Poached pears with prunes
This is adapted from Paula Wolfert’s The Food of Morocco. Wolfert writes in her headnote that the dessert is her adaptation of a recipe given to her by chef Fatima Mountassamin of Le Tobsil restaurant in Marrakech. I followed Wolfert’s version faithfully, but doubled the prunes. She calls for Bartlett or Bosc pears. I've used ripe (yet still firm) Bartletts, and had to decrease her 20 minutes estimated cooking time by about five minutes. When I used just-ripe, yet still very firm, French Butter Pears, 20 minutes was perfect.
8 cups water
11/4 cups sugar
1/2 navel orange, skin on, sliced 3/8-inch thick
One 3-inch cinnamon stick
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
6 firm yet ripe pears
24 pitted prunes
Combine the water, sugar, orange slices, cinnamon stick, clove, bay leaf and lemon juice in a large saucepan and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat.
Remove the core from the bottom end of a pear, using an apple corer or sharp paring knife, then peel it, but leave the stem on. Gently lower it into the liquid in the saucepan, then repeat for the rest of the pears. Return the pan to the burner over medium heat. Add the prunes and simmer until the pears are tender, about 15 to 20 minutes. (Riper pears will be done in about 15 minutes.) Remove from the heat and allow to cool slightly.
Using a slotted spoon, transfer the pears, prunes and orange slices to a bowl. Boil the poaching liquid over medium high heat until syrupy and reduced to 1 1/2 cups, about 20 minutes or maybe more. Strain the syrup over the pears. Serve when they’re room temperature, or you can let them cool, cover them and refrigerate up to 4 days. When you want to serve them, bring them to room temperature.