Monday, December 12, 2011

Spiced pears? Almond-vanilla cookies? Yes, please.



I'm nesting - prepping the home for family. This happens every winter when the days are shorter than the eves. I gaze at my home and think "This doesn't work" and then I move everything around. Saturday I changed everything in my kitchen cabinets. Confusing my family who now cannot find the cereal but are grateful I left the coffee in the same place.

The upside of changing everything in your kitchen around is suddenly you have a new kitchen and you want to make everything - all at once: cookies are baked, soup is stirred, vegetables are cut, meats are braising and if I was an octopus I'd simultaneously have an arm in all those pots. But I did pretty well with two arms


Pere alle Spezie (Spiced Pears)

These hail from Piedmont - a large northern province in Italy that actually does see winter. The baking of the pears in a spiced-sugared wine showcases the creamy, sweet  "meat" of the fruit. Perfect after a heavy meal. More perfect in the deep, dark days of December - the perfect month to rejoice in cloves, cinnamon and ginger. They bring comfort and joy to the table. 

Ingredients (from Williams-Sonoma Savoring Italy)
1-1/2 cups 12 fl ounces) fruity red wine (such as Barbera)
1/4 cup (6 ounces) sugar
6 whole cloves
8 firm, ripe pears (Anjou, Bartlett) Bonus: You don't need to peel them 


Preheat oven to 450 degrees F (230 degrees C). In a baking dish large enough for the pears but small enough to have them fit all snugly and upright, place your pears. In a small mixing bowl, stir the wine, sugar and cloves. Pour over pears. Bake the pears 45-60 minutes, occasionally basting the pears with the liquid. The pears are done when tender - just pierce one with a fork and see how easily it glides. Cool to room temperature before serving.

In the words of my daughter, "Boom! Done!" How easy was that?


Vanilla-Almond Cookies
(I've made these cookies for so many years, I have lost the source of the recipe. I suspect it may be Tastes of Italia.)

Think of these as once-baked biscotti. These are easy, melt-in-your-mouth sliced cookies that celebrate vanilla and and almonds. Just a tad crunchy on the outside, and tender-melty inside. They hail from my grandmother's region of Basilicata and are reminiscent of Italian wedding cookies. 

Vanilla-Almond Cookie Ingredients (makes about 28)
1/2 pound butter (room temperature and cut into small pieces)
1 cup sugar
5 ounces sliced almonds
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
2-1/2 cups flour


Cream the butter and slowly add the sugar - beating well. Add the almonds and vanilla and mix. Add the eggs - one at a time - beating well after each addition. Similarly - add the flour 1/4 cup at a time and and mix each thoroughly before adding the next 1/4 cup.

Gather dough into a ball and form a thick log. (My log was about 10 x 2 inches.) Cover and refrigerate for two hours or overnight or a week. It's a content, unfussy dough. (Dough will keep up to ten days. If you don't want to bake the entire log - just slice as many as you want and bake - you can have fresh cookies all week.)

To bake: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease 1-2 cookie sheets. Slice refrigerated dough into 1/4 inch slices (you can slice thinner - just adjust baking time). Place 1 inch apart on cookie sheet. Bake about 15 minutes - just until the edges start to brown - you want tender, white cookies.

Through these cookies I have grown as a person. I have learned to practice acceptance. Because of these cookies - I can reach into my innermost soul and state - that in the ways of the world in December - I will not be taking off my extra Italy weight anytime soon! A raw carrot does not have the same song as an Italian cookie.


Yesterday, my daughter actually accused me of adding Pippin (her cat) to the end of my blog posts as a cheap gimmick to solicit comments!


I won't even dignify that accusation with an answer.

42 comments:

Beth said...

I do love baked pears. So delicious and so easy. They're perfect for when you feel like something sweet (which for me is most of the time) but don't want something too heavy or rich.

Jill Colonna said...

Adore spicy pears in wine - but your Italian version using the Barbera wine sounds wonderful. Barbera is one of my fav varietals and can just imagine the flavours. Well done on changing around the kitchen! At least something good comes out of being indoors in this weather, Claudia!
Oh and you can tell your daughter that I just noticed the cat just now after talking about the pear. OK, lovely cat ;-)

Tina said...

Spicy cooked pears with wine is something I adore. Your pear recipe is especially enticing on a cold winters day and those nutty cookies would have to come with it. Delicious treat.
Sorting and rearranging things is a great indoor task-I just might have to try that. Have a great day!

Lyndsey said...

Ha! Okay now I have to comment about the cat! Love it how the light is so playful with him! :)

The cookies sound really good, reminds me of something my mom makes! I want to try them!

The Mom Chef said...

Your daughter may be right, but I applaud you for it. I love Pippin. And, I love this:

"A raw carrot does not have the same song as an Italian cookie."

Amen, sister. That Italian cookie made my mouth water badly. The pear is wonderful, but still too healthy. The only way a cookie like that melts in your mouth is with lots of butter. Butter and Christmas; they belong together.

Rachel @ My Naturally Frugal Family said...

Two fantastic items.
The pear is gorgeous and the cookie just looks so very delectable.

Anne said...

