Purim is a loud, raucous, festive, hilarious holiday. Although its origins are somber - Haman’s attempt to annihilate the Jews of ancient Persia - it didn’t end so well for him. But it did for us and, in keeping with the victory we celebrate!
It’s been one of the traditions of Purim for adults to, let’s say, make merry by imbibing in more alcohol than usual. In fact, some say, we are told to become intoxicated with wine, based on a statement in the Talmud by Rava, a fourth century rabbi, who said:
”A person is obligated to become intoxicated with wine on Purim until he is so intoxicated that he does not know how to distinguish between cursed is Haman and blessed is Mordecai.”
And so, on Purim, count on the fact that wine will be on the menu somewhere.
This year I decided that wine would appear on my dessert menu. I’ll poach some seasonal pears (I prefer comice or bartlett) in a hearty, aromatic wine-based sauce. I’ve made this dessert many times (tastes different each time of course because I use a different wine).
You can make it a day or so ahead; store everything in the fridge. Serve it with the sauce, strained and boiled down to a velvety finish, and maybe a garnish of whipped cream, ice cream or sorbet. Or just by itself.
Wine- Poached Pears
2-1/2 cups red wine
1-1/2 cups water
1 cup sugar
peel from one orange
2 2-inch strips of lemon peel
1 cinnamon stick, about 4" long
12 whole allspice
4 cardamom pods, slightly crushed (or use 2 tablespoons chopped crystallized ginger)
3-4 pears, preferably comice or bartletts
whipped cream, optional
crushed pistachio nuts for garnish (or use toasted coconut or fresh chopped mint), optional
Combine the wine, water, sugar, orange peel, lemon peel, cinnamon stick, allspice and cardamom pods in a stainless steel, pyrex, enamel or other non-reactive saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer the ingredients for 5-6 minutes. While the sauce is cooking, peel the pears and cut them in half. Remove the core and seeds. When the sauce has simmered for 5 minutes, immerse the pear halves and cook them for about 4-5 minutes or until they are barely tender. Remove the pan from the heat; let the pears cool in the liquid. Remove the pears. Strain the poaching liquid and return the plain liquid to the saucepan. Boil the liquid over high heat for several minutes until it has reduced to a syrupy consistency. Let the liquid cool. When ready to serve, spoon some of the syrup on dessert plates and top each with a pear half. Serve with whipped cream, if desired, and garnish with a sprinkle of crushed pistachio nuts.
Makes 6-8 servings