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Fall fruit is often best when simply prepared

Recipe: Honey-poached pears spiced with cloves

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


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.

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

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A melon ball cutter works well for coring the pears.

Ingredients:

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 ground cloves (or nutmeg, cardamom or cinnamon)

Instructions:

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.

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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Dig In: Garden Checklist

For week of Feb. 18:

It's wet to start the week. When you do get outside, between or after storms, concentrate on damage control:

* Keep storm drains and gutters clear of debris.

* Clean up tree debris knocked down by wind and rain.

* Where did the water flow in your garden? Make notes where revisions are necessary.

* Are any trees leaning? See disturbances in the ground or lawn around their base? Time to call an arborist before the tree topples.

* Dump excess water out of pots.

* Indoors, start peppers, tomatoes and eggplant from seed.

* Lettuce and other greens also can be started indoors from seed.

* Got bare-root plants? Put their roots in a bucket of water until outdoor soil dries out. Or pot them up in 1- or 5-gallon containers. In April, transplant the plant, rootball and all, into the garden.

* Browse garden websites and catalogs. It’s not too late to order for spring and summer.

* Show your indoor plants some love. Dust leaves and mist to refresh.

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