- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The fruits you loved earlier this year - the crisp apples and sweet juicy pears - might be losing their charms by now. The snap and crunch are gone. The spicy, perfumed flavor diminishes with winter storage.

However, you don’t have to go fruitless until spring berries come to market. Instead, bake fruit to give it an exciting taste dimension. Baking concentrates the fruits’ sugars so the flavors are intensified. Baking also turns flabby fruit to a buttery soft consistency, which is very satisfying.

No need for a special shopping trip. That stray apple or pear in the refrigerator will yield a modest serving for two, or a generous portion for one, depending on how you feature it.

Accompany roast pork tenderloin with baked pear halves; pork chops or chicken thighs with baked apples. Add half a baked apple to a stack of pancakes or breakfast oatmeal.

Baked fruit also makes a comforting dessert. Flavor the fruit with sugar and spices and serve plain or top with custard sauce.



Baked pears with ginger-custard sauce

Makes 2 servings.

1 large ripe Bartlett or Anjou pear, halved lengthwise, cored and peeled

1 tablespoon butter

1 tablespoon sugar

1/8 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 cup pear juice

Ginger-custard sauce (recipe follows), optional

Place pear halves in small baking dish. Place half the butter in each pear cavity. Combine sugar and cinnamon. Sprinkle over butter in each pear cavity. Pour pear juice into dish. Bake pears in preheated 350-degree oven for 30 to 40 minutes or until tender, basting once or twice with pear juice.

While pear is baking, prepare ginger-custard sauce. To serve, place each pear half in a bowl. Drizzle on juices from baking dish. Spoon on ginger-custard sauce.

Note: You can make the above recipe substituting a large baking apple, such as a Rome Beauty.

Each serving (without sauce) has: 155 calories; 6 grams total fat; .5 grams protein; 27 grams carbohydrates; 155 milligrams cholesterol; 2 milligrams sodium and 3 grams dietary fiber.

GINGER-CUSTARD SAUCE:

1/4 cup half-and-half

1/2 cup milk

3 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon sugar

1/8 teaspoon ground ginger

2 eggs

Combine half-and-half, milk, sugar and ginger in a small pot. Bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally to dissolve sugar. Beat eggs together in a small heatproof bowl. Slowly pour about 1/4 cup milk mixture into eggs, stirring constantly. Pour egg mixture back into pot.

Cook over low-medium heat, stirring constantly, until sauce thickens to the consistency of cake batter. Pour sauce through a strainer into a serving bowl. Serve warm or refrigerate and serve cold.

Each serving of sauce (half the recipe) has 234 calories; 10.5 grams total fat; 9 grams protein; 24 grams carbohydrates; 234 milligrams cholesterol and 105 milligrams sodium.

c Bev Bennett is the author of “30-Minute Meals for Dummies” (John Wiley & Sons).

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