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.