Thursday, February 28, 2008

Go ahead and blush: poached pears

It’s pear season! Passing by myriads of pears in the fruit section of Whole Foods the other day sent a strong message that it’s time for a pear recipe. “Winter pears” are harvested in the Fall before they are ripe and kept cold to stop the ripening process until they are ready to be sold. They can be kept in cold storage for up to six months, which explains why you see beautiful pears in stores for as long as you do. Pears are among my favorite fruits. I love Seckel pears in particular. They are sweet and juicy when ripe and relatively small: the perfect pear for a dessert.

Martha had a gorgeous recipe for cranberry-poached pears in the magazine a few months ago. I made a note of it and finally got around to trying it out this week, even though we’re not exactly at the height the cranberry harvest. The best thing about poaching with cranberries is that they produce beautiful, delicately rosy pears – like a child’s cheeks after a romp in the snow. The poached pear color is deeper on the outside, fading to a faint blush on the inside. The dish has just the right sweetness to make it a refreshing end to a meal without cloying in any way. If you take offence to cranberries, as I know some people do, my guess is that poaching with pomegranate seeds would yield a similar result (both in color and level of tartness). Due to the popularity of pomegranates, it’s relatively easy to find frozen seeds, which would make much quicker work of producing the poaching liquid.

I served my little pears with fromage blanc which provided a nice tart complement to the pears’ sweetness. This is a lovely little guilt-free dessert.

Cranberry-poached pears (from Martha Stewart Living)
(serves 8)

8 small pears, such as Seckel or Forelle, peeled, stems intact
2 tablespoons superfine sugar
1 cinnamon stick
1 large strip (4 to 5 inches) orange peel
1 large strip (4 to 5 inches) lemon peel
5 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
2 3/4 cups (10 ounces) fresh cranberries
1 tea bag, such as green tea or fruit tea
1/4 cup dried cranberries (optional)
Greek yogurt, crème fraîche, or soft goat cheese, for serving

Place pears in a saucepan large enough to hold them snugly. Add enough water to barely cover them (about 4 cups). Add sugar, cinnamon, citrus peels, honey, and lemon juice. Using the tip of a paring knife, scrape vanilla seeds into pan, and toss in pod. Bring to a boil, stirring until sugar has dissolved. Reduce heat, and simmer gently until pears are tender, about 10 minutes.

Add fresh cranberries, and simmer until cranberries are soft but not mushy, about 3 minutes more.

Use a spoon to transfer pears to a dish. Spoon cranberries and syrup around pears. Add tea bag and dried cranberries if using. Let cool for 15 minutes. Cover, and refrigerate overnight.

Before serving, remove vanilla bean, cinnamon stick, citrus peels, and tea bag. Transfer pears to plates with some of the cranberries, syrup, and a dollop of yogurt, crème fraîche, or cheese.


Pille said...

What a beautiful, beautiful colour and interesting recipe!
I only 'discovered' poached pears this Christmas. Since then I've poached them in mulled wine, in jasmine tea, in ginger syrup - all have been lovely!

Anonymous said...


LisaRene said...

Beautiful photo of perfect pears! I appreciate that there is not a ton of honey/sugar in this recipe. The tea is a nice touch.

La Tartine Gourmande said...

Just lovely. Right up my alley ;-) Delivery?;-)

Anonymous said...

The photo of the pears is really amazing. I love pears, and often they disappear before I can even think of cooking them.

Katia Mangham said...

Lovely Recipe. The photo is beautiful as usual. :)

Gigi said...

Pink pear perfection! The pears look so beautiful ...I am book marking this recipe!

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