Honey and Lemon Verbena Poached Pears. Photo by Felicia Orth
Food On The Hil
My friend Kok Heong McNaughton grows an extraordinary variety of vegetables, fruits, herbs and flowers in her yard.
She recently gave me part of her harvest of lemon verbena leaves. I considered tea or other infusions before settling on a recipe for poached pears, adapted from a recipe by Daniel Orr to reduce sweetness. The recipe does not call for any alcohol in the poaching liquid, and is easily made ahead to be chilled before serving.
Served with berries or berry sorbet, these pears make a special and refreshing dessert at the end of a late summertime dinner party.
I cup honey
1 vanilla bean, cut in half lengthwise, or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 bunches fresh lemon verbena
6 peppercorns, lightly crushed (I use the handle of my chef’s knife)
1 whole lemon, ends removed, sliced thinly
6 fresh pears (Bosc or Anjou)
1 pint blackberries, raspberries, or blueberries
Mint sprigs for garnish
Place the honey with 4 cups water in a large saucepan or small stockpot and bring to a boil, stirring to mix well. Add the vanilla bean, verbena, peppercorns and lemon, and keep it at a bare simmer for 30 minutes.
Peel the pears. If you leave them whole (beautiful that way, but harder to eat), remove the seed core with a melon baller from the bottom. Or slice them in half lengthwise, take a melon baller to the bottom of each half, and pull out the thin grainy fibrous bit with your finger, starting at the stem top and pulling down. Slice in half lengthwise again for quarters.
Place the pears in the poaching liquid and simmer lightly 15-30 minutes, depending upon the pears’ firmness—you want them tender to a fork but not mushy.
Remove the pan from the heat, allow the pears and poaching liquid to cool at room temperature and place them in the refrigerator to chill.
To serve, use a slotted spoon to remove the pears from the poaching liquid, and present in small bowls with berries, a small scoop of berry sorbet, or a sprinkle of toasted walnuts. Top with a sprig of verbena or mint.
Felicia is a local home cook and can be reached at email@example.com.