Culinary contributor, Karen Evenden, switches to the sweeter side this issue. Find out how a simple, ripe pear can serve as the perfect dessert fruit.
Chatter on the docks is always fun—it’s a time to share stories about secluded anchorages, recent wildlife sightings, fishing successes (and failures), details about indulgent meals in posh restaurants, family-favorite recipes, and occasionally informative discussions about how our galleys are equipped and how we use them.
Thanks to these casual conversations, I’ve become more aware that many cruising boats are not equipped with an oven, and I have been set straight on my long-held assumption that if you were fortunate enough to own a boat that was equipped with an oven you would use it. The fact is there are many vessels whose owners are enjoying tasty and healthy meals without using an oven.
Recently those dockside conversations triggered thoughts about some of my favorite desserts, especially those that can be prepared without an oven. Near the top of my list: poached pears.
Fresh pears are a frequent and welcome addition to desserttime cheese platters. But with a little advanced planning and a lazy simmer in a honeyed-wine concoction, you’ll soon consider pears as the perfect fresh-fruit finish for hearty meals.
1 bottle decent red wine
1 cup sugar
¼ cup honey
2 cinnamon sticks
3 4-inch long strips orange peel
6 firm pears
Combine the wine, sugar, honey, cinnamon, and orange peel in a pan that is large and deep enough to hold the six pears. Stir the poaching ingredients together, bring to a boil, and then reduce to a simmer. Meanwhile, peel the pears and slice a small amount of fruit from the bottom so that the pear will sit flat. As each pear is peeled and pared, place it into a bowl of cold water to help prevent browning.
Drain the pears and place them in the simmering wine pot, keeping them submerged as much as possible. Poach the fruit slowly, rotating as needed, until the pears are easily pierced with a sharp knife—about 50 minutes. Remove the pears from the syrup, cover, and set aside.
Increase the heat to medium-high and slowly boil the liquid until it is thick and syrupy. Strain the syrup and return it to the pot along with the pears. Cover and keep warm until ready to serve.
When it’s ready to serve, place each pear upright in a small bowl and drizzle with some of the syrup. The pears may be served with a dollop of whipped cream or a small scoop of ice cream, but they are yummy just by themselves—or perhaps served with a chocolate truffle or two.
Cook’s Note: I hate to waste good food. The leftover poaching liquid can be used as it is to pour over ice cream or it can be enhanced to
create a compote for dried fruit. Just combine the syrup with chopped dried fruit (cherries and apricots are my favorite combination) and simmer for 20 minutes or so. Delicious over ice cream or pound cake.
YIELD: ABOUT 40 TRUFFLES
Delicious and easy to make, these truffles are the perfect fix for a serious chocolate craving. Although the recipe can be reduced to half, make it all—you can hide some in the refrigerator and they will keep for weeks.
16 ounces semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped into small pieces (Note: the better the quality of chocolate, the better the quality of truffles)
1 cup heavy cream
2 teaspoons vanilla extract (or 1 tablespoon bourbon or Kahlua)
Walnuts, finely chopped
Almonds, finely chopped
Coconut, finely chopped
Finely ground sea salt
In a heavy, medium saucepan over medium heat bring the cream slowly to a simmer. Stir frequently and do not let the cream boil.
Remove the pan from the heat, stir in the finely chopped chocolate, and add the vanilla or flavoring of choice. Stir until all of the chocolate is melted and the mixture is very smooth.
Pour the chocolate into a bowl and allow to cool. Cover and place in the refrigerator for two hours or until you’re ready to form the truffles.
Remove the chocolate from the refrigerator and allow it to warm enough so that the chocolate can be scooped with a spoon. Decide what toppings you will be using and place half a cup of each topping on a dinner plate (you can add more topping as needed). Line a large baking sheet with parchment. Using two teaspoons, scoop out small truffle-size pieces and deposit them on the parchment-lined baking sheet. When all the chocolate is divided, roll each piece in the palm of your hands to form a ball and then roll the ball in the topping of choice. Return the completed truffle to the pan. (Note: roll the truffle balls as quickly as possible to keep the chocolate from melting your hands.)
If desired, top each truffle with a quick grind of sea salt. Transfer the truffles to a covered container and place into the refrigerator for at least several hours. Keep the truffles in the refrigerator until ready to serve. n