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BAKED APPLES AND PEARS
Baked apples have a reputation for being a homey, almost old-fashioned American dessert, but why don’t we ever bake pears? Both fruits are superb for baking, which brings out their ﬂavor and transforms them into tender, melt-in-your-mouth pleasures. Baked fruit will also perfume your house as it cooks, like fruit pie with all the ﬂavor but without the high-fat crust!
For this recipe, if you scrub the fruit well, leave the peels on. The recipe will also work with peeled fruit. You can alter this recipe to suit the taste of those you are serving—all ap-ples, all pears, double of each, whatever seems appropriate. (If you make only pears, serve with the stufﬁng sprinkled over and around the fruit.)
You can also use less sugar, or even none at all. If you choose to go without, you needn’t alter the recipe in any way except to omit the sugar, or you can stir in a spoonful of honey where the sugar goes. Sugar brings out the taste of the baked fruit, but it isn’t necessary.
This is an excellent cold-weather or winter holiday dessert.
½ cup brown sugar
¼ cup chopped walnuts, almonds, or a combination
¼ cup raisins or dried currants
4 medium to large apples
4 medium pears, still ﬁrm
1 to 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 cups red wine, apple cider, or apple juice
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
Rind from 1 small well-washed, organically grown orange or lemon, cut in strips
Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
In a small bowl, combine 1⁄4 cup of the brown sugar, the nuts, and the raisins. Set aside.
Core the apples from the top, leaving about a 1⁄2-inch of apple at the base. Don’t core the pears, but slice off the very bottoms so they stand up straight. Leave their stems intact. Brush any peeled or cut fruit surfaces with lemon juice, then set the fruits upright in a 1- to 11⁄2-quart baking pan or casserole. Stuff the apples with the nut mixture.
In a saucepan, combine the wine, cider, or juice; cinna-mon; nutmeg; the remaining brown sugar; and the citrus rind. Heat to boiling, then pour carefully over the fruit. Cover the pan with a lid or aluminum foil, then bake for 30 to 45 minutes, until the fruits are soft when pierced with a fork. Baste occasionally with the wine sauce during baking. Serve each piece of fruit in a shallow bowl or small dish with the wine sauce spooned over the top. These also look pretty served in wineglasses or stemmed glass sundae
dishes. Serves 8.
308 The Mediterranean Diet o STUFFED PEACHES
This luxurious dish is impressive and easy to prepare, not to mention delicious. Choose very fresh, large, juicy peaches for this recipe. If you really want to make this but can’t ﬁnd good peaches, canned peaches will work, but because they are softer, they require more delicate handling and only about 15 minutes of cooking time. Buy canned peaches packed in juice, not sugar syrup.
Peaches and almonds are closely related, so they make a natural pairing here. Both are also grown extensively in Italy, where baked peaches are a perennial favorite.
4 large whole ripe peaches or 8 canned peach halves
½ cup almond or other cookie crumbs (amaretto cookies or almond macaroons are best, but you can substitute any nonchocolate cookie—even vanilla wafers will work, if you can’t ﬁnd fancier cookies or don’t have time to make your own)
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon 2 tablespoons chopped almonds
1 tablespoon amaretto liqueur or ¼ teaspoon almond extract (optional)
1 egg yolk
1 tablespoon sugar or honey (optional) Citrus peel or sliced almonds for garnish
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Cut the peaches in half. Remove all traces of pits, then scoop out the centers so they are about the size of a table-spoon. Reserve any scooped pulp. Put the peaches, hollowed sides up, in a baking pan sprayed with nonstick cooking spray.
Combine scooped pulp, if any, with the cookie crumbs, cinnamon, almonds, liqueur or almond extract (if using),
and egg yolk. Fill each peach with one-eighth of the mix-ture. Sprinkle the peaches lightly with brown sugar or driz-zle with a little honey, if desired.
Bake about 20 minutes, until the peaches are tender and the ﬁlling is golden. Garnish with curls of citrus peel or sliced almonds (or both).