than 6 hours. There were many hands to help, but it was still a substantial amount to cook and prepare. During prep, I got wind that Nathalie had requested the ingredients for a Pear Tart because she didn’t think we were offering enough in the way of dessert. I had already been very concerned about making a Thanksgiving dessert recipe for 50, so I had offered up that I would make Ambrosia. So, how is it that in the end, we served her Quick and Easy Pear Tart? Here’s the conflict – and how I found myself adding a recipe a mere hour before class was to begin – she considers Ambrosia a salad and I consider it a dessert. Lesson #1.

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You know, a Tart…

At first, I admit it, I sighed. Then, I chuckled to myself. I knew she was right. I smiled at her knowing what was right to do (serve a bountiful Thanksgiving meal) and at myself for acknowledging my teacher was still my teacher. As soon as we got through the preparation for the promised dishes I asked what she wanted in the way of a tart. She sort of waved her hand and said, “You know, a tart” and grabbed a nearby assistant that had never made a tart. My still-teacher proceeded to prepare with her new pupil the most simple tart, a veritable non-recipe. Now, honestly, it wasn’t that she taught me how to make a tart, but she did teach me that I had been hung up on the wrong thing. I was worried about what not to do, not what to do. Lesson #2.

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“You know, a tart”  is a non-recipe. It’s simple. Unroll a sheet of pie crust, top it with thinly sliced pears, sprinkle with sugar, and bake at 400° F until golden brown, about 20 minutes. When it comes out of the oven and is still warm, brush it with a clear jelly such as apple. That’s it. No measurements. No recipe. No bother. Lesson #3.

Now, to be fair, some tenets of baking should be known. The oven needs to be hot and the pastry needs to be cold. A good solid baking pear like a Bosc needs is best, and the pears should be fairly ripe, dimpled just slightly around the stem. The pears need to be thinly and evenly sliced. The jelly needs to be warmed until it’s smooth and glossy so that it can be brushed. But, that’s still kind of a non-recipe….Lesson #4.

Nathalie and I served it along side the Ambrosia and folks loved it. The beauty of the Quick and Easy Pear Tart was its simplicity and ease.  It could also be turned into a savory course with a sprinkling of blue cheese and served alongside a simple arugula salad. I don’t normally use store-bought pie crust, but you know, in the big scheme of things, it’s not the end of the world. Lesson #5.

The Quick and Easy Pear Tart was a lesson for me learned on more than one level. We were there to raise money for the Atlanta Community Food Bank, help those in need, and educate as well as entertain the students. I didn’t think I could offer up such a simple dessert for a cooking class. I thought I would need to a make an elaborate pastry chef worthy creation, numerous towering layer cakes, or a multitude of perfect pies. I thought people would expect more. But, Nathalie was right, it was about serving something simple and satisfying. Lesson #6. Thank you dear Nathalie, for continuing to teach me.

Sometimes we think we’re supposed to do more than we actually need to do. It’s important, especially in these next few busy weeks not to create our own unrealistic expectations, a result of an overly-styled Instagram world, and more so, the assumed expectations of others. Lesson #7. Lastly, through the Simple Abundance Cooking Classes, each 1$ donated the Atlanta Community Food Bank is able to provide more than 9$ of groceries for people in need. Our Thanksgiving class raised $26,000 in groceries, Quick and Easy Pear Tart included.

Please consider giving to your local food bank this holiday season.

Bon Appétit Y’all! 
Virginia Willis

Quick and Easy Pear Tart

Quick and Easy Pear Tart

Serves 8
Prep Time10 minutes
Cook Time20 minutes
Total Time30 minutes
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Servings: 7


  • 1 sheet pre-made pie pastry
  • 2-3 Bosc pears cored and thinly sliced
  • 3-4 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 2-4 tablespoons apple jelly warmed


  • Heat the oven to 400°F. Place the pie crust on a baking sheet. Roll the edges inward to form a rim. Arrange the pear slices in an overlapping circle. Chill until firm. Sprinkle over the sugar. Bake until the crust is golden brown and the pears are tender, about 20 minutes. Remove the baking sheet to a rack to cool and while the tart is still warm, brush with the warmed apple jelly. Let cool slightly then using a serrated knife, slice into wedges and serve.

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Virginia Willis

Georgia-born French-trained Chef Virginia Willis’ biography includes making chocolate chip cookies with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, foraging for berries in the Alaskan wilderness, harvesting capers in the shadow of a smoldering volcano in Sicily, and hunting for truffles in France. She is talent and chef-instructor for the digital streaming platform Food Network Kitchen. Her segments feature authentic and innovative Southern cooking. She was the celebrity chef at the Mansion at Churchill Downs for the 143rd running of the Kentucky Derby. Virginia has spoken at SXSW, cooked for the James Beard Foundation, and beguiled celebrities such as Bill Clinton, Morgan Freeman, and Jane Fonda with her cooking — but it all started in her grandmother’s country kitchen. Recently, her work has been inspired by her weight loss success story, Virginia has lost 65# and kept it off for over 2 1/2 years! “If a French-trained, Southern chef can do it, you can, too.” She is the author of Fresh Start; Secrets of the Southern Table; Lighten Up, Y’all; Bon Appétit, Y’all; Basic to Brilliant, Y’all; Okra; and Grits. Lighten Up, Y’all won a James Beard Foundation Award of Excellence in the Focus on Health Category. Lighten Up, Y’all as well as her first cookbook, Bon Appétit, Y’all, were finalists in the Best American Cookbook for the International Association of Cookbook Awards and were also named by the Georgia Center of the Book as “Books Georgians Should Read.” She is the former TV kitchen director for Martha Stewart Living, Bobby Flay, and Nathalie Dupree; has worked in Michelin-starred restaurants; and traveled the world producing food stories – from making cheese in California to escargot farming in France. She has appeared on Food Network’s Chopped, CBS This Morning, Fox Family and Friends, Martha Stewart Living, and as a judge on Throwdown with Bobby Flay. She’s been featured in the New York Times, the Washington Post, People Magazine, Eater, and Food52 and has contributed to Eating Well, GRLSQUASH, Culture, Garden & Gun, and Bon Appétit, and more. The Chicago Tribune praised her as one of “Seven Food Writers You Need to Know.” Her legion of fans loves her down-to-earth attitude, approachable spirit, and traveling exploits. Her culinary consulting company, Virginia Willis Culinary Enterprises, Inc specializes in content creation, recipe development, culinary editorial and production services, cookbook writing, media training, spokesperson and brand representation, and public speaking. Virginia is on the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch Blue Ribbon Task Force, the Atlanta Community Food Bank Advisory Board, as well as the Community Farmers Market Advisory Board. She is a food and hunger advocate for No Kid Hungry and a premier member of the No Kid Hungry Atlanta Society. She a member of The James Beard Foundation, Chef’s Collaborative, Georgia Organics, and Southern Foodways Alliance.

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