Sometimes, even on a weeknight, you really crave a little dessert. But making dessert takes time, and you already are spending time cooking up the main event, namely dinner.
That's where this recipe comes to the rescue. It's a quick, easy and delicious pear crisp that calls for just five ingredients — pears, granola, lemon juice, apricot jam and a pinch of salt.
Pears are just now at the tail-end of their season. Yes, I know we can find pears all year these days. But believe me, those specimens are going to be nowhere near as electrifying as a fully-ripened in-season local pear. The problem is the relative rareness of such pears. Ralph Waldo Emerson was onto something when he wrote, "There are only 10 minutes in the life of a pear when it is perfect to eat."
In other words, most of the time, no matter where it comes from, our pears aren't at the peak of perfection. And for those times, when pears are unripe and you don't have time to let them ripen, this recipe comes in mighty handy. Baking an unripe pear not only makes it tender, it also crystallizes and magnifies the fruit's flavour. Happily, any kind of pear — and there are many varieties — will work in this recipe, as will a mix of varieties.
Pears also have a lot to offer in terms of health. They're a good source of vitamin C and a great source of fiber.
As for granola, there are a zillion brands in the cereal aisle of the supermarket. The problem is that many of them are laden with fat and sugar even as they masquerade under a healthy halo. That's why the recommended portion on the back of most granola boxes is just 1/4 cup. Pour yourself a normal, adult-sized portion and you might as well be tucking into a breakfast of waffles and sausage.
So when you shop for granola, look for a brand that's lower in fat, sugar and calories than the competition — and which also contains lots of nuts, seeds and dried fruit. And if you want to bump up the nutritional value of this recipe even more, you also could add 1/4 cup of ground flaxseed.
With all of that said, I wouldn't worry too much about the amount of granola in this recipe. Per serving, it's about what the granola box recommends, and mostly serves to put the crisp on this pear crisp. Heck, you'd be much better off serving this dessert for breakfast than dogging a big bowl of nothing but granola.
SPEEDY PEAR CRISP
Start to finish: 1 hour (15 minutes active)
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon apricot preserves or sweetened fruit spread
4 pears (about 2 pounds), peeled, cored and thinly sliced
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 cups purchased granola
Heat the oven to 350 F. Lightly coat a shallow 6-cup baking dish with cooking spray.
In a small saucepan over medium-low, heat the preserves until melted and easily stirred.
Set the sliced pears in a large bowl, then drizzle the preserves over them. Add the lemon juice and salt, then toss well. Spread the pears evenly in the prepared baking dish.
Sprinkle the granola evenly over the pears, then cover the dish loosely with foil and bake 30 minutes. Remove the foil and bake another 15 minutes, or until the pears are tender. Serve hot or cold.
Nutrition information per serving: 210 calories; 25 calories from fat (12 per cent of total calories); 2.5 g fat (0.5 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 0 mg cholesterol; 50 g carbohydrate; 5 g fiber; 27 g sugar; 3 g protein; 55 mg sodium.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Sara Moulton was executive chef at Gourmet magazine for nearly 25 years, and spent a decade hosting several Food Network shows. She currently stars in public television's "Sara's Weeknight Meals" and has written three cookbooks, including "Sara Moulton's Everyday Family Dinners."