- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 15, 2005

I’ll admit to being a bit perverse in my pear preferences. I usually opt for slightly under-ripe fruit that crunches when I bite into it. I generally choose Bosc pears, which have a crisp texture that I find appealing. However, I make an exception when selecting pears to cook. Then, I’m looking for fully ripened fruit.

Selecting a ripe Bosc pear is a little tricky because the thin brown skin doesn’t give a clue to ripeness, unlike the Bartlett and Comice, which turn from green to yellow. Because the fruit ripens from the inside out, a pear that’s tender to the touch could be declining in quality.

Rather than look for color or overall give, I’ve learned to gently squeeze the neck, as pear growers recommend. If the area near the stem gives to soft pressure, the pear is ready to use in a recipe.

A quick and elegant preparation I enjoy calls for sauteing pear slices in butter and sugar. The pears quickly turn golden brown and give off their sweet juices. Just do this and you have a fine topping for pound cake or vanilla ice cream. If you take another step, you have a dessert that’s sufficiently delicious by itself.

Add a shot of pear eau de vie, a spirit distilled from fermented pear juice, or use rum instead and let the alcohol cook off. For a light and delicate pear dessert, use the granulated sugar and pear eau de vie. For a darker, richer flavor, opt for the brown sugar and rum. The choice is yours.

Sauteed pears two ways

2 tablespoons butter, divided

4 1/8-inch-thick slices ginger root

2 small Bosc pears

1 tablespoon granulated sugar or 1 tablespoon brown sugar

1 tablespoon pear eau de vie or 1 tablespoon dark rum

Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a medium, heavy-bottomed skillet. Add ginger root and saute 1 to 2 minutes or until aromatic. Cut pears into quarters lengthwise and core. Cut crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Add remaining butter to skillet. Add pear slices and saute 1 minute. Sprinkle with sugar of choice and toss pears to coat.

Reduce heat to low and cook pears 5 minutes or until golden. Add alcohol of choice. Turn heat up and cook 30 seconds, stirring pears constantly. Remove ginger root slices before serving. Makes 2 servings.

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