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Scarlet Poached Pears & Ginger-Pumpkin Bread

November 13, 2009

Scarlet Poached Pears

One of the best parts of this whole blogging business is getting to know other bloggers and being inspired by their work. One of the most consistently creative and interesting sites out there is Feasting on Art, by Megan Fizell.

Megan starts each post with a food-focused work of art, usually a still life, and cooks a recipe inspired by the ingredients. It’s a delicious combo – awesome art, fun photography, and unusual recipes. I first found her blog back in April when she posted a clever coleslaw interpretation of one of my favorite Spanish still life paintings, and I’ve been a regular reader ever since.

It’s hard to pick my favorite posts, since each one is better than the last, but I loved the flavors inspired by this beautiful little Picasso etching, the boozy brilliance of Leger’s Michelada, and the sheer ambition of Mondrian’s Pound Cake.

So when she suggested that we do a collaboration, I immediately agreed… and started brainstorming an appropriate artwork.* In the end I settled on a Tiffany window that I’d seen at the Met – I’m a sucker for stained glass, and loved the rich, light-soaked scene and saturated fall colors.


Louis Comfort Tiffany, Pumpkin and Beets window, c.1899-1900 Leaded Favrile glass, 114 x 142.9 cm, The Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art

The idea of the collaboration is that both bloggers work from the same piece of art; one person creates a savory recipe, the other sweet. With pumpkins and beets as my canvas, I drew sweet.

Now as much as I love beets (and I love them to unhealthy extremes) they didn’t scream sweet…until I realized I could use them for color instead of flavor. A few slices dropped into the pot of bubbling wine turned out poached pears with a deep scarlet sauce, giving a dramatic flair to a classic dessert.

A hot ginger-pumpkin loaf completed the pumpkin piece. I cut back the sugar, swapped in half the butter with olive oil, and added liberal amounts of fresh ginger, which made for a beautifully moist and spiced bread – delicious with the pears for both dessert and a decadent fall brunch.

Ginger Pumpkin Bread

Scarlet Poached Pears with Beets
Both recipes loosely adapted from

4 firm, medium-size pears, such as Anjou, Bartlett, or Bosc
2 medium beets, peeled and sliced
1 bottle robust (and cheap) red wine, such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, or Merlot
1/2 cup sugar
1 vanilla bean, cut in half lengthwise
2 whole cinnamon sticks
1 orange peel
1 lemon peel
2 whole cloves
1 star anise

Peel the pears, leaving stems attached, and place in medium saucepan. (Leaving the pears whole will allow for dramatic presentation. If you cut them in half and core before poaching, they’re easier to eat and the color and spices saturate the center.)

Add wine, sugar, vanilla bean, cinnamon stick, orange peel, lemon peel, cloves, star anise and just enough water to cover pears.

Set saucepan over high heat, and bring liquid to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, and cook, occasionally stirring gently, over medium-low heat, until a paring knife easily pierces pears, about 15 minutes. Remove pan from heat; let pears cool in liquid.

Using a slotted spoon, transfer pears to a plate. (You can remove the spices in at this point, but I left them in while reducing for extra flavor.) Place over medium-high heat, and cook until liquid has been reduced to a syrup that coats the back of a wooden spoon, about 45 minutes. Remove spices and beets. Let cool; store pears in an airtight container until ready to serve.

When ready to serve, arrange pears on a platter or on individual plates, and drizzle with poaching liquid. They’re delicious on their own and with pumpkin bread, and would also be great topped with ice cream or whipped cream.

Ginger-Pumpkin Bread
6 tablespoons (3/4 sticks) unsalted butter, melted, plus room-temperature butter for pan
6 tablespoons olive oil
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for pan
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons freshly grated ginger
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup packed light-brown sugar
1 can (15 ounces) pumpkin puree (1 3/4 cups)
3 large eggs

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Butter and flour two 8 1/2-by-4 1/2-inch (6-cup) loaf pans; set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, spices and salt. In a medium bowl, whisk together ginger, sugars, pumpkin, melted butter, and eggs; add flour mixture, and stir until just combined.

Divide batter between prepared pans. Bake until a toothpick inserted in center of loaves comes out clean, about 50 minutes. Let cool 10 minutes; invert pans and transfer loaves to a wire rack to cool completely.

*Thanks to Jenny for representing the National Gallery crew with art history suggestions, and Amanda for keeping me company in the kitchen! You would think that after stints at both the Gallery and the Met, my artistically-inclined husband could name a single work of art featuring food; not so. But he deserves all the credit for art directing the dripping pears. His theory is that if my food can drip or catch fire or otherwise make a mess, it makes for a more interesting shot, and he’s (almost) always right.

23 Comments leave one →
  1. November 13, 2009 1:50 am

    BEAUTIFUL photos and recipe!

  2. November 13, 2009 8:43 am

    I cannot even begin to tell you how beautiful these photographs turned out! Wow! Thank you so so much for collaborating with me – the stain glass window suggestion was genius and gave the blog a whole new dimension. Can’t wait to see what you do next because I know it is going to be great!

  3. November 13, 2009 10:49 am

    Wow! Your pictures are so beautiful!

  4. November 13, 2009 12:28 pm

    Edible art….I like that a lot!!!Beautiful photography!!!

  5. November 13, 2009 4:22 pm

    absolutely gorgeous pears! I made the red wine poached pears and we love it. The picture is such a stunner.

  6. November 13, 2009 5:18 pm

    Those pears are unbelievably gorgeous. The stained glass against the light through the silhouetted trees is just a brilliant pairing.

  7. November 13, 2009 5:32 pm

    fantastic photo. I love that drip.

  8. November 13, 2009 6:14 pm

    Your photography never ceases to impress me – how oh how do you make poached pears look so good?

  9. November 13, 2009 8:16 pm

    Beautiful photos!:)

  10. November 13, 2009 10:43 pm

    you take wonderful pictures and what a great way to get inspired for recipes – art!:) u’ve inspired me now.

  11. November 14, 2009 6:16 pm

    Yum! Anything with pumpkin AND ginger is right up my alley! The photos are gorgeous, too! Love the pear pic at the start of the post. It works perfectly with the window.

  12. November 14, 2009 9:15 pm

    What a great idea to have those inspired by artwork! And wow… those photos are soooo gorgeous!

  13. November 16, 2009 3:27 pm

    stunning, stunning photos! decadent fall brunch? count me in.

  14. Moo permalink
    November 16, 2009 3:51 pm

    Beautiful:) Will have to try the bread and pears recipes! I love this time of year!

  15. November 18, 2009 2:37 am

    Very impressive photos! Esp. the first one – nice work!

  16. November 18, 2009 8:40 am

    Stunning photography of the pears, they look amazing and the deep red certainly is eye catching, well done.

  17. zenchef permalink
    November 20, 2009 4:10 am

    Love the concept of matching a food-focused work of art with a recipe inspired by the ingredients. Brilliant idea! And i love the color and the light in those pictures. Beautiful!

  18. November 23, 2009 3:27 am

    Phew!! Those pears are simply breath-taking!!!

  19. November 30, 2009 2:53 pm

    Absolutely the most beautiful post I’ve seen in a long time. I love Feasting on Art- such a neat blog concept.

  20. peasepudding permalink
    January 2, 2010 7:42 pm

    Congratulations on another DMBLGIT win! it’s a beautiful photograph.


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