Shelley Boris emphasizes starting with basic flavor combinations or recipes you already know and building on them to create your own sort of culinary portfolio. If you’re looking for that one back-pocket recipe you can learn and tweak again and again, here’s one no-fail, basic dessert — and tips on how to make it your own — that Boris recommends:
“This is a fancy-sounding but uncomplicated and popular dessert. At the Garrison Institute, a poached pear is a simple dessert to make and serve plain. At home, my family will look for a cookie or pound cake accompaniment.” — Shelley Boris
Serves 6 to 8
4 ripe pears, peeled, halved, and cored
2 qt liquid, all water or half white or red wine (see Notes and Variations below)
½ cup raw sugar or maple sugar
One 2-in piece cinnamon stick (see Notes and Variations below)
Put pears, water (or water and wine), sugar, and cinnamon stick in a saucepan over medium heat. Simmer until the pears are tender, 5 to 15 minutes. The cooking time will vary depending on the ripeness of the fruit. Serve the pears plain with their own syrup or accompanied by cake or a cookie. You may also top with cream or ice cream.
Notes and Variations:
If you use a sweet wine, adjust the amount of sugar to your taste. The more you reduce the volume of the syrup, the sweeter it will be. You can always adjust the tanginess by adding a squeeze of fresh lemon juice.
You may add to or replace the cinnamon stick with one or all of the following spices: bay leaves, cloves, juniper or allspice berries, black peppercorns, cardamom pods, coriander, fennel seed, or citrus zest.
Reprinted, by permission, from Fresh Cooking: A Year of Recipes from the Garrison Institute Kitchen. New York: Monkfish Book Publishing, 2014.