Note: You may know Carolyn Cope as Umami Girl. She stops by on Tuesdays with ideas on preparing fruits and vegetables.
Although Asian pears (also called Chinese pears, apple pears or sand pears) are now fairly widely available, they were new to me a few years ago when they showed up in our CSA haul. People, this is one delightful fruit. (Well, okay, it's more like many, many varieties of delightful fruit that all share a name and a few key qualities.) I hardly know how I lived so long without them.
Asian pears have a lemony, floral flavor and a light, juicy crispness that puts them somewhere between pears and apples, but on a higher plane. They work so well on their own that they hardly require any adornment to make a special dessert. Still, a quick bath in a light brown sugar syrup perfumed with lemon, ginger and vanilla never hurt anyone, and very few foods are made worse by a dollop of freshly whipped cream. Are you with me here?
This elegant dessert takes mere minutes to prepare. It does most of the work itself while you eat dinner. If you can get your hands on a few Asian pears, I hope you'll give it a try.
Quick-Poached Asian Pears
Adapted from Martha Stewart Living, January, 2009.
- 1 two-inch piece ginger, thinly sliced (there is no need to peel)
- 1 whole vanilla bean, halved lengthwise, seeds scraped out
- 3/4 cup light brown sugar
- 2 two-inch pieces lemon peel (yellow part only)
- 4 cups water
- 2 large Asian pears, cored and sliced
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
In a small pot, combine the ginger, vanilla seeds and pod, brown sugar, lemon peel and water. Bring to a gentle boil for three minutes. Place the pears in a medium bowl and pour the syrup over them. Carefully cover the surface with a piece of parchment paper. Leave at room temperature during dinner, or for up to two hours. (Chill if making far in advance.)
Just before serving, whip together the cream, sugar and vanilla extract. Divide the pears among four bowls with a little bit of the syrup (avoid the ginger pieces and vanilla pod), top with a bit of whipped cream, and serve.
Note: If Asian pears are unavailable or unaffordable, you can substitute Bosc pears.