Here’s a recipe that will chase away the fruit salad doldrums. The kitchen smells heavenly as the pears simmer in their poaching liquid, redolent of vanilla bean, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and Amaretto. I like to serve the compote accompanied by biscotti or meringues.
2 cups water
1 cup sugar
1 cup orange juice (I use Dole pineapple orange banana juice for extra flavor)
rind of 1 navel orange (peeled off in strips)*
rind of one lemon (peeled off in strips)
4 cinnamon sticks
16 whole cloves
1 vanilla bean
4 ripe but firm pears–peeled, cored and sliced into 1/4 to 1/2 inch thickness (bosc, red Bartlett, Anjou)**
2 large navel oranges, peeled and sectioned
1 cup strawberries, hulled and quartered
1/2 cup purple or red seedless grapes
1/2 cup green seedless grapes
1/2 cup blueberries
1 kiwi, peeled and sliced
Combine water, sugar, orange juice, orange and lemon rinds, cinnamon sticks, cloves, vanilla bean and nutmeg in a heavy 4-quart non-aluminum saucepan. Bring to a boil, then simmer 5 to 10 minutes.
Add pears and simmer for about 10 minutes until barely tender.
Remove from heat. Pour into serving dish and cool. Strain pears and spices reserving the syrup and replace pears in syrup. If desired, replace vanilla bean and cinnamon sticks in syrup with pears.
Cool to room temperature. Add remaining fruits, then refrigerate. Serve directly from refrigerator or at room temperature. Pears and syrup can be prepared two days in advance, covered and refrigerated. Add remaining fruits when ready to serve.
Pears should be bought 3 to 5 days in advance and allowed to ripen.
* Only use the colored part of the rind—the white part, the pith, is bitter.
** Keep pears in acidulated water to prevent them from turning brown if you prepare them before the syrup mixture is ready. Use juice of one lemon to 1 quart of water.