Prep time: about 15 minutes
Cook time: about 30 minutes (chilling time: at least 3 hours)
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups water, champagne, or dry white or red wine
1/2 vanilla bean, split down the middle, or 1/2 teaspoon
1 cinnamon stick, about 3 inches long
8 large firm-ripe Bosc or Bartlett pears, peeled, cored, and left whole with the stem on
1 cup fresh or frozen unsweetened raspberries
Sprinkle fresh berries over the pears before serving.
2. Reduce heat to low and add pears, standing up. Cover pot and let simmer about 25 minutes, gently turning the pears once or twice to make sure they're coated with the sugar syrup. (The pears are done when they feel tender throughout when gently tested with a small, sharp knife.) Remove from heat; if using frozen berries, add them to the sauce at this point. Cover and let sit 5 minutes.
3. Remove the pears and the berries with a slotted spoon and place in a serving bowl or deep plate. Strain the syrup and pour
over the tops of the pears; let cool. Refrigerate for at least 3 hours, or overnight. If using fresh berries, sprinkle them over the pears before serving.
Pre-party prep: Make up to a day ahead or the morning of the party. Place in a covered casserole and keep chilled in the refrigerator until ready to serve. PER SERVING (1 pear, with 1/4 cup liquid, using wine): 213 calories, 0.6 fat (0 g saturated), 3 mg sodium, 0 mg cholesterol. This rich-tasting dessert is virtually fat-free, and high in fiber too.