There is something about rotting fruit that I find inspirational.
The other day, for example, two pears sat on the brink of extinction in my fruit bowl. A half bottle of champagne was slowly losing its fizz in fridge. A quick google, and dessert was born. The original recipe was much more involved than what I produced--but it did provide the better half of my culinary inspiration. After the pears were consumed, I boiled the heck out of what was left in the pan and thereby made my first ever "jelly." The notion of champagne jelly seemed intimidating, but the process couldn't have been simpler and the result was delicious.
Peel and core:
Two pears (I used Bartletts)
The best way to core the pears (while keeping the stem intact, for prettiness), is to stick a knife into the middle of the bottom of the pear and twist. If the pears are sufficiently ripe, the core will just disintegrate and fall out. Slice off the bottom of the pears so that they can sit upright. Then squeeze a little lemon juice on them to keep them from turning brown while you combine, in a saucepan big enough to hold the pears:
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract (or use a larger quantity of vanilla sugar, or even a split vanilla bean if you're feeling extravagant)
2-3 cardamom pods, slightly crushed
zest of one lemon (I used a Meyer lemon, they're sweeter and less bitter)
1 teaspoon rosewater
3 Tablespoons sugar
(These ingredients are just suggestions. Anything that seems pear-compatible and aromatic should work just fine. Cinnamon, cloves, sherry, etc.)
Bring the liquid in the pan to a boil. Lower the pears into the pan. Add water, or more champagne to cover the pears so that they cook evenly. Reduce heat and simmer until pears are soft, but not mushy; approximately 8 minutes.
Remove pears with a slotted spoon and serve warm. I served mine with chocolate ice cream because I love the combination of pear and chocolate, but it's not always a crowd pleaser. Plain creme fraiche, whipped cream, mascarpone cheese, etc. are good options as well.
Pear-ish Cardamom Champagne Jelly
While you eat dessert, turn up the heat under the pan full of leftover juices and pear bits. Let the whole mess boil down until it is thick and sludgy. Stir occasionally. The flavors that ended up dominant in my jelly were cardamom and citrus, which I loved. But you could also fish out the cardamom pods and some of the lemon zest before boiling if you prefer something a bit more subtle. When you get the consistency you want, remove from the heat and let cool. Store the jelly in the fridge and eat on toast and in PB&Js for the next few days.
(Note: The pears were large and we didn't finish them for dessert that night, so I mashed the leftover pear and tossed it into the boiling jelly pan. If you're squeamish about such lapses in strict kitchen hygiene, proceed as if you'd never heard this disgusting suggestion. But I think it added nice texture and flavor to the final product. You could do an extra pear exclusively for this purpose as well, of course.)