- In a large saucepan, stir sugar with water. If using vanilla bean, add and bring to a boil. Boil for 1 minute. Meanwhile, peel pears and rub immediately with a lemon slice to prevent browning. Then add pears, 1 lemon slice and 6 basil leaves to boiling syrup. Reduce heat to low. Simmer gently, uncovered and turning fruit once, until pears are tender when pierced with a skewer, about 25 minutes. Then stir in vanilla extract, if using.
- Remove pears from pan and place in a heat-proof bowl. Pour in syrup. Discard vanilla bean and basil leaves. Serve warm or at room temperature garnished with basil leaves.
Crunchy biscotti dipped in bitter chocolate pairs perfectly with this dessert. The idea for this recipe came from a charming book called Pears (Raincoast) by Linda West Eckhardt.
Refrigerate poached pears in liquid until cool, then cover and keep in refrigerator for up to 2 days. Add basil leaves to syrup just before serving pears chilled or at room temperature.
Vanilla bean tip
Vanilla beans release tiny black seeds when split. Though they may look like black specks in the sauce, aficionados will appreciate the real thing. If you don’t like the seeds, simply strain out after cooking.