One of my most distinct kitchen memories is watching my father peel pomegranates for me. Every weekend during pomegranate season, he would stand at the sink, juice-splattered apron tied delicately around his waist, and shuck the fruit like oysters, one after the other. The result of his hard work--a large Tupperware container full of the jewel-bright seeds--would live in the refrigerator for a week, where I reached for it every night after dinner to throw back large handfuls of the tart fruit. After his death, this tender gesture of my father's solidified my love for and association with pomegranates; I've even titled my forthcoming collection of essays The Pomegranate King, after him.
This recipe came out of an idea for a winter fruit salad to take to book club on a weekend morning. I had my own Tupperware container full of pomegranate seeds (my favorite way to eat them is still just plain, by the handful) in the refrigerator, but wanted to fancy them up a little for brunch. I had a few Bosc pears on hand and a bottle of good Viognier in the fridge, and thought that softening the pears would add a nice textural contrast to the firm seeds.
As with all fruit salads, this one is very adaptable; citrus segments, toasted walnuts, or flaked coconut could all make nice additions. You can also use this salad as a topping for pancakes, waffles, or as part of a parfait with yogurt or ice cream. Added bonus: the reduced poaching liquid makes a wonderful syrup to add to tea and cocktails or to use in baking. —bluejeangourmet
Pour the wine into a heavy saucepan, tossing in the spices (cinnamon stick, vanilla bean, cardamom pods, & cloves). Add the sugar & stir until it dissolves. Heat the poaching liquid over medium heat until small bubbles form and wisps of heat rise from the top of the pan.
While waiting for the liquid to simmer, peel & core the pears. You may wish to poach them in halves, for a dramatic presentation, or in quarters or even slices—it’s up to you. Depending on how you slice them and the size of your saucepan, you may have to poach in batches.
Once the liquid’s ready, cook the pears until they are tender, approximately 15-20 minutes. Adjust the heat so that the liquid does not come up past a gentle boil. When the pears are done, remove them and set aside, either to cool or to serve.
Strain the spices out of the saucepan and crank up the heat, bringing the liquid up to a boil. Reduce to your desired consistency.
Scatter the pomegranate seeds on a platter and top with the poached pears. Drizzle with the warm syrup and serve; alternately, you can make this dish ahead and serve it cold from the refrigerator.