I use an inexpensive, dry Cava for this recipe (Prosecco will also work) and D'Anjou pears, but most any kind of pear will do, as long as it holds it shape when cooked.
2 cups dry champagne or sparkling wine
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon (heaping) chopped candied ginger
1/2 vanilla pod, slit almost in two
3 not-too-ripe pears, about 1 1/2 pounds
1 to 3 tablespoons of fresh squeezed lime juice
In a wide pan, such as a frying pan with sides at least two inches high, combine the wine, sugar, candied ginger and vanilla. Set over a medium flame to bring to a simmer.
Meanwhile, peel and core the pears, making sure to also nick out the stem which runs from the core to the top of the pear. Cut into chunks. The size is up to you but I wouldn't make them bigger than an inch or smaller than 1/2 an inch.
When the syrup has begun to thicken, add the pears and continue to simmer until the pears are done. Test by poking a sharp knife into a chunk. It should easily pierce the fruit. When done, turn off the heat and let the pears cool in the syrup.
When cool (or lukewarm), strain the fruit by lifting out with a slotted spoon. Alternatively, you can pour the mixture through a sieve but be sure to save the syrup! Put the fruit into a glass jar or whatever you are going to serve or store the compote in.
Pull the vanilla from the syrup, scrape the seeds from the pod and add them to the syrup. Toss the pod back in, too, if you wish. Reheat the syrup over a medium flame and simmer until it thickens again. Carefully spoon a little syrup onto a plate to cool and taste. Add some of the lime juice to balance the flavors and/or cut some of the sweetness.
Pour the syrup over the fruit (removing the pod if necessary) and serve, either chilled on the yogurt and ice cream, or room temperature with the cheese plate or as a condiment. Actually, it might be nice warmed up for the yogurt and ice cream, although I have yet to try it that way.
This compote can be stored in the refrigerator for about a week or so. I assume it can also be canned up for a longer shelf life, but I have not tried it yet.
A note on the sweet and savory pairings: This compote is primarily a sweet thing, so taste and test before deciding if it works for your palate on the savory suggestions. It does for mine, but we're all different! Likewise, some of the savory suggestions would taste fabulous as a dessert if you like a little heat or herby-ness with your sweet. Have fun and experiment!
(Images: Dana Velden)