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February 21, 2014

Poached Pears with Edible Flowers

Poached Pears with Lavender and Saffron
Lest anyone think that the only cooking going on in my kitchen of late has to do with the butchering of small animals--which by the way, Mr. B would be thrilled with--I  decided to share a beautiful, feminine, and artistic dessert recipe. Not only does this one cook up in a hurry, but it's guaranteed to perfume your home with the aroma of exotic spices and, it makes for a beautiful presentation.

In general, I've never been one for cooked fruits, unless otherwise employed in a heavenly chutney or savory jam. Honestly, the thought of putting my spoon to a soft and smooshy apple or pear, has at best, left me more than a little underwhelmed. Then, by chance, I hit upon a marvelous deal on a rather large bag of very petite D' Anjou pears and I couldn't resist.

I'm not sure what secrets the grocer uses to prevent pears from ripening all at once, but they weren't at my disposal and in what seemed a matter of hours, my pears were ripe and ready to eat. While devouring pounds of pears might seem a worthy activity and an admirable way of passing an afternoon, it wasn't something I was interested in undertaking, so instead, I decided to put aside my dislike of cooked fruit and give poaching a try.

Just about anything can be poached, from the usual egg or chicken breast right on through the vegetable bin and the fruit bowl. Poaching liquids can be as simple as water flavored with a few clippings of herbs, or as complicated as a proportionately measured mix of liqueurs and brandies. I decided it would be best to fall in the middle and chose a simple mix of water, honey, spices, and for good measure a few star anise and lavender heads. Then, having passed through my garden in pursuit of herbs and not being able to resist the spectacular and vibrant geranium flowers, I plucked a few of them for good measure.

Of course, one must exercise caution when adding blooms and petals to a dish. At the very least, some are bitter and could entirely ruin hours of cooking, but more importantly, many are poisonous and their inclusion could have a drastic result. Edible flowers require researching and then, I advise, never eating any that you've purchased commercially unless you are entirely certain they haven't been treated with any pesticides or chemicals. However, if you practice organic gardening techniques, then I say wander amid your plants and taste as you go, then feel free to add--although sparingly--the blooms to any dish you wish to brighten.



Honey Poached Pears with Lavender and Saffron
8 small pears, preferably D' Anjou, peeled; stems intact
5 cups of water
6 tablespoons of honey
1 small, 2 inch piece of cinnamon stick
4 star anise
2 lavender heads
Pinch of saffron
Crushed, toasted almonds
Geranium petals and saffron threads

1.       Place the water, honey, cinnamon stick, lavender and saffron threads into a sauce pot large enough to hold the pears; bring to a boil.
2.       Gently add the pears and lower the heat; baste the pears with the liquid, until they’re cooked through.
3.       Remove from the heat and allow them to cool.
4.       To serve, place a pear on a plate, drizzle with the syrup; garnish with rose petals and saffron threads, then a dusting of crushed, toasted almonds.


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