Archive for Friday, January 13, 2012

Food: Peary easy desserts

It’s delicious vs. nutritious in this month’s recipe face-off

Megan Stuke's Poached pears in crystalized ginger with vanilla ice cream.

Megan Stuke's Poached pears in crystalized ginger with vanilla ice cream.

January 13, 2012, 6:51 p.m.

Updated: January 25, 2012, 12:00 a.m.

Megan Stuke's Poached pears in crystalized ginger with vanilla ice cream and Sarah Henning's gingery pear fig crumble pizza.

Megan Stuke's Poached pears in crystalized ginger with vanilla ice cream and Sarah Henning's gingery pear fig crumble pizza.

Megan Stuke and Sarah Henning take advantage of an in-season fruit, pears, for this month’s recipe face-off.

Megan: Delicious

I’m not sure if there is an ingredient, besides butter, that I love more than pears.

When Sarah and I decided on pears for this month’s project, my head exploded. The possibilities were so many and varied, it was like trying to choose from among an array of beloved recipes to publish only one.

Finally, I settled on simplicity. Roasted pears is one of my most favorite desserts to serve at a dinner party. My husband and I are not huge lovers of sweets, and most of our friends tend to be a little shy of a confection-y, sugar-heavy dessert. Plus, I am a terrible baker, so serving roasted pears gets me off the hook but still seems elegant.

Everyone loves pears, right? That’s why people in my office go crazy and clamor for the Harry and David pears we are sent every year to share.

You can roast pears to be savory or to be sweet. The beauty of roasting pears is that they’re so forgiving, you can just sort of look through the cabinets and choose ingredients based on what you have laying around.

You can roast pears with a little chili powder and some rosemary, or you can do them with lemon juice and mint. You can make those pears sing any note your heart desires. You can dip them in chocolate or make them into sorbet.

But to me, vanilla — plain, old, everyday vanilla — is the flavor that best complements the pear, so I usually come up with a mixture that highlights that flavor.

Megan’s Favorite Ginger Vanilla Roasted Pears

6 to 8 pears (I had 8 smallish ones)

4 tablespoons butter, melted

1/2 cup brown sugar

2 teaspoon cognac

2 teaspoon vanilla

1/4 cup candied ginger, chopped into small pieces

• Begin by preheating your oven to 400 degrees. Slice your pears in half and lay them face down in a large, glass casserole dish.

• Whisk together the butter, brown sugar, cognac and vanilla. Pour the mixture over the pears. I picked up each pear and rolled it through the liquid to be sure each side was completely covered.

• Then sprinkle the ginger over the top. Candied ginger is a very strong taste, so go easy. If you don’t prefer the taste of ginger, you can certainly just omit this ingredient.

• Pop the dish in the oven and bake for 20 minutes. I like to serve this next to some good vanilla ice cream and garnish with a sprig of mint. Ladle the cooking liquid over the top, like syrup. A dollop of creme fraiche is delicious with them, or you can serve them atop a brownie or drizzle with chocolate sauce and pecans.

Roasted pears have a lot to give. If you have the time and the desire, you can cut the flesh from the core and peel the pears, run them through the food processor, and then push the pulp through a fine wire mesh strainer. Give it a spin in your ice cream freezer. Sorbet! It works great as a palette cleanser between courses, or as dessert itself.

These beauties can’t fail. They are fool-proof, easy to do and have a certain wow factor that earns great dinner-party props. I hope everyone you serve them to enjoys them as much as I do.

Sarah: Nutritious

Pears! Pears! Pears! Man, I love them. In another life, I was probably a partridge, just lazing about in my pear tree, eating the ripe ones as fast as birdly possible.

Therefore, if this weren’t a recipe column, I’d probably say eating them out of hand was the very best recipe for a pear. I mean, they’re practically perfect on their own — sweet, juicy, tender and not cloying in the least.

But, because this is a recipe column, I figured I probably should dress up the pears in question. I thought about all the ways I love them (besides alone) — cut and dehydrated into little slivers, juiced with veggies, chopped into salads … yum. But I know not everyone has a dehydrator or juicer, so I threw those ideas out. And because I so often blog about salad on Lawrence.com, I feared I might sound (more) like a broken record if I went on and on about the virtues of salad yet again.

So, I decided to go for only a semi-broken record.

If you read my blog at all this summer, you may have noticed that I often rely on fresh foods and don’t turn on my oven all that often. As a busy mom, it just seems so much easier — and healthier — to chop up a few things (and make salad, naturally) than to choose something that requires cooking. Yes, I know this probably sounds nutso to some folks out there, but at this stage in my life, it’s what I prefer at home.

The same goes for desserts — I used to live to bake, but these days, I’d rather whip up something fresh in the food processor than fire up the stove. I’ve found that not only does this save tons of time (the recipe below will be ready to eat in 10 minutes, tops), it also tends to yield healthier treats — no white sugar or flour, no trans fats, no junk.

Thus, I give to you my long-in-name Gingery Pear Fig Crumble Dessert Pizza. It’s got a crust of figs, pecans and spices, a filling of chopped and pureed pears and more of the “crust” crumbled on top for a very yummy and healthy dessert/breakfast/snack.

Also, I was all set to call this one simply a “crumble,” but then I threw a pic of it up on Facebook to let the masses guess what the heck it was. My friend Chris guessed “cinnamon roll pizza” which was a pretty good try, based on what I posted. Therefore, I decided to add pizza to its name. Because, seriously, who doesn’t love pizza? (Probably people who don’t love pears, I imagine. Sheesh, weirdos.)

Gingery Pear Fig Crumble Dessert Pizza

4 ripe pears (I used Anjou)

2 cups dried white Turkish figs

2 cups pecans (or almonds)

2 tablespoons maple syrup

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

3/4 teaspoon cinnamon, divided

3/4 teaspoon ginger, divided

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1 squirt lime

Pinch salt

Crumble: Tear figs in half and remove any tough stems. Place figs, pecans, salt, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon ginger and nutmeg in a food processor.

Pulse until crumbly (don’t overprocess!).

Place all but 1 packed cup of the crumble into a 10-inch tart pan or 9-inch glass deep-dish pie pan.

Press the crumble into the pan to create a crust; set the remaining 1 cup of crumble aside to use for topping.

Filling: Roughly chop pears into 1/2-inch pieces and discard the stems.

Place 3 of the pears into the food processor (no need to clean it in between uses). Pulse until pears are roughly chopped into smaller pieces (you want them to keep some texture) and use a spatula to remove them to a medium bowl.

Place the remaining pear, maple syrup, vanilla, 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon ginger and a squirt of lime in the food processor and process until smooth. Use a spatula to scrape the pear mixture into the bowl with the chopped pears. Use your spatula to mix the pears together. Spread the pears evenly over the crumble crust.

Top with the remaining 1 cup of crumble mixture. Serve immediately or put in the fridge to set up a bit more. Store in the fridge and use within 3 days.

Serves 8.

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