Monday, November 8, 2010

Spiced Pears

I love this time of the year. Store windows are starting to decorate for the holidays, lights are strung up in trees and homes, party invites are sent and received by the dozen, and daylight savings time comes to an end, extending at least one weekend of merry making by an hour. Another lovely thing about this time of the year is that pears are in season. I simply love pears – all kinds of them. Although my favorites still are the crunchy, juicy Asian Pears, Oregon seems to have several varieties that are new to me and just as delicious.

While I’ve been enjoying pears for a long time, I’ve never actually cooked them. So this year, I thought I’d make my first cooked pear dessert and taste-test it on friends who were ov
er for dinner. I had half a bottle of port wine staring at me from my pantry, and I found these cute little pears called Seckel pears at the local market. So, with these two main ingredients in hand, I got cooking. I thoroughly washed the pears and arranged them in a baking dish, with a little bit cut off the bottoms to make them stand upright. I then doused them in about a cup of port wine (for 8 pears); sprinkled some sugar on them till they looked like they'd received just a dusting of snow; added some cloves, cinnamon, and star anise to the baking pan; and set them into a 425 degree oven for 45 minutes. Every 20 minutes or so, I spooned the wine mixture back onto the pears and gave them another sprinkling of sugar. For good measure, I added some fresh cranberries to the pan, and man, am I glad I did. As the sugar and wine cooked down, it turned the tart cranberries into a gooey sweet-tart compote, which was my favorite part of the whole dessert.

As you can see, this dessert was super easy to make and was very pretty to look at. I served it with a scoop of vanilla ice-cream, and it received good reviews from the dinner crowd. So, if you’d like a really easy and pretty dessert tonight, give these Spiced Pears a try; the heady smell of the spices and sugar as the pears are baking is guaranteed to put you in the holiday mood, even if it is only the beginning of November.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Buon Appetito!

No! I refuse to be another one of the countless blogs begun with good intentions and then abandoned after a few enthusiastic posts! I remember being utterly frustrated while searching for a good blog name at the dozens of derelict sites littering the blogosphere.

So, in the spirit of getting things cooking again, I present some pictures of the tantalizing tastes of Italy that I encountered on a very recent trip to the Lazio, Toscana, and Veneto regions of this vibrant and welcoming country. Enjoy, while I head off to the kitchen to prepare for my next post. Buon appetito!

Italian broccoli, anyone?

Juicy Clementines

Puntarella and radicchio, commonly used in salads.

"Roma" tomatoes!

Zucchini and zucchini blossoms: so pretty. I was disappointed to not have seen the blossoms on the menu anywhere we ate, however.


...and beans (cranberry beans?)...

...and brain food.

Aubergines: The Italians did not disappoint with eggplant!

Spice cones...

...peppers on a string...

...and a myriad balsalmics!

Plus...let me not omit "Il Dolce." Store windows everywhere were lined with countless tasty temptations. The French term for window-shopping is leche-vitrines, which translates literally to "window-licking". No doubt they were staring at pastries such as these when the term was coined?

Castagne confettate, better known as Marrons glacees: technically, French, but delicious in Italy

Pretty marzipan fruits.

Halloween treats -- for the tourists?

I admit, some of these treats found their way out of the windows and into our hands, and ultimately, our tummies.

These lemon jujupes were molto delicioso....making us realize, you're never too old for jujupes!

Okay, I think that's all the patience I have for blogger right now. As I upload these, I realize that I did not get a single picture of the two things that my husband and I consumed in copious amounts: caffe macchiati and gelati! Perhaps this is a reflection of our urgency to actually consume these items that were better in Italy than anywhere else I have had them so far. Oh well, I guess that's as good a reason as any to return some other day!