Tea-poached Pears

My favorite cookbooks and chefs love to talk about letting food inspire. I find this idea fascinating. Given that I have a rather compulsive personality, I generally find recipes far in advance, and make a list of all necessary ingredients before shopping. I become overwhelmed by options if I wander into a supermarket with an open mind, and I can never remember what I have at home to accompany the ingredients I find. I end up either overbuying, or arriving home to find out that I don't have half of the things I need to make the dish that I envisioned.

With farmer's markets, though, it's often a different story. Perhaps it's because the produce is so fresh that it requires nothing extra, or perhaps because the breezy outdoors inspire more creative thinking than my crowded grocery store. Alex and I go try to go to the markets with no clear ideas about what we want to bring home, and it yields pleasantly surprising results.

For example, last weekend at our local farmer's market, we found gorgeous red pears that somehow inspired us to try poached pears, though neither of us had attempted to poach fruit before. Not wanting to clutter them, we found a simple recipe on Epicurious that called for poaching them in Earl Grey tea. The result was subtler and far more interesting than any pear I've had poached in wine, and both of us loved the distinct and sweetly mellow taste. Though the recipe also asked for dried cherries and other fruits, we simply added raisins and craisins because they were the only things in the cabinet. I'd love to experiment with other fruits though, as I bet that dried mangoes and and such would go just as well. I'm posting our very simplified version below.

2 cups water
2 Earl Grey tea bags
1/2 cup sugar
2 large firm but ripe pears, peeled and halved
1 cup dried fruit

Boil 2 cups water. Add tea bags, and remove from heat. Cover and steep for 10 minutes. Remove tea bags, then add and dissolve sugar. Add pears and dried fruit. Cover and simmer until pears are tender, about 5 minutes. Transfer fruit to a bowl, and boil liquid until reduced to 3/4 cup. Pour over fruit and chill for at least 3 hours. Serve, with ice cream if you like.