- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 13, 2005

As much as apples are the iconic fall fruit in everything from apple pie to the teacher’s present, I lust for pears.

The tender, juicy fruit has a prized flavor like no other. Pears are available in a variety of textures and tastes, so I can eat a different pear variety each day of the week and have a new and delicious experience.

Although I don’t often see pears as an ingredient in cooked dishes, pears are wonderful in muffins, biscuits and pancakes. The winelike taste enhances simple recipes.

If you search your supermarket, you’ll probably see the canary yellow Bartlett pear, which is aromatic, very sweet and very juicy when ripe. The Bartlett is one of the first pears of the season.

Two other pears you’ll find this month are the Bosc and Comice. Bosc is a long-necked, russet-colored pear with a dense flesh that makes it suitable for baking. If you like baked apples, wait until you taste the pear version.

Comice, a rounder yellow pear with a red blush, is prized for its sweetness. I have cooked with it, which may be heresy because most fans recommend pairing the fruit with cheese as a dessert course.

Unlike other fruits, pears ripen best off the tree. You may find ripe pears in your supermarket. You can tell by gently pressing the stem end of the pear. More likely, store pears will require a few days at room temperature at home before they’re in optimal serving condition.

To ripen a pear, place the fruit in a paper bag, covered fruit bowl or a ripening container (sold in supermarkets and kitchen equipment stores).

Keep the fruit at room temperature for a few days, checking once a day. When you apply gentle pressure to the pear and it gives, you’re ready for a juicy treat. If you don’t want to eat or cook with pears immediately, store the fruit in the refrigerator for up to five days.

To entice you to try pears in cooked foods, I’m recommending the following recipe for pear pancakes with pear sauce. Good things come in pears.

Pear and pecan pancakes with pear and ginger sauce

½ cup milk

1½ tablespoons butter, melted

1 egg, beaten

½ cup all-purpose flour

1½ teaspoons baking powder

1 tablespoon sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 small, very ripe Bartlett or Comice pear, peeled, cored, seeded and minced

1/4 cup chopped pecans

Vegetable oil for griddle or skillet

Pear and ginger sauce (recipe follows)

Stir together milk, melted butter and egg in a small bowl. Stir together flour, baking powder, sugar and salt in a larger bowl. Pour in milk mixture. Mix just to combine ingredients. Don’t beat. Stir in pear and pecans.

Coat a griddle or large heavy-bottomed skillet with oil. Heat over medium heat for 30 seconds. Add batter by 1/4 cup measure.

Cook pancakes until bubbles form on surface and edges are browned.

Flip over and cook second side until golden brown. Serve pancakes with pear and ginger sauce.

Makes 2 servings.

PEAR AND GINGER SAUCE

1 teaspoon cornstarch

1 large ripe pear, peeled, cored, seeded and diced fine

2 tablespoons finely chopped crystallized ginger

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1 tablespoon sugar

1/8 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon lemon juice

Stir cornstarch with 2 tablespoons water in a cup. Pour into a small, heavy-bottomed saucepan. Stir in pear, crystallized ginger, cinnamon, sugar and salt.

Cover and simmer for 5 minutes or until pear is tender and pulpy. Remove from heat and stir in lemon juice.

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