Fresh Pear Compote…

Last year my neighbor’s apple trees produced in abundance. This year it was the pear trees and so I eventually got a bushel of pears. Off I went in search of pear recipes I might adapt to my needs and tastes.

I’ve always been a big fan of warm fruit. There’s nothing better than a piece of hot apple or cherry pie with a big dollop of vanilla ice cream. This time, I was not in the mood to make a pie. I found a great recipe for making an upside down pear cake that I adapted and will post later. But what I really wanted to make was a pear compote.

Garden Pears

A compote is basically fruit cooked in water and spices. This particular compote is cooked in butter and lemon juice along with sugar and vanilla. Now doesn’t that sound good. So let’s talk fresh pear compote…

Lesson Learned 1 – All the tedious work is in the prep: To make this compote you need to peel and slice the pears. The pears I got from my neighbor were, on average, smaller than the ones you buy in the grocery store. So I had to spend more time peeling and slicing. Keep in mind that pears, like apples, will turn brown (oxidize) when peeled and exposed to air. To slow down that process until you’ve got everything prepped, just sprinkle a little lemon juice on the pears. That will prevent oxidation until you’re ready to cook them. Every time you slice another pear and drop it in the bowl use your hands to toss it in with the others so that some lemon juice gets on it. There’s no need to add additional lemon juice every time you add another sliced pear to the bowl, unless you’re doubling or tripling the recipe. You really need only a small amount of lemon juice, a tablespoon or so.

Also make sure you slice the pears thinly. They will cook more evenly and will mash thoroughly if you slice them thinly before you cook them.

Lesson Learned 2 – Don’t be afraid to add the ingredients to taste: My recipe requires very little sugar due to the sweetness of the fresh fruit  Most compote recipes I read called for less than one teaspoon of cinnamon. The beauty of this recipe is it’s very adaptable. Once you mix the ingredients, taste the pears before you cook them. If you feel you need to add more sugar or cinnamon, add it. I also love the taste of vanilla extract in the recipe but I found that a little vanilla goes a long way. But those are my tastes. Make this recipe work for you. Just remember to err on the safe side as you can always add more but you can’t take it away once you’ve added it.

Lesson Learned 3 – This compote can be served hot or cold: Although traditionally compote is designed to be served hot, this compote tastes divine hot or cold. I would make a bowl of hot oatmeal and put some chilled compote on top and it was an insanely delicious combination. You can serve this warm with a cheese platter, or put it on crusty bread. Anyway you choose to serve it, this recipe is a winner.

It’s amazing to me how simple this recipe is. After I made pear compote I used the same recipe to make apple compote and it was fabulous. I certainly hope that you try this one.

[recipe: title=”Fresh Pear Compote…” time=”45-50 Minutes” servings=”6-8″ difficulty=”Easy”]

INGREDIENTS:

6 large pears

1 medium sized lemon, juiced and zested (plus an additional tablespoon of juice to put on pears while slicing them)

2 tsp. sugar

1 tsp vanilla

1 tsp cinnamon (start with 1/2 and add more to taste)

1 Tbs. unsalted butter

1 tsp. cornstarch

DIRECTIONS:

Peel the pears and slice them thinly. (coat them with a little lemon juice to prevent oxidation before you’ve completed pealing all the pears). Once pealed, combine pears with all of the ingredients except the butter and cornstarch.

Melt the butter in a deep sauce pan. Add the pear mixture and cook for at least five minutes on medium high heat, or until the pears are tender and can be mashed.

Remove the pears from the heat. Mash them inside the same pot. After mashing them stir in the cornstarch. NOTE: Add the cornstarch a little at a time to avoid clumping.

Put the pears back on the stove and simmer covered for an additional 20 minutes. Serve warm or chilled.

[/recipe]

Pears

Fresh Pear Compote

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My Favorite Color Is October…

Ever since I can remember Fall has been my favorite time of year. It starts in late Summer with the crisp inviting smell of loose leaf paper and the promise of another school year punctuated with shiny new school supplies. Then NFL football makes its presence known and we ask ourselves how did we ever manage so long on Sundays without it? Slowly but surely darkness creeps closer to dinner time instead of bedtime. That extra blanket sure feels good wrapped around you at night, doesn’t it?  And those smells of dinner slow roasting in the oven versus being cooked on the grill. They all create an aura of Fall and home sweet home. These traditions, memories and experiences help to make Fall that very special time of year. But perhaps the best aspect of Fall is experiencing nature’s way of ushering in Winter with palates of color that warm the heart and soothe the soul.

There have already been so many lessons learned during my recuperation from spinal surgery, some by necessity and some merely by chance. Part of my ongoing physical therapy is to take daily walks and increase the distance I walk as my body allows. I am forced to be outside and walk my neighborhood every single day. At first it was a matter of can I do this, how am I feeling, can I go any further, and watch my step. But I can tell you that gets really old after a while. Next you start thinking about how to relieve the boredom of walking in an area that’s all too familiar, the same streets, houses, cul de sacs, and park. I know I have to do this, but I sure wish the scenery was more spectacular. Then yesterday I realized I could not see the forest for the trees. Stop and smell the roses, Jan. Take a good long hard look at what is right there in front of you.

Red leaves

And so I did. It almost had to slap me in the face before I noticed it. But once it did, my eyes opened as if for the first time. It came upon me so fast it almost took my breath away. What was I thinking? Here I was longing for spectacular scenery when I was already in the midst of an unfolding story of colors, lights, sounds and smells. I was just too busy to notice. But I’m seeing it now. Time to explore.

yellow leaves

palate

I’ve always loved the ways leaves turn into an array of colors at this time of year, but never really thought about how they compliment the color of the sky or create a palate of complimentary hues that offset each other in perfect symmetry. The greens, yellow, browns, reds, pinks, purples all bathed in a backdrop of a clear blue sky is sheer and utter magnificence! The artistry of nature is at its best in the Fall and right there for all to enjoy if you take the time to notice it.

Looking around you can also see the last vestiges of Summer, annuals that look slightly worse for wear but still proudly standing like old soldiers not wanting to let go of the glory of bygone days.

Summer Flowers

Summer Flowers

And lets not forget the first big holiday of the season is around the corner and that, in itself, brings an array of creativity to lawns and porches. Traditional decorations, spooky creatures and deflated balloons awaiting darkness and air compressors to come alive all dot the streets in a festive display of Halloween magic.

tombstone

Wolfman

Wolfman

There is a wealth of spiders, cobwebs, ghosts and goblins scattered in trees, lawns and on porches all in the spirit of the season. They bask in the sunshine during the day suspended in time and space but come alive at night to roam the neighborhood in search of the faint of heart. I could feel there eyes follow me as I walked among them but they would not break their code of silence. Only in darkness do they flourish. They seemed to be challenging me to come back, at their time and on their terms. But for now they lie in wait for the sun to go down hoping I will have the courage to return and meet them once again under the veil of darkness.

A neighborhood ghost

A neighborhood ghost

And as I took all of it in I realized once again how little time I spend stopping to smell the roses. Today I saw my neighborhood in a whole new light, bathed in autumn beauty and the anticipation of Halloween. I smiled at every decoration, every tree, every pile of leaves waiting to be enveloped with children sitting in their midst and throwing them wildly into the air. I reveled in the fallen leaves crunching under my feet and took in the smells, sights, sounds and colors of October. I almost missed it. It’s so amazing. And yes, there is no doubt in my mind now, my favorite color is October.

Autumn leaves with the backdrop of a clear blue sky.

Autumn leaves with the backdrop of a clear blue sky.