This time of year, in between holiday feasting and party noshing, I occasionally get the urge for light, simple food. A soft-boiled egg at breakfast, a baked potato topped a sprinkle of Gorgonzola and chives for dinner.
But, with my ever-present sweet tooth and frequent desire to munch, holiday cookies call to me. And since I bought two adorable snowmen cookie tins, I feel the need to keep them full, and therefore have found myself baking constantly. And Jeff is of no help! No matter how beautifully a batch turns out, my resident critic tells me that the cookies could be lighter, or chewier, or softer, or sweeter, or more fragrant, or more chocolaty. So, of course, I bake more! And then I eat more.
But earlier this week, I decided that I had to halt the cookie cycle before it gets out of hand. I needed a replacement – something healthy, but so lovely and tempting that it would trump my cookie hankering. I remembered my grandmother (who also had quite a sweet tooth but later-in-life became very diet conscious) poaching fruit to satisfy her dessert cravings. She would poach just about anything, top it with a bit of vanilla yogurt, a sprinkle of cinnamon sugar, and call it a sundae.
So I peeled a few pears, dropped them into some simmering simple syrup with a cinnamon stick and some orange zest, and 30 minutes later, my cookie crisis was solved! These pears are so luscious, comforting, and sweet that I am content to leave those snickerdoodles packed away tightly in their tin. And my grandmother was on to something – they are actually quite wonderful topped with a dollop of thick Greek yogurt, a drizzle of honey, and a sprinkle of cinnamon. You could, of course, use any flavorings you like in your poaching liquid – vanilla beans are always welcome, as is star anise or cardamom. But I happened to have cinnamon and orange, so that is what I used.
The best part is that these pears keep in the refrigerator for days, so any time I have a sweet craving I can dish out a pear and dig in – no guilt necessary. And if you find that you have too many leftover, these pears are wonderful chopped up in a baby spinach salad with some toasted almonds and balsamic vinaigrette.
Cinnamon Orange Poached Pears
6 cups water
2 cups sugar
1 cinnamon stick
the zest of 1 orange
Peel the pears and gently slice in half and remove the cores with a melon-baller. Bring the water, sugar, cinnamon and orange zest to a simmer in a large pot, stirring occasionally. Slide the pears into the liquid and cook, simmering, for about 30 minutes, until very tender. Remove the pears with a slotted spoon and serve hot or chilled with a drizzle of poaching liquid, if you like.