Apples crunch, but pears melt.
By JILL WENDHOLT SILVA
The Kansas City Star
The pears luxurious mouth feel explains why some Belgian pear varieties contain the word beurre in their name. The buttery fruit pairs well with four of the most beloved food groups: red wine, almonds, vanilla and chocolate.
One classic pear dessert, Poir Hélène, named for composer Jacques Offenbachs operetta about Helen of Troy, combines the cooked fruit with vanilla ice cream and chocolate sauce.
Since the pear is the real star of the show, The Stars updated version of Caramelized Pears With Dark Chocolate Sauce bumps up the cocoa content because dark chocolate has been found to contain more antioxidants than milk chocolate. It also replaces the cream with fat-free half-and-half. To further reduce the total saturated fat, substitute your favorite brand of fat-free or low-fat frozen yogurt for ice cream.
Although pears contain more calories than apples, they also have more fiber. Other health benefits: small amounts of phosphorous and vitamin A.
• Shopping tips: Unlike most fruit, pears are picked while still hard since the texture and flavor actually improve after harvest. According to The Nutrition Bible by Jean Anderson and Barbara Deskins, the best varieties for cooking include Anjou (sweet but firm), Bartlett (crisp and bland), Bosc (dryish and grainy) and Seckel (gritty).
Note: The Stars testers used Lindt 70 percent Cocoa Intense Dark chocolate for this recipe.
Caramelized Pears With Dark Chocolate Sauce
Makes 6 servings
3 firm but ripe pears, not peeled
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 cup sugar, divided
1/2 cup fat-free half-and-half
1 (3.5-ounce) bar dark chocolate, coarsely chopped
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups frozen fat-free or low-fat vanilla yogurt
Cut pears in half vertically. Gently cut or scrape out core. Dip cut edges in lemon juice. Sprinkle about 1/2 tablespoon sugar over the cut edges of eachpear half.
Place each pear, cut side down, in a large, heavy skillet over medium heat. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon sugar in skillet around pears. Cook 7 to 9 minutes or until sugar is melted and golden and cut surface of pears is golden. Remove pears from skillet.
Meanwhile, heat half-and-half in a 2-cup glass measuring cup in microwave oven on high (100 percent power) 45 to 60 seconds or until steaming hot but not boiling. (Watch carefully so it does not boil.) Immediately add chocolate to hot half-and-half. Allow to stand 3 to 5 minutes or until chocolate melts. Stir to blend and melt chocolate. (If necessary, return to microwave oven and heat on high power in 15 second intervals, stirring after each, until melted.) Stir in vanilla.
Place a small scoop of frozen yogurt in each dessert bowl. Place pear halves on yogurt. Drizzle any collected caramelized sugar over pears. Drizzle with dark chocolate sauce. Serve immediately.
Per serving ( 1/2 pear, 1/4 cup frozen yogurt and about 2 tablespoons chocolate sauce): 214 calories (21 percent from fat), 5 grams total fat (trace saturated fat), no cholesterol, 43 grams carbohydrates, 3 grams protein, 44 milligrams sodium, 3 grams dietary fiber.