Marian Burros' Plum Torte
Everyday Food's Barley Risotto with Corn and Basil

Russ Parsons' Asian Pear Crisps


After the New York Times published an article about the good food of autumn one week, the Los Angeles Times was not to be outdone, and a week later published their own article on fall cooking. I tried a recipe from both articles and am not quite convinced that either of my choices was the best one I could have made. But such is life - you live and learn. After all the helpful comments about the plum torte, I've decided I will try to attempt the kind of plum cake/tart thing I grew up eating and hopefully will post on that soon (the recipe acquisition is in process! Doesn't that sound all mysterious and fetching?). But enough digressing, I have crisps to report on.

I've never cooked anything with Asian pears, in fact, I'm not even sure I've ever even eaten one out of hand. They're beautifully speckled little things, and taste like the crispest, sweetest, most apple-like pears you've ever eaten.
Since I seem to have misplaced my peeler, something which frustrates my type-A kitchen personality greatly, I had to peel them with a knife. Which actually was fine. So enough about that minor frustration. I peeled, cored and diced the pears roughly.
To this I added some lemon juice, a few tablespoons of honey, and baking raisins soaked in a splash of rum.
I divided the fruit and the juices among four little ramekins (Parsons says this recipe will serve 6, but I think he was using Lilliputian serving cups).
In my mini-chopper, I had combined some toasted, slivered almonds (note to self and others who attempt this recipe: cool the toasted almonds off before chopping up with other things, including butter which is supposed to be cold!), flour, sugar, salt and diced butter. I pulsed it together until it looked like Nigella Lawsonish rubble.
I sprinkled the fragrant and simple topping on the fruit, trying not to push down too hard, to avoid cakiness.
I placed the ramekins on a baking sheet and slid it into the preheated oven. The baking time was supposed to take an hour. After an hour, the tops still looked raw, so I left them in. For another 15 minutes. And then another. And in total, an entire extra hour was needed for the top to brown nicely and crisp up. Could it be that because I divided the fruit into four serving cups and not six that it took double the amount of time to cook? It doesn't really matter - I wasn't going to serve them last night anyway. But for anyone attempting the recipe, plan ahead accordingly.

I didn't make the whipped cream, and I think that it probably adds a nice layer of cooling smoothness to the crisps. These crisps are very sweet - from the totally concentrated pears to the raisins to the honey, there is a lot of sugar in them. I might try these with some cold yogurt - the astringent sourness might balance out the hefty sweetness a bit. I liked the nutty flavor of the almonds in the topping, but this wasn't my favorite crisp topping (I've had good success with The Best Recipe's version).

I'm beginning to sense a pattern - most of the dessert recipes I've tried from the newspapers have been too sweet. Are my faulty tastebuds to blame, or are the recipes in general a little heavy on the sugar? I'm looking forward to trying some savory dishes next.