What a fortunate Saturday morning. An ad on the front page of the digital edition of our local newspaper caught my attention. A cooking seminar that very afternoon with vegan chef/author Alan Roettinger. After a quick web search on him, I eagerly signed up. What a great surprise to walk into our library’s large community room and see that it would be much more than a seminar. A full-on vegan cooking class featuring fresh produce and quinoa, and taught by a most personable and talented chef. Alan began the class making these deep burgundy Poached Pears in Pomegranate Juice. Such a sophisticated and delicious pairing of flavors and textures. Naturally sweet pears with a tart and silky pomegranate glaze.
Cardamom, bay and pomegranate juice
Only three ingredients in the poaching liquid. The main ingredient, unsweetened pomegranate juice, strikes the perfect balance between sweet and tart. The rich and subtle flavors of bay and cardamom give added depth to the juice. Once the pears are poached, the poaching liquid is reduced into a bright and exotic tasting pomegranate glaze. With the optional chopped green pistachios, the bold-flavored pears take on a playful look and colorful crunch.
Alan explained that fresh cardamom seeds are black.
Lighter colored seeds are old, less fragrant and better discarded.
Apples & pears in our February organic Fruit-of-the-Month Club box
A week after the class these luscious Red D’Anjou pears arrived in February’s fruit-of the-month club box alongside crisp and tart Granny Smith apples. The apples were eaten out of hand. The pears, though, were destined to become poached pears. As D’Anjou pears, both red and green varieties, maintain their shape when cooked, they are a perfect pear for poaching.
The thumb test
All pears actually ripen from the inside out. As most varieties of pears retain their color as they ripen, it’s difficult to know whether or not they’re ripe. That’s why the “thumb test” remains the best indicator that pears are juicy and ready to eat. Apply gentle pressure with your thumb near the stem. When the pear yields slightly—even though the rest of the pear remains hard—you’ve got a ripe pear. Eat or cook them immediately or store them for 3-5 days in the refrigerator.
Pears don’t ripen well on trees. Although harvested when mature,
pears ripen after they’re harvested at room temperature.
Inspired by and adapted from Chef Alan Roettinger’s Extraordinary Vegan.
For the best color and flavor, store the poached pears in the pomegranate juice overnight. Begin reducing the poaching liquid about an hour before serving the pears. Roll the pears in the optional chopped pistachios just before serving.
Serves: 1 pear per person
Active time: 1 hour
Total Time: 1½ hours plus a night in the refrigerator
4-6 ripe D’Anjou, Bosc or Winter Nelis pears
4 cups unsweetened pomegranate juice
Seeds from 7 green cardamom pods, lightly crushed
1 bay leaf
1 cup coarsely chopped raw or roasted pistachios, hazelnuts or almonds
- Core the pears from their bottom end, leaving the pears whole and their stems in place. A tomato shark, melon baller or apple corer all work well.
- If necessary, trim the bottoms slightly so the pears sit upright.
- Place the pears in a medium saucepan. Add the pomegranate juice, lightly crushed cardamom seeds and bay leaf.
- Here’s my two-part solution for keeping the floating pears submerged in the pomegranate juice. Cut a round of parchment paper to fit inside the pot. Place it on top of the floating pears.
- Gently arrange three or more large wooden spoons on top of the pears.
- Bring the juice to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium and gently poach the pears until tender, about 15-20 minutes.
- To test the pears, insert a small knife inside each of them. When the pears are tender, the knife will easily slide in.
- Remove the pan from the heat. Transfer the pears and the poaching liquid to a storage container and refrigerate overnight.
- About an hour before serving, remove the pears from the poaching liquid to a strainer. In order to avoid the pears taking on a mesh pattern from the strainer, transfer them as soon as they’re drained onto a plate (sitting upright). Gently remove any cardamom seeds clinging to the pears.
- Strain the liquid back into the pot. Cook it over high heat at a rapid boil until the juice is reduced to about ¾ cup. It should be a fairly thick and syrupy glaze. Let the glaze cool for at least 10 minutes. It will thicken as it cools.
- Drizzle the thickened glaze over the pears.
- Optional: roll some or all of the pears in the coarsely chopped pistachios or other nuts.
- Set the pears upright on a platter or on individual plates. Drizzle additional glaze around them and serve immediately.