Wow. It’s only been, oh, forever since I last wrote on this thing. 20 days? 21 maybe? The reason for my absence is that I’ve had my creative juices flowing into other endeavors, and when that happens, inevitably one area that usually gets some love no longer gets any.
This is what I’ve been working on lately:
1. A painting. I haven’t painted much since Keller was born, and am happy to have the excuse of a commissioned piece to force me to do it again. Here’s to picking up old habits. It’s of a local winery, and maybe, if we’re lucky and it’s even remotely presentable, I’ll show it to you.
2. Continuing my endeavor to become a world-class guitar player. I’m doing this by strumming away at the same 5 chords that I know and repeatedly playing the same 5 songs that I always play. Hmmm. Now that I write this, I think I need to come up with a new plan. Mine doesn’t seem to be working.
3. Coming up with a design for this years Christmas card. This is harder than it sounds and will require some serious alone time with my pen and index cards.
That is where my head has been these past few weeks.
I did make this Pear Vanilla Bean Sauce recently and swooned over it. The recipe came to me as a jam recipe in the magazine Cooking Light, but I reduced the sugar called for by half and made a few other tweaks. Also, it is really awful as a jam. The vanilla bean, which I think is such a luxurious ingredient, is completely wasted in this if we’re going to use it as a jam. At least for me. It makes the jam almost cloyingly sweet when slathered on toast or paired with peanut butter.
Pour it on ice cream, though, and it’s completely another story. This is what I want for dessert on a fall evening: a bowl of French vanilla ice cream submerged in this pear sauce (best warmed a bit) and sprinkled with a few hazelnuts.
It’s pretty much perfect.
And since vanilla beans can be so costly, I can’t stomach the idea of throwing away the spent pod after making the jam. I ground it up with 2 cups of sugar in a food processor to make Vanilla Bean sugar, a fragrant little something you can stir into your tea, coffee or use in baking. You can do this too (just don’t breathe in right away when you remove the lid from your food processor-there’s quite a bit of dust that floats up out of it and it needs to waft away for a bit).
By the way, pears are great right now and I found vanilla beans for a pretty good price at New Seasons in their bulk spice section (1 for $1.50), so this may just be the perfect thing for you to make on your Sunday afternoon. Enjoy!
Pear Vanilla Bean Sauce
4 cups coarsely shopped peeled Bartlett pear
1 teaspoon grated lemon or lime rind
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
1 1.75-ounce package pectin
2 cups sugar
Place pear in a food processor; pulse until finely chopped (don’t liquefy). Place pear, rind, juice, and vanilla bean in a large saucepan. Stir in pectin. Place pan over hight heat; bring to a boil. Stir in sugar; cook 5 minutes or until sugar dissolves. Bring to a boil; cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly.
Remove from heat. Skim foam from surface; discard. Remove vanilla bean. Scrape seeds into pear mixture; discard bean. Stir 5 minutes to ensure fruit is suspended in sauce. Pour into half-pint jars and leave 1/2-inch headspace. Refrigerate up to three weeks, or freeze up to six months.