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Fall fruit is often best when simply prepared

Bosc pears are perfect for a simple poaching in a honey syrup. (Photos: Kathy Morrison)

Recipe: Honey-poached pears spiced with cloves

As much as I love to bake with seasonal fruit in fall, sometimes I want to enjoy it as simply prepared as possible. That's especially true with pears, which get crowded out of the fall limelight by apples and all that pumpkin spice whatever.

Easy and delicious: A poached pear.
Pears are picked when still hard, so buy them a few days before you plan to use them. They ripen from the inside out, so test the flesh right near the stem; it should feel just slightly soft. Bartletts ripen fastest, I've found, followed by the d'Anjou variety. Bosc pears are a little drier and grittier, but hold together well, so they're good for a dish like this.

This recipe is adapted from one by the late great James Beard in his "American Cookery." This classic cookbook is the first place I go when I want to find a solid basic recipe. I used local honey instead of the 1 1/2 cups of white sugar the original calls for, and it's still plenty sweet. Adjust the spice to your preference; I considered using nutmeg or cardamom instead of the cloves. Cinnamon would work too, of course.

Serve the pears alone, in their syrup, or with crème fraîche,  heavy cream or crème anglaise.

Honey-poached pears
Serves 6

A melon ball cutter works well for coring the pears.

6 ripe but still firm pears, such as Bosc or d'Anjou
2 cups water
1/3 cup honey
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon cloves (or nutmeg, cardamom or cinnamon)


Peel the pears, leaving them whole with the stem. Use a melon ball cutter or a paring knife to core the pears from the bottom.

The peeled pears are cooked in the honey-sweetened liquid.
Bring the water, honey, vanilla extract and cloves to a boil in a 4-quart nonstick pot. Add the pears upright. (They may fall over; it's OK.) Reduce heat, cover the pot and cook gently for about 15 minutes, until the pears test done with the tip of a knife. If they've fallen over, roll the pears around so that all sides spend some time cooking in the liquid.

Remove the pot from the heat, and let the pears cool in the liquid with the lid on. Serve warm, at room temperature or chilled, plain or with desired accompaniment.


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A recipe for preparing delicious meals from the bounty of the garden.


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Dig In: Garden Checklist

For week of March 19:

Spring will start a bit soggy, but there’s still plenty to do between showers:

* Fertilize roses, annual flowers and berries as spring growth begins to appear.

* Watch out for aphids. Wash off plants with strong blast from the hose.

* Pull weeds now! Don’t let them get started. Take a hoe and whack them as soon as they sprout.

* Prepare summer vegetable beds. Spade in compost and other amendments.

* Prune and fertilize spring-flowering shrubs after bloom.

* Feed camellias at the end of their bloom cycle. Pick up browned and fallen flowers to fight blossom blight.

* Feed citrus trees as they start to blossom.

* Cut back and fertilize perennial herbs to encourage new growth.

* Seed and renovate the lawn (if you still have one). Feed cool-season grasses such as bent, blue, rye and fescue with a slow-release fertilizer. Check the irrigation system and perform maintenance. Make sure sprinkler heads are turned toward the lawn, not the sidewalk.

* In the vegetable garden, transplant lettuce and kale.

* Seed chard and beets directly into the ground.

* Plant summer bulbs, including gladiolus, tuberous begonias and callas. Also plant dahlia tubers.

* Shop for perennials. Many varieties are available in local nurseries and at plant events. They can be transplanted now while the weather remains relatively cool.

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