One of the things that I like about fall is the arrival of pears. There are over 3,000 varieties of pears grown around the world, but only a few are available in the United States. Pears are widely available in the fall and winter. When selecting pears, gently press your thumb at the neck to test for ripeness. The more the pear gives, the riper it is. Store pears at room temperature until they reach desired ripeness. They should be refrigerated to avoid over-ripening. For more information and fun pear facts, take a look at USA Pears.
For years, I only thought of pears as a snack to be eaten right out of hand. And there is nothing wrong with that. Recently, I have begun to think of pears as more than a snack. And why not? It's a fruit just like apples. Pears can be used in numerous ways, to make pear sauce - think applesauce. They can be made into pies and tarts. They are also wonderful roasted or simmered in honey. For more pear recipes, check out Saveur magazine website.
One of my favorite ways to cook pears is stovetop in honey and a bay leaf. I serve this with Greek yogurt, but ice cream would be a good accompaniment.
Pears with Honey, Bay and Greek Yogurt
⅓ cup sliced almonds or pistachios
3 firm Bosc pears
⅓ cup honey
3 bay leaves
2 Tablespoons amaretto, optional
1½ cups Greek yogurt
1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Place nuts on a rimmed baking sheet and toast in the oven until fragrant and lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Pour onto plate and cool. (This can be done a head of time.)
2. Halve the pears, lengthwise. Cut out the fibrous sections connecting the stems to the cores. Using a melon baller or paring knife, scoop out the cores.
3. In a large skillet over low heat, combine honey and bay leaves. Bring to a simmer. Continue to cook until honey bubbles. Remove from heat.
4. Carefully place pear halves, cut side down, in skillet. Cover and continue to cook for about 10 minutes. Using a long handled spoon, gently turn the pears over and baste with the honey mixture. Drizzle amaretto, if using, into the honey mixture. Continue to cook, uncovered, until pears are golden brown and a paring knife slips easily into the centers, about 6 to 8 minutes.
5. In a bowl, stir the yogurt until smooth. To serve, place each pear half in a bowl, dollop with the yogurt and sprinkle with nuts. Dizzle with the honey mixture and serve.