How pears fare as a sweet end to a weeknight meal

October 26, 2005|By ROB KASPER

There comes a time in life when you eat fruit for dessert. Not fruit tarts or fruit pies or fruit cobblers, but plain ole fruit, maybe gussied up with a little sauce.

I found myself in that phase recently. I fixed pears for dessert on a weeknight. For most of my eating life, I have regarded nibbling on fruit at dessert time as a holding action. Fruit was something you chewed on until the good stuff showed up. Several factors caused me to alter that view.

The first was that our oven is temporarily out of commission, a victim of kitchen renovation. This meant that my favorite fruit treatment -- putting it in a pie -- was out of the question.

Another factor was a shift in my weeknight dessert outlook. Dessert with a weeknight supper, once regarded as a fixture of family life, has become more of an occasional event. This has something to do with changing household size.

My wife and I have become empty nesters, and once the kids went away, the demand for desserts dropped significantly. It also has something to do with changing body shapes; namely, that when I look at myself in the mirror the shape that now comes to mind is a pear.

So I set out to have it both ways, to have my dessert and not have a heavy dose of calories, at least on weeknights.

Pears were a likely choice because they were in season and sweet. I often eat a pear for lunch, as a reward for making it halfway through the day. But before it could step up as an evening-meal dessert, a pear, in my view needed to be embellished.

So I prowled around for pear recipes. Typically, the treatments that appealed to me were the ones that covered pears in chocolate or slathered them with whipped cream or put them atop butter-infused pastries. Ah! the good ole weekdays of pears and pastry.

Eventually, I pared the offerings down to two recipes, which I found on a Web site that promoted Spanish desserts. The Spanish, apparently, are more accepting of naked, or almost naked, pears.

The first recipe called for cooking pears in a frying pan with some sweet dessert wine. I had some wonderful dessert wine, Bonny Doon Muscat, and I had a frying pan. I did not have sunflower oil, which is what the recipe said I should cook the pears in. I did have some sweet cream butter that, in a bow to my butter-infused past, I substituted for the sunflower oil.

I used two types of pears, Bosc and Comice, which I had peeled and cored. The Comice was sweeter, but turned mushy when cooked. Bosc, with its dense flesh, proved to be the better cooking companion.

The first recipe was so easy -- just brown the peeled pears in butter, then steam them, with lid on the pan, in dessert wine, that I was worried it would be bland.

Not so, said my wife, who served as one of my dessert tasters, livening up the usual dessert-free Monday night household routine. A distinct, pleasing pear flavor came out in this treatment, she said.

She was less fond of the second recipe -- cooking the peeled pears in a mixture of red wine, sugar and cinnamon -- then reducing the liquid and using it as a sauce for the cooked pears. The red-wine approach was not as successful as the dessert-wine approach. It lacked verve. But the longer the sauce cooked down, the better the dish tasted.

I also fed the desserts to our 24-year-old son, who sampled them, during a brief visit, before driving back to his digs in Chambersburg, Pa.

He said that both pear desserts were palatable, yet lacked something.

"I like my pears with pastry," he said.

I agreed with him, or did once, back when I was younger and thinner.

Pears in Dessert Wine

Serves 4

4 pears (Bosc, if available)

1 tablespoon butter

3 tablespoons dessert wine (Bonny Doon Muscat)

Peel the pears, cut in half lengthwise and remove the cores.

Heat the butter in a nonstick frying pan over medium heat and place the pears in the pan, turning them over until all sides are brown.

Sprinkle the dessert wine over the pears, cover the frying pan and cook until the pears soften, about 5 minutes.

Remove the pears and place on a plate.

Pour the remaining pan juice over the pears.

Per serving: 107 calories; 1 gram protein; 3 grams fat; 2 grams saturated fat; 21 grams carbohydrate; 4 grams fiber; 8 milligrams cholesterol; 22 milligrams sodium

Pears in Red Wine

Serves 6

6 pears (Bosc, if available)

1/3 cup sugar

2 cups red wine

1 1/4 cups water

1 cinnamon stick

Peel and core pears.

Put sugar, wine, water and cinnamon stick in a pan and cook over medium heat. When mixture starts to boil, add the pears and simmer until the pears become soft (about 5 to 10 minutes).

Remove softened pears from the liquid and place on serving dishes.

Let the liquid cook down, over medium heat, stirring frequently. The longer it cooks down, the sweeter the sauce. (You can remove cinnamon stick if you aren't wild about cinnamon.)

Pour over the pears. Can be served warm or cooled in fridge.

Per serving: 126 calories; 0 grams protein; 0 grams fat; 0 grams saturated fat; 32 grams carbohydrate; 4 grams fiber; 0 milligrams cholesterol; 1 milligram sodium

Adapted from Spanish Dessert Recipes on

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