Caramelized pears

Ripe pears and ice cream team for summer treat

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Caramelized pears

Caramelized pears: Ripe pears and ice cream team for a caramelized summer treat that's sure to please. (Bill Hogan/Chicago Tribune)

The life coach inspires by way of Henry David Thoreau: "Advance confidently in the direction of your dreams!" he paraphrases. "Live the life you've imagined." For the pear, that life is ripe. Which is why pear seeks counsel of banana.

Coach Banana knows that the green peach, the mealy plum, the rock-hard pear can reach its goals. Each can achieve tender flesh, deep color and sweet scent. Each can live the dream of delicious.

Banana believes that the answers lie within. The pear or plum or peach, even the obdurate avocado, can mature on its own.

But the process takes time, and the fruit may be impatient. It needs help, inspiration and ethylene gas. Happily, a byproduct of bananahood.

Here's how a typical session works: Banana sees clients in a small, warm space. The callow fruit drops in, closes the door and settles down. Banana releases ethylene, cuing the pear to ripen.

It's fast and effective coaching, enabling the pear to stride boldly toward its dream of tumbling caramelized over ice cream. And the banana to retire, satisfied with its career in the helping professions.

Ripe fruit
1 banana
Plums, pears, peaches or other not-quite-ripe fruit

Score the banana skin in several long, shallow cuts, stem to nub. Drop the banana into a large plastic bag. Add other fruit. Seal bag. Let sit in a warm spot, perhaps on the window sill or above the fridge. In a day, open bag. Fruit should be ripe, and banana overripe. Peel banana, break into chunks and freeze for smoothies. Enjoy ripe fruit right away or refrigerate.

Caramelized pears

Prep: 15 minutes
Cook: 15 minutes
Serves: 4

Ingredients:

3 tablespoons unsalted butter
¼ cup sugar
1 1-inch-long vanilla bean
2 perfectly ripe pears, peeled, quartered and cored
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
5 ounces Sauternes or other sweet white wine
Vanilla ice cream

Caramelize:
Melt butter in a heavy medium skillet. Add sugar, vanilla bean and pears. Cook over medium heat, turning now and then, until pears are sticky with dark caramel, about 14 minutes.

Thicken:
Reduce heat to low. Carefully pour in wine. Add zest. Caramel will sputter, thin, then thicken a bit, about 2 minutes.

Serve:
Scoop small spheres of vanilla ice cream into 4 sturdy brandy glasses. Add 2 pear quarters and a drizzle of caramel. Enjoy.

Leah Eskin is a Tribune Newspapers special contributor. Email her at leahreskin@aol.com.

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