“Fall has always been my favorite season. The time when everything bursts with its last beauty, as if nature had been saving up all year for the grand finale.”  — Lauren DeStefano

Fall is such a vibrant and exciting time in the kitchen. The lighter flavors of summer give way to spicier selections, along with a return to roasting, baking and long, slow simmering. The foods of fall are slightly heavier, but still retain a delightful deliciousness. Brilliant orange pumpkin, dark green winter squash, shiny purple figs, juicy crisp apples and luscious ripe pears usher in a new menu of savory sensations.

Pears are particularly lovely, with their undulating curves and unique shades of pale green, ivory and deeper buckskin tan. When perfectly ripe, the creamy flesh is succinctly sweet and supremely satisfying. On their own, pears may be considered rather a simple ingredient. But they become quite sophisticated when roasted and caramelized and served with maple mascarpone or honey-cinnamon ice cream. Those same roasted pears may be laid upon a bed of frisée or baby kale leaves, drizzled with fig balsamic vinegar and showered with shards of blue cheese for an arresting autumn salad.

For a refreshing change from applesauce, prepare pear sauce, combining the cooked down pears with plump raisins and chunks of walnuts. Saute pears in butter, a bit of rum and plenty of cinnamon and ginger and serve atop steel cut oatmeal, or tucked into tender crepes. Pears love to be combined with all the traditional cold weather spices such as nutmeg and cloves that make a home smell so wonderful.

Add pears to apple crisp, or try them in cakes, cobblers, pancakes or tea breads. Pears poached in red wine are a healthy and simply gorgeous ending to a holiday meal. Combine pears with hot peppers, onion and garlic for a wonderful accompaniment to roast pork or chicken.

The perfect pear offers many health benefits. They are an excellent source of fiber, which is a boon to the intestines and may be effective in lowering cholesterol levels. Foods high in fiber may also be cancer preventative and reduce the risk of heart disease. Pears provide vitamins B2, C, E, as well as copper and potassium. Pear juice may provide relief from inflammation and soothe and nourish sore throats, Pear juice may also be tremendously effective in relieving a fever.

Enjoy the perfection of pears as you prepare your delicious life!

Autumn Pear Crisp

Serves 8.

3 large pears, peeled, cored and sliced

3 medium apples, peeled, cored and sliced

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 cup fresh cranberries, washed and picked over

¼ cup dark rum or apple brandy (optional)

½ cup sugar

¾ cup well packed light brown sugar

¾ cup flour

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

½ cup butter, cut into pieces

1 cup pecan pieces

½ cup old fashioned rolled oats

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 2-quart baking dish. Toss apples and pears with lemon juice and then with cranberries and rum. Spread in buttered baking dish. Sprinkle with ½ cup sugar. In a bowl, combine brown sugar, flour and cinnamon. Cut in butter until mixture resembles small peas. Stir in nuts and oatmeal. Spread evenly over fruit. Bake for 35-45 minutes until golden brown and fruit is tender.

Robin Glowa, HHC, AADP, “The Conscious Cook”, is a passionate food and wellness professional who earned her certification in holistic health counseling from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition and Columbia University Teacher’s College. She earned her cooking experience in the kitchen! Robin specializes in teaching healthy cooking classes to children and adults utilizing fresh, natural ingredients and super simple, extra delicious recipes. She also conducts cooking demonstrations for many local organizations and is available for cooking parties and private instruction as well. For more information go to www.theconsciouscook.net.

Robin’s blog is confessionsofaconsciouscook.blogspot.com