The Almond cookies look divine. I wanted to take a bite,but since we are in cyberspace, guess, I need to make them myself.

Veronica Gantley said...

Well. we all should have some type of cute animal in our pictures to show. I love the pears. Yum! Thanks for sharing.

Juliana said...

Yes, please...I would love to try them both...the pears look so flavorful...and importantly, easy to bake. The cookies are good at anytime, vanilla and almond are perfect together.
Hope you have a wonderful week and thanks for these delicious recipes Claudia :-)

Inside a British Mum's Kitchen said...

I absolutely love baked pears and yours look delicious - wonderful recipe - so rich and flavorful - lovely post
Mary x

Rebecca from Chow and Chatter said...

looks so gourmet must try your family is lucky coming home to your cooking

Cucina49 said...

I would love to be nesting right now! Those pears look delectable--and adding the cat photo might be a ploy for comments (though I would have commented anyway), but your cat is too adorable!

Erica said...

Pears are my favorite fruit! It looks wonderful! Happy holidays,Claudia!

Lizzy said...

Stunning pears...who could resist one of those beauties? And your cookies look drool worthy, too. Pippin deserves a little blog action, too...what a cutie! Hope your week is off to a great start, Claudia~

Christy said...

Wow, this is divine!:) Coming from non-winter countries like mine, this is definitely something out-of the world for us here..LOL, but of course, we do have our own specialties as well, everyone does;)
These glazed pears look absolutely stunning, but I'm wondering whether I can ever let my pears ripen to this extent, because I always love having them crunchy:D

Reeni said...

Your pears sound delectable! Pears are greatly overlooked in my kitchen. And we love a softer biscotti - these would disappear quickly! Everyone loves kitties - I love seeing Pippin - I've been trying to get a good pic of mine for the blog too.

5 Star Foodie said...

Both the pears and the cookies are wonderful and even more wonderful together as a dessert, nice!

Stephanie @ Eat. Drink. Love. said...

I will take one pear and a delicious cookie too!

Pegasuslegend said...

What an elegant way to serve pears and then those cookies would be a favorite of mine in an instant... lovely presentation here!

Pegasuslegend said...

What an elegant way to serve pears and then those cookies would be a favorite of mine in an instant... lovely presentation here!

easyfoodsmith said...

I have never tried eating any fruit like this before. I guess I should give it a try :)

Pat @ Mille Fiori Favoriti said...

I love pears prepared this way! Such a wonderful and healthy dessert, Claudia.

I'm sure your cookies are so "melt in the mouth" good!

sophiesfoodiefiles said...

I love spicy pears in this time of year & to add those festive vanilla cookies must taste awesome !

A beautiful pear dessert!

Joanne said...

I love this two-for-one post! These both sound like delicious desserts!

Island Vittles said...

I love your winter on Pender plan. We`ll make meatballs (lots) and then finish dinner with one (or two) of these beautiful roasted pears -- it will be dark outside, but just think of the glow between my kitchen walls! Book your ticket and let me know. Theresa ;)

That Girl said...

There is almost something invigorating about a day spent in the kitchen.

Jeannie said...

I love the cookies! going to bookmark this for future bakes and that cat is so well fed and so contented:D

Claudia said...

Hmmmm... my daughter did say, "Did you have to post one where he looks fat?"

natalia said...

First of all ciao a pippin and to your daughter !The pears are loved but the biscotti look so fantastic !!!Ciao e baci

Angie's Recipes said...

Meow...Pippin...(no one massages your back?)
Nicely roasted pear dessert, my husband will for sure love this. I love those Italian almond cookies.

Kristen said...

The pears look perfect. The cookies look scrumptious. I'd say you are definitely in the holiday mood. I don't know about the changing cupboards. That would cause such an uproar at my house that I shudder to even consider it.

Katerina said...

Your pears are perfect and we, in Greece make fruits like that as well. First time ate your blog, you have some beautiful recipes here. Buongiorno!

Emily Malloy said...

GORGEOUS!!

Hester @ Alchemy in the Kitchen said...

Hi Claudia, lovely to meet you. Could I please have the recipe for Pippin? What a delectable cat! Love spiced pears. It's the dessert I'd pick from the trolley but would also have to have a few almond cookies on the side.

Cajunlicious said...

Those are beautiful pears and I love the cookies!

tasteofbeirut said...

These cookies and pear look fabulously delicious. By the way, 1/4 cup of sugar for the pear poaching liquid sounds more like 2 ounces than 6.

Kathy said...

Claudia, I love this post! I would love those pears...they sound amazing and the cookies look so delicious.

Bizzy B. Bakes said...

Fruit desserts are so refreshing. I have to pick up some pears for this recipe.

Roz said...

Pears in a beautiful sauce always look so special and festive! You little Pippin is so like our cats . . . loving the sun!

sangeeta said...

Those spiced poached pears are making me drool they look so gorgeous.

Lovely blog.

Magic of Spice said...

Your daughter is too funny...but what an adorable furry baby :)
I love these gorgeous pears and would not mind a few cookies to go along with them :)

OysterCulture said...

Spiced pears are divine, you cannot help but close your eyes as you lick your spoon. I love the addition of the cookies, what a dessert