Thursday, November 13, 2008

Veggie Might: Stewed Pears (Look Mom, I’m Evolving)

Penned by the effervescent Leigh, Veggie Might is a weekly Thursday column about the wide world of Vegetarianism.

(Part two in a series of relatively healthy holiday desserts to feed your most particular/needy/discerning guests/selves.)

As I’ve confessed, I have a complex relationship with fruit desserts. It’s kind of embarrassing, but I’m getting over it the more I talk about it. To keep things simple, I just say I only like pies and sorbet. Other cooked fruit combos: no thanks.

In the last month of the CSA, I was blessed with an abundance of tiny bosc pears* (and pumpkins—stay tuned). But what to do with them all? It seemed like a cop out to make another betty, but oh, how I love her so.

Then I remembered reading about something weird and wonderful-sounding on VeganYumYum: blueberry grunts. … That’s what I said! In essence, a grunt is a steamed cobbler, kind of like a dumpling. Sounded pretty good to me.

The recipe called for 4 cups of blueberries, and I easily had 4 cups of pears—turned out, exactly. And the pears made a great replacement. I more than halved the sugar from the original recipe thinking …well, I don’t know what I was thinking, but I’m glad I did it.

The resulting dessert came out iffy. The biscuit topping was light, fluffy, and bland at best. But the pears, to my great surprise, were delicious. I couldn’t get enough of them.

Usually, my favorite part of fruit pie/cobbler/betty is the cinnamony syrup and the crust/topping. Not this time. I found myself picking around the topping and just eating the filling. What? Me? Enjoying cooked fruit by itself?

The second attempt (this time with apples) was even worse. A) I was out of baking powder, so I substituted cream of tartar. No. 2) I tried adding sugar to the dough. No, no. iii) The apples didn’t stand up to all that boiling. No3.

It was all ways wrong. The dough came out sticky and gluey, and the apples were mush. Must. Remember. Baking is Science.

After a couple of weeks dreaming about those pears, I hit the jackpot again: all the pears I could carry from the CSA. I loaded up, scrapped the dough all together, and just stewed those suckers.

It was heaven in a ramekin, no topping necessary. Sure, you could dollop on some whipped cream (gross) or soy ice cream (okay, sure) if you like, but the pears really stand on their own. It’s like eating the best part of the pie right from a bowl. Well, not “like,” it is.

Sweet Brett Somers, if your vegan, gluten-free friends don’t want to make out with you for this, well, they never will. And in a pretty dish, it will look very sophisticated on your Thanksgiving table. For the pie-phobic, this dessert could win over just about anyone.

It’s so easy; I can’t believe I didn’t try it sooner. You win, Mom; I like cooked fruit. And I’m okay with that.

Stewed Pears
Makes 4 servings

4 cups diced pears
1/3 c sugar
Juice from half a lemon
1/2 cup water
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg

1) Juice half a lemon into a large mixing bowl. Remove the seeds.

2) Scrub, core, and chop pears. (I left the skins on; you can peel them if you like.) As you dice each pear, toss the pieces in the lemon juice to prevent browning. Keep adding to the bowl and mixing until all pears are chopped and coated.

3) In a large skillet (or saucepan), combine pears and lemon juice, sugar, water, and spices. Bring to a boil over medium high heat, stirring occasionally.

4) Cover and reduce heat to medium. Boil for 10–15 minutes.

5) Remove cover, stir, and simmer for 5 more minutes until sauce thickens a bit.

6) Serve hot or room temperature. Top as desired, or just serve plain. Oh. My. Go’. It’s so very good.

Approximate Calories, Fat, and Price per Serving
159 calories, 0g fat, $.76

4 cups diced pears: 372 calories, 0g fat, $2.68
1/3 c sugar: 258 calories, 0g fat, $.23
Juice from half a lemon: 6 calories, 0g fat, $.10
1/2 tsp cinnamon: negligible calories and fat, $.02
1/2 tsp nutmeg: negligible calories and fat, $.02
TOTALS: 636 calories, 0g fat, $3.05
PER SERVING: 159 calories, 0g fat, $.76


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