My hubby and I just returned from a 2 week visit to Hong Kong. For a dim sum loving Cantonese girl like me, it was absolute paradise (never mind the shopping). On the flip side, while every meal in Hong Kong was really, really good, nothing spared us from the inevitable bout of food fatigue. Even deciding where or what to eat became a chore – by then, all I really wanted was a bowl of brown rice. Once at home, I devoured half a cantaloupe for dinner. Party season was officially over.
Since then and many cups of ginseng tea later, I’ve been craving flavors that are light, bright and tangy. Just my body’s way of detoxing, I suppose, and that’s how pomegranates fit into today’s recipe. In case you haven’t noticed, pomegranates have been dubbed nature’s “miracle fruit”, curing everything from heart disease to cancer. Fortunately, there’s substance behind the hype as pomegranates, with their translucent ruby-like seeds, contain high levels of antioxidants – higher than most other fruit juices, red wine or green tea. And since winter is pomegranate season, there’s no better time to enjoy the benefits of this amazing fruit (go to Mustafa for the most reliable selection).
Taste-wise, pomegranates have a tendency to be more tart than sweet. In this restorative dessert, I take a large Chinese pear and poach it in pomegranate juice laced with star anise, cloves, ginger and honey. For a fun twist, I also add a few drops of Golden Orange Oil (available at Sheng Siong). Actually, this intriguing condiment isn’t an oil – the ingredients read sugar, orange juice and salt – it’s really a highly concentrated orange syrup with hints of Chinese preserved plum; next time, I’ll probably put it to work in an Asian-inspired dip or dressing.
Once the pears can be pierced with a fork, set them aside and continue boiling the liquid down to a thin syrup. Right before serving, drizzled the syrup over the pears, fresh pomegranate seeds and lemon zest; any leftover syrup can be added to tonic water for a refreshing spritzer. This dessert is easy but oh-so impressive, plus it signals the end of your meal with a striking interplay of color, texture and flavor. A perfect way to highlight a new year of healthy eating.
CHINESE PEARS WITH POMEGRANATE SYRUP
1 large Chinese Pear, peeled, cored and quartered
2 – 2 1/2 cups pomegranate juice
1 star anise
1 inch knob of ginger, thickly sliced
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon Golden Orange Oil (available at Sheng Siong*) or 1 tablespoon orange juice
Seeds of 1 large pomegranate
Zest of 1 lemon
1) In a saucepan, combine all ingredients except pomegranate seeds and lemon zest.
Bring to boil, then reduce to simmer, 20-25 minutes. Making sure pears remain covered in the poaching liquid. Add more juice if necessary.
2) When pears are tender, remove with a strainer and set aside. Continue simmering poaching liquid until syrupy and reduced to half. Strain and let cool to room temperature.
3) Slice quartered pears into halves and arrange on individual plates with pomegranate seeds and lemon zest. Drizzle on pomegranate syrup right before serving.