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Red Wine-Poached Pears

Pinot Noir, along with raspberries and vanilla, updates this classic fruit dessert. Bosc pears, with their spicy flavor and creamy texture, are the best variety to use. Pass thin wafers of bittersweet chocolate as an accompaniment.

Ingredients:

  • 4 Bosc pears, peeled, with stems intact 
  • 2 1/2 cups Pinot Noir or other light, fruity red wine 
  • 1/2 cup sugar 
  • 1 lemon zest strip, 2 inches long by 3/4 inch wide 
  • One 2-inch piece vanilla bean  
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1 cup fresh or thawed, unsweetened frozen raspberries  
  • Fresh raspberries for garnish (optional) 

Directions:

Place the pears in a nonreactive saucepan large enough to hold them lying down. Add the wine, sugar, lemon zest, vanilla bean and water. In a food processor or blender, puree the 1 cup raspberries until smooth. Pass the puree through a fine-mesh sieve held over the pan holding the pears, pressing with the back of a wooden spoon to push as much of the puree through the sieve as possible. Discard the contents of the sieve.

Place the pan over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low, set a heatproof plate or smaller pan lid on top of the pears to keep them submerged in the liquid and simmer gently until a thin knife inserted into the widest part of a pear pierces easily to the center, 35 to 40 minutes. Remove the plate covering the pears. Let the pears cool to room temperature in the liquid.

Using a slotted spoon, lift the pears from the liquid. Set each pear in a shallow individual bowl, or place all 4 pears on a deep platter. Bring the cooking liquid to a boil over high heat and boil until it is reduced by half, about 10 minutes. Pour the liquid over the pears and let the pears cool in the liquid.

Remove the zest and vanilla bean and discard. Serve the pears at room temperature, with fresh raspberries sprinkled around them. Serves 4.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma, Essentials of Healthful Cooking, by Mary Abbott Hess, Dana Jacobi & Marie Simmons (Oxmoor House, 2003).