Thursday, November 18, 2010

Spice-poached Pears over Toast for an Afternoon Tea Party

I’ve been procrastinating on holiday preparations, so last week while off work for Veteran’s Day, I had every intention of catching up on my to-do list. As is usually the case, I accomplished a little less than half of what I had planned. I have a tendency to start a project and then some thing/thought diverts my attention and I head off down a rabbit trail.

But some of my favorite days happen when I go off plan. While I do like the feeling of accomplishment that comes with a completed to-do list, there’s nothing quite like the contentment of just enjoying a moment.
I started the day by pulling boxed china and sterling flatware out of the closet. I nearly got brained by a pair of candle sticks that fell on my head when pulling a box off of a high shelf. (I had forgotten I’d stashed those up there.) Ouch! So that took the wind out of my sails a bit.

While ruminating on the lack of cabinet space in our kitchen and my irritation with having to store dishes in a closet, I wandered over to the refrigerator to make a snack to console myself. As I peered into the fridge I remembered that I’d better clean it out to make room for all the holiday fixins that would soon crowd it. I started shuffling through the bins and came upon a few left over pears that I had picked up a while back for a tart. They were well past their prime but I hated to just toss them… and then I remembered a recipe for spice-poached pears I had read recently. So I set to work on prepping the recipe.
Once the pears were in a pan to poach, I turned back to unpacking china. I love my china- my Mom gave me her set when Eric and I got married. The pattern so perfectly matches my taste I couldn’t have chosen it better myself. It’s lovely and simple – the dishes are bone white with fluted rims bound by a platinum band. Every time I pull my china out, I think about tossing aside my practical, durable, restaurant grade dinnerware. But then I remember that china isn’t dishwasher or microwave safe and I put the idea to rest. (I may love those dishes dearly but I have my limits.)

By the time the pears were poached and cool enough to eat, I had given up all pretense of finishing my task list and decided to have my own little personal tea party. I toasted a piece of bread to go with the pears, brewed a cup of tea, and sat down with a good book to while away the afternoon.

So the table linens didn’t get ironed (I may just skip a tablecloth- mats don’t require ironing), the fridge is still a wreck, and this little guy didn’t get a bath (nor did his sister or brother).
But I did finish three whole chapters and I consider that a pretty productive day.

Spice-poached Pears
adapted from Dorie Greenspan’s Around My French Table

I subbed a cardamom pod for the star anise the recipe originally called for. I couldn’t locate star anise (I know I have some… somewhere) and cardamom is my go-to spice whenever I need something to add some depth to a dessert. It worked perfectly.
zest (removed in wide strips) and juice of 1/2 orange
zest (removed in wide strips) and juice of 1/2 lemon
3 cups water
1/2 c honey
1/3 c sugar
1 cardamom pod
3-inch cinnamon stick
1 T vanilla
3 ripe, firm pears, peeled, cored, and halved

1. Put all ingredients, except pear halves, into a large saucepan. Heat on medium-high until just boiling and then reduce the heat and allow to simmer for 5 minutes.
2. Add in the pears and bring back to a simmer. Cover the pan and cook the pears for 10 to 15 minutes or until tender enough to pierce easily.
3. Transfer the pears to another bowl using a slotted spoon and bring the reserved liquid back up to a boil. Continue to boil until reduced to approximately 1 1/4 cup. Pour over the pears and allow to cool to room temperature before serving.


  1. This sounds familiar. I set out to do a list of things and end up heading off in five different directions that have nothing to do with the list. Your tea-time snack sounds perfect for a day like that.

  2. @Lisa- I think we all have a bit of Adult ADD!