Gingered pear soup
Makes 2 cups - 4 servings
I like the aromas and flavors of this light, simple dessert best when it is served warm; but, if you prefer, serve warm soup over room-temperature pears or chill both components. Buttery-rich Rosemary Shortbread is a lovely accompaniment to the elegant presentation.
For the pears
1 ½ cups water
¾ cup sweet white wine, such as Sauternes or sweet Riesling
1/3 cup sugar
Two ¼-inch orange slices
4 whole cloves
4 Bosc, Bartlett, or Forelle pears, cored and peeled
For the soup
Three ½-inch slices of fresh ginger
1 bay leaf
1 cinnamon stick
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
¼ teaspoon anise seed or
2 star anise pods
1 whole clove
2 cups pear nectar
Sprigs of fresh mint for garnish
To poach the pears, put the water, wine, sugar, orange slices, and cloves in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat; simmer for 5 minutes. Add the pears; simmer, turning occasionally, until they are tender, about 15 minutes (less if the pears are riper).
Meanwhile, wrap the ginger, bay leaf, cinnamon stick, peppercorns, anise seed, and clove in cheesecloth and tie with a string. Pour the pear nectar into a small saucepan; add the cheesecloth bag. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat; cover and simmer for 15 minutes. Taste and let the broth steep if you want a stronger spice flavor.
To serve, place a pear upright in the center of a dessert bowl. (Even the bottom of the pear, if necessary so it will stand up straight.) Ladle the soup into the bowl. Insert a mint sprig into the center of the pear.
Advance preparation This soup and the pears will keep for up to 1 day in separate covered containers in the refrigerator.
Paulette Mitchell, a culinary instructor, television personality, spokesperson, freelance food writer, and the award-winning author of 13 cookbooks, is known internationally for her quick-to-prepare recipes with gourmet flair. Paulette's most recently published cookbook is "The Complete 15-Minute Gourmet: Creative Cuisine Made Fast and Fresh." She is also the author of "A Beautiful Bowl of Soup" and "The Spirited Vegetarian," which was voted "Best Book in the World on Cooking with Wine" at the 2005 Gourmand World Media Awards. Paulette says that international travel is her favorite source of culinary inspiration.