Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Poached Apple-Pears #CooktheBooks

This month's Cook the Books is brought to us by Deb of Kahakai Kitchen.  Deb chose the autobiographical account of Jessica Fechtor's struggle back to normalcy after an aneurysm burst in her brain.  Jessica calls her story "Stir; My Broken Brain and the Meals that Brought Me Home".

I read this story while en route to California to spend time with my brother and his family.  I am currently here, accompanied by my niece, Jen, her daughter, Lili and my niece, Danielle.  I was touched by this story of a strong, young woman who was, by all standards, very healthy.  Especially as I watched Lili and Danielle on this trip, both so young and vibrant and just starting their adult lives.  I watch them making plans for work and college, full of hope and promise....and I think how quickly life can change.  I think of Jessica, one minute running on a treadmill and the next minute being rushed to the hospital and being told how miraculous it is that she is still alive.

This story also resonated with me because Jessica writes of her journey back to health.  She writes of the support of her husband, family and friends and how she could not have become whole again without them.  She talks of finding solace and peace in the kitchen and in the enjoyment of food in general.  She talks of blogging about her food and how it allows her to just be her....sharing herself and her life without sharing her broken brain.

Many years ago, I too suffered from a "broken brain".  Mine was not a physical break like Jessica's but a mental break that left me just as weak, scared and vulnerable as Jessica portrayed in her story.  I, too found my solace in the kitchen.  The kitchen has always been my happy place...the place to which I run when the world overwhelms me.  I, too, could not have gotten through my experience without the constant love and support from my husband, family and friends.  I, too, found relief in blogging where you only share those parts of your life that you are ready to share and where you find healing in the written word.  

I loved Jessica's story.  I admired here strength and positivity.  I cheered her on during her struggles. I felt the warmth of her relationships with those who love her.  I was comforted by her memories and her recipes. I laughed with her, I cried with her and I celebrated with her.  I was reminded to never take life for granted because you never know what tomorrow....or the next 5 minutes...may bring.

I decided to make poached fruit for dessert last night when I made dinner for all of my California family.  My brother's sons and their families all live in the same little town on adjoining properties.  I express love by providing is what I whenever I am here I try to make at least one meal for us to all share together.  I found this baking pan in my sister in law's cupboard.  It was perfect for the dessert inspired by Jessica's book that was filled with Faith, Hope and Love.  It was perfect for a meal shared by family who provides me with Faith, Hope and Love.

This recipe is very loosely based on Jessica's recipe for Baked Apricots with Cardamom Pistachios. Apricots are not in season right now but while at the store I spied some Apple-Pears.  I was very excited.  As a child, we had an apple-pear tree in our yard.  I thought it was an anomaly.  I have never seen apple-pears anywhere else in my life.  I knew, for sure, that I was buying this fruit that contained so many childhood memories.  My sister in law did not have any cardamom or pistachios but she did have cinnamon and almonds which were perfect with the apple-pears.

She also had a bottle of Ancient  Peaks Roussanne in the refrigerator.  Ancient Peaks is a winery located right in their little town.  The grapes are grown on the Santa Margarita Ranch that surrounds the town.  Santa Margarita Ranch is a working ranch that not only grows grapes but also raises beef. They hold many events on the ranch and have ziplining tours that Jen, Lili, Danielle and I are going on tomorrow, weather permitting.  I can't wait.  

This is what Wikipedia has to say about Roussanne wine "Wines made from Roussanne are characterized by their intense aromatics which can include notes of herbal tea.[1] In its youth it shows more floral, herbal and fruit notes, such as pear, which become more nutty as the wine ages."

I knew this would be a perfect wine in which to poach my pears using the oven baked technique given by Jessica in her recipe.  

In actuality, using that technique was the only part of the recipe I did use but I would have never made this lovely dessert without the inspiration of the recipe.  This was a perfect dessert to serve to my family, filled with memories and love.  I made 2 baking pans for 16 servings.  The recipe below is for one 9x13" baking pan equalling 8 servings.  You can use any size baking pan you would like for the amount you wish to make.  You can use any fruit that you and yours enjoy.  You can use any white wine that you have on hand, any nuts that you prefer or no nuts at all.  I used brown sugar for my sweetener, Jessica used vanilla sugar, you could easily use honey, agave or maple syrup. Jessica used cardamom, I used cinnamon, you can use any spice that would complement the fruit you choose. Have fun, be creative and lose yourself and your problems in the kitchen.  

Submissions for this session of Cook the Books are not due for another 20 days.  This book is a quick read and I think you will enjoy it.  Why not pick it up at your local library and share with us a recipe that it inspires in you?  You will find Deb's invitation right here that will explain exactly how to join in the fun.

This book is also my first Foodies Read of 2017.  I will be sharing this post over at Heather's blog Based on a True Story. You can see what others are reading this month here.

Poached Apple-Pears
inspired by Stir

4 Apple-Pears
1 c. white wine (I used Roussanne)
1/2 c. brown sugar
Sliced Almonds 
Ice Cream for serving, if desired

Cut the Apple-Pears in half and remove the core and seeds.  Pour the wine into a 9x13" baking pan and place the fruit, peel side down into the wine.  Sprinkle the fruit with the brown sugar, desired amount of almond slices and a sprinkling of cinnamon.  Place in a preheated 350* oven for 50-60 minutes, until the fruit is easily pierced with a fork but still maintains it's shape.  Place each Apple-Pear onto a serving dish or bowl.  Top with Ice Cream, if desired.  Drizzle with the caramelized wine from the bottom of the pan.  Print Recipe


  1. I'm so glad you enjoyed the book Wendy. I think so many of us can relate to the healing powers of the kitchen and cooking as well as our support teams--including the blogging world.

    Your poached apple-pears look delicious--the perfect comfort food dessert. Thanks for joining in this month. ;-)

  2. These look fabulous, Wendy. And I am SO looking forward to seeing you on Friday. Safe travels.

    1. Looking forward to it as well, Cam. The sun is supposed to be shining Friday, hopefully Hwy 1 will be open.

  3. Sounds like a wonderful story! We just need those kind sometimes, don't we? Your dessert sounds delicious. Just like all of your food sounds. I am glad you are enjoying California. You are so right in we do not know what tomorrow will bring. We need to make everything as all right as we can today!! Bless you my friend!

  4. The book sounds wonderful, the recipe is fabulous (never heard of apple-pears, but I am sure I would love them) and the place where your brother lives sounds lovely, especially since he is surrounded by his children. Have a safe trip!

  5. That dessert sounds and looks fabulous! I'm looking forward to reading the book as well. Supposed to get it this coming week.

  6. I, too, finished this book on a cross country trip recently. It made my flight go fast (almost too fast as I wanted to savor the story). I really loved the sounds of that apricot dish, too. I think a lot of people probably found some connection to Jessica's story of her "broken brain." Love the pears! I'm Sure you family did as well. Great use of the wine!

  7. I don't drink wine but I always look at labels: there are some truly nice wine labels around. I like the one of the wine you used. I like that baking pan too.

    1. Thanks Simona....the beauty of both added to the warm feeling at the table.

  8. Oh, yum! That dessert looks amazing!

  9. That's a good dessert, nice pick for this book. I hope you are enjoying life and I like your advice, enjoy because you never know what life will bring us.
    Great pick for Cook the Books.

  10. I liked all the recipes in this book -- 27 in all BTW. And I like your twist on the dessert recipe -- looks yum.


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