Marsala-baked Pears

So many things have to be done right before you can get a perfect pear from farm to market to kitchen to table. First of all, the pear must be picked when it is mature, but not fully ripe. Unlike other fruits, pears (the European varieties) are better ripened off the tree so they’re usually sold unripe. Every step of the way, pears need to be packaged and handled gently to avoid bruising. Bartlett, Anjou, or Bosc pears we find at the market all need time to cure and ripen after purchase. At home, I put pears in the pantry to be ripened at room temperature in a loosely closed paper bag. It takes at least a week.

How do you determine the point of perfect ripeness? The Bosc pears I used for baking here don’t change color at all as they ripen. The signal is a slight give to a gentle pressure at the neck. A ripe pear will often smell sweet at the blossom end when you sniff it.

From late summer through the winter months, I like to have a bag of pears around to be eaten fresh, or for salad and cooking. Their juiciness and sweetness makes good partner with bitter greens, winter squash or grilled meats, such as pork or duck. Slices of ripe pear pair well with prosciutto, blue cheese, as well as walnuts and hazelnuts. They make an appetizing dish anytime of the day. I come to love and appreciate the versatility and deliciousness of pears as I find more ways to use them.

Marsala wine is another pantry item I always have around. Made in Sicily, in the city of Marsala. It’s a naturally sweet, fortified wine with woody, subtle molasses-like flavors, which come from being aged in oak casks. Marsala lends sweets a unique Italian flavor: in biscotti, tiramisu and zabalione. If you don’t have Marsala, Madeira makes a good substitute.

Marsala adds a bit of roasted, savory quality and richness to the baked pears which turn golden with wrinkles, and a glistening glow, on the skin. I prefer the look of baked pears with skin. Not a fan of the naked look. More to skin than what meets the eye. The skin tasted soft and added a textural contrast.

There are only four ingredients in this recipe. So simple and straightforward to make, yet worthy to be included in menus at top restaurants. You don’t even need to peel the skin. Time in the oven may take close to an hour, but mostly unattended. Fruits for dessert are such brilliant options for the health conscious crowd. You can serve the baked pears warm with mascarpone or a dollop of cream. Unabashedly, I wanted my second!





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