I am having a little bit of a problem of abundance right now. There’s still all those really wonderful seasonal ingredients rolling into the market, and I can’t keep up (must eat some more tomatoes, must get one more melon, oh, what about all that squash in the farm share??). The problem is compounded by the ever-increasing list of dishes that I must make at least once a year. You know, I have to revisit the tortino di melanzane, and there’s pasta pepperonata to be eaten, and what’s September without some sort of plum dessert? But I want to try new things too, and I hear the siren song of braised pork shoulder with quince and duck aux framboises . . . and if they’re as good as they sound, then I’ve got a problem, because the roster of Dishes that Must Be Revisited will grow ever longer. What’s a girl to do?
Well, what this girl did this Saturday, as we settled on a dinner of grilled salmon with warm balsamic bacon vinaigrette on a bed of arugula (with some killer roasted French fingerlings on the side) — a favorite that appears a couple times of year on our table and that blends a late summer freshness of flavor with enough warmth to feel like a real supper on a cool night — was to say “well, at least I can make a new dessert.”
And now I’m in trouble because it’s a keeper. It was quick and easy and the aroma of baking pear made the kitchen redolent of autumn. And, pared down (forgive the pun) to a dessert for two it was just so sweet (sorry, again) tucked into its little souffle dish. Plus it’s great with ice cream. It’s a perfect dish for two, but you might want to be a little stingy on the portions and then shove the serving dish quickly out of sight. Because it’s almost more perfect for one, cold, with espresso, for breakfast.
Perfect Pear Crisp for Two
(adapted from a recipe at Epicurious from Claudia Fleming of Gramercy Tavern)
1/4 cup dried Michigan cherries
Water or red wine, such as a pinot noir, enough to cover the cherries
2 ripe pears, peeled, cored, and sliced
2 T granulated sugar
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
2 T ground almond meal (the original recipe calls for toasted almonds, broken up, which would add more crunch, but I was making do with what was on hand)
1 T packed dark brown sugar
Dash of ground cinnamon
Dash of ground nutmeg
2 T cold unsalted butter cut into a small dice
In a small saucepan, cover cherries with wine or water. Bring to a boil and turn off. Leave to plump, anywhere from half an hour to overnight.
In a bowl, combine pears, cherries and their soaking liquid, and the granulated sugar. Let sit for half an hour until the pears juice up nicely.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
In a medium bowl, combine the rest of the ingredients. Work the butter into the flour with a pastry cutter, a couple of knives, or your fingertips until the dry mixture resembles coarse cornmeal.
Layer the pears and cherries, with their juices, into a two or three cup soufffle dish, or into two smaller ramekins. Spread dry mixture on top. Cook until browned, warm and bubbly, 40-45 minutes. Eat warm or at room temperature. Or cold. For breakfast. See above.