One of the advantages of living within walking distance to a good supermarket is that I can free up precious real estate in my fridge and pantry. Why would I want to pack the crisper bin with vegetables when I can just pick up a bag of salad greens for evening's dinner on my way home? As a result, I have more flexibility to include a variety of kitchen staples.
One thing that you can always find in my fridge is jars of poached fruit. Every summer, I would buy baskets of sweet cherries and lightly poached them with a citrus syrup. All the cherries would get packed into large glass jars and top with loads of kirsch. Once I store them in the fridge, I have enough supply of cherries in kirsch to last me until the next summer. Come winter time, when there's an abundance of pears available in the market, I would make poached pears. I love to poach the pears in either ruby port or sweet white wine such as Gerwurstraminer. With a healthy helping of aromatics (any combination of citrus zest, cinnamon, star anise, vanilla hull, cardamom) in the poaching liquid, I just leave the pears to simmer in the Le Creuset cast iron oval oven over very low heat until they are tender. I like to keep the pears in the poaching liquid and just let the flavour mature in the fridge.
These poached fruit are delicious on their own as a quick dessert but I love to include them in my savory dishes. For example, the poached pears make a lovely addition to a salad of baby spinach, toasted walnuts, and creamy blue cheese. The complexity of flavour from the wine and spices in the pears really elevates the salad from humdrum to extraordinary. Another great use of the poached fruit is as a condiment to meat dishes. After months of marinating in kirsch, I like to serve duck or pork dishes with the cherries and a reduction of some of the poaching liquid.
On the sweet side, black forest cake is an easy standby when I'm out of dessert ideas. More delicious, however, are clafoutis or frangipane tarts studded with poached fruit. One of my absolute favourite is poached peaches spiked with amaretto. Unfortunately, it doesn't keep very well so it's one of those special treats that I can only have when peaches are in season. I guess this is a blessing in disguise because it gives me more reason to look forward to the changing of the season every year!