I wish I had something cooler to say about why I haven’t written a blog post in so long, but the truth is life has been nonstop with different good, challenging, and exciting things…and even some travel. (We spent an awesome week in Georgia, the country, and if anyone wants tips we definitely have them!) I’m happy to be back at the computer putting together blog posts and dreaming up new recipes.
I’ve been in the kitchen a ton over the last few weeks cooking for clients, guests, and even for us. Yesterday, I bought myself a Hanukkah present of a whole rack of lamb and had a lovely afternoon breaking it down and preparing it for dinner.
If you’re also in the holiday spirit (whatever holiday that might be) then you’ve probably begun the crazy eating. It’s a six-week meal that starts at Thanksgiving and goes until New Years…at least. If you are anything like me then you’ll be eating until the weather is warmer and it’s time to come out of hibernation.
In honor of my first post in awhile, and in honor of the season of stretchy pants, I wanted to share one of my favorite desserts in the whole wide world. I don’t know if we’ve had this conversation before, but I’ll always opt for the cheese plate or the savory desserts before I choose something with chocolate or icing. Not to say I don’t like the idea of dessert but my sweet tooth doesn’t kick in after a meal.
This dish has a sweetness which most people want in dessert but also so many savory elements. It’s an amazing blend of flavors and perfectly balanced. Keep in mind, I hate hyperbole.
What’s also really neat about this dessert is that it looks and tastes so much more complicated than it actually is. I didn’t know until recently how gosh darn easy it is to poach a pear. Poaching always came across like a technique reserved for master chefs and people with incredible amounts of patience and savvy. It’s truly really so easy to nail it.
I love hibiscus in this recipe not only for its color but also for its tartness. It plays so well with the natural sweetness in the pears. The addition of honey to the poaching liquid as well as over the final dish ties it all together with the warm spices, nuts, and creamy labne (strained yogurt).
It’s also such a nice dessert to have during this season because A. it’s festive and B. it’s a nice break from all the heavy meal-enders we tend to get this time of year.
Look below for the recipe to this knock-your-socks-off dessert. Which is good timing because I bet someone in your circle is getting you a new pair of socks this year anyway.
- 4 Bosc Pears, ripe but firm
- 1 cup dried hibiscus flowers*
- 3 star anise
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 4-6 cardamom pods, lightly crushed
- 1 tsp orange peel granules
- ¼ cup or ½ cup honey, plus extra for serving
- 4 cups water
- ½ cup sugar (optional)
- 2 Tbsp labne* (per serving: 1-2 pear halves)
- Pistachios, toasted and rough chopped
- Place all the spices*, hibiscus flowers, and honey (use ¼ cup here if you plan to make a syrup, see below- or ½ cup honey if you aren't making the syrup) into a pot with the water. Boil, then lower to a simmer while you prepare the pears.
- Peel the pears and either core and leave whole with the stem intact or slice and scoop out the center with a melon baller or measuring spoon. Some people take out the soft stem that runs through the whole pear but I found that if the pear is cooked enough it isn't a problem. You might cut it out for aesthetic reasons more than anything else. After making these many times, I vote for halving them in advance for 2 reasons: 1.It cuts down on the poach time and 2. It is really difficult to take out the core (and make it look pretty) after you cook them if you decide that you want them in halves. The color will not seep all the way through the pear so you'll still have a nice contrast either way.
- Place the pears in the simmering poaching liquid. Cooking time will depend on the ripeness of your pears. I turn them over in the liquid every 4 minutes and begin checking to see if they're done 12 minutes in. I check with a toothpick; if the toothpick slides in fairly easily I know it's done. If there's resistance I turn them and let them cook another 4 minutes before checking again. When you serve them, you want a spoon to cut into it easily.
- Remove the pears to a shallow dish to cool.
- Strain the poaching liquid and pour a ½ cup of the strained liquid over the pears.
- Optional: If you used ¼ cup honey in the poaching: Take two cups of the liquid*, ½ cup of sugar and reduce together on the stove to make a syrup. It won't get too thick but thicker with the perfect sweetness to tart ratio. Reduce about 15 min over medium-high heat.
- Serve the pears at room temperature. To assemble the dessert: spread the labne on the plate and place a pear half (or 2!) on top. Drizzle the hibiscus syrup if you made it, sprinkle some pistachios, and finish with honey over the whole dish.
*Feel free to edit and play with the spices to match what's sitting on your spice rack!
*Labne is a thick, strained yogurt that you'll find at Mediterranean and/or Middle Eastern markets. If you can't find it, you can substitute Greek yogurt for Labne.
*The leftover poaching liquid and syrup (if you have any left) are great in different cocktails and drinks. Mix it with gin and something bubble for a holiday cocktail or with mint and lemonade for a delicious drink.