Pear fans can't wait for fall fruit

October 28, 2001|By Rob Kasper

Pears rival apples as my favorite fall fruit. They sport the traditional autumnal colors of the season -- gold, yellow and red. When dead ripe, they pack the same go-straight-for-the-good-times attitude that yellow jackets exhibit during their final, kamikaze days of sugar swooning. Pears are also easy to eat -- a little too easy: Just rinse them off and bite.

My main problem with pears is keeping them around the house. I tend to devour them -- Comice, Anjous, Seckels and Bartletts -- before they have a chance to show up in a recipe.

Consequently most of the standard-issue pear concoctions that I whip up are those in which the cook spends very little time alone in the kitchen with the main ingredient, the pear.

The other night, for instance, in what passed for an amazing display of self-restraint, I peeled an entire Seckel pear and sliced it before putting the slices, most of them, anyway, into a bowl of vanilla ice cream.

On a recent trip to Oregon, my friend Janie Hibler, author of Dungeness Crabs and Blackberry Cobblers (Knopf, 1991), introduced me to another quick method of getting the pear to the table. She cored a Comice pear and filled it with a mixture of Oregon blue cheese and chopped hazelnuts. When the pear is sliced, you get impressive-looking and terrific-tasting layers of pear, nuts and cheese. In addition to having good pears, ripe but firm, you also have to have a pear-corer, a kitchen gizmo that is now high on my wish list.

Pear tarts are also high on my wish list. I am not the tart maker in our family. That is my wife. I am the tart-enabler. I give lots of moral support and encouragement to the cook. From time to time, I peel the pears used in the tart. But once again, all the pears I peel don't make it to the dish.

My latest attempt to keep my hands off the pears until they are cooked consists of grilling them on my kettle cooker, placing them on grilled slices of pound cake and topping the whole shebang with a caramel sauce. This is a rich, celebratory dessert.

I am figuring that if I don't burn my fingers trying to grab one of the grilled pears, I will have cause for celebration.

Grilled Pears

Serves 4

4 pears, firm but ripe

4 slices pound cake, about 1/2 inch thick

confectioner's sugar

SAUCE

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup heavy cream

1 / 4 cup unsalted butter

1 teaspoon almond extract

To make the sauce, place the sugar in a small, heavy-bottomed saucepan and set the stove burner to medium heat. Without touching the sugar, allow it to melt and turn dark brown, occasionally swirling the pan by its handle to be sure all the sugar turns to liquid, about 8 to 12 minutes.

In another pan, bring the cream and butter to simmer. Carefully add this mixture to the sugar (it will bubble up). The sugar will stiffen, so simmer the mixture for a few minutes while you whisk it to melt the sugar again and smooth the sauce. Remove the sauce from the heat. Stir in the almond extract. Set sauce aside; if it stiffens, reheat on low and whisk.

Quarter the pears vertically and core them. Lightly dust the pear and pound cake with confectioners' sugar.

Prepare a grill fire. Grill the pears directly over the fire until tender, about 5 to 7 minutes, turning once halfway through the grilling process. Grill the pound-cake slices directly over fire for about 1 minute, turning halfway through the process.

Arrange the pears and cake on dishes, drizzle with sauce and serve warm.

-- From Weber's Big Book of Grilling by Sandra S. McRae and Jamie Purviance (Chronicle Books, 2001)

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