Pear Upside-Down Cake with Pomegranate Molasses


We were sure we were done with winter here in New York city. Temperatures have climbed, sometimes into the upper 60s, and daffodils are sprinkling the grey-brown landscape with yellow stars. But it looks like winter isn’t quite done with us yet. A storm is expected on Sunday and Monday that will bring snow and freezing temperatures back. I hope it’s the last of that for the year. I’m ready for spring.

Other than the seesawing temperatures, this time of year also means that we are done with fresh winter produce and have no spring replacements yet. It’s withered potatoes, refrigerator apples, and overgrown winter squash season. You can probably still find decent pears though. And if you do, make this cake. It’s made with ground almonds, giving it a toothsome crumb and a satisfying chew. It’s a pretty traditional upside-down cake, but instead of the usual caramel, you use pomegranate molasses. Their tartness provides a great counterbalance to the sweet pears. And to top it all, it just looks so beautiful when you take it out of the pan.

Have a slice and hang tight. Spring is just around the corner.DSC04347

Pear Upside-Down Cake with Pomegranate Molasses – Slightly adapted from Bon Appétit


2 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for pan
1½ cups all-purpose flour, plus more for pan
3 tablespoons fresh orange juice
¼ cup pomegranate molasses, plus more for serving
1¾ cups sugar, divided
3-4 ripe Bosc or Bartlett pears (about 1½  pounds), peeled, halved lengthwise, cored
125 g almond flour (or 1 cup blanched almonds processed until fine)
1½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon kosher salt
⅛ teaspoon ground nutmeg
4 large eggs
1 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
1 cup olive oil


Preheat oven to 350˚. Butter a 10″-diameter springform cake pan and line bottom with a parchment paper round; flour sides of pan. Set pan on a foil-lined rimmed baking sheet and set aside.

Cook orange juice, ¼ cup pomegranate molasses, ¼ cup sugar, and remaining 2 Tbsp. butter in a medium skillet over medium heat, stirring, until sugar is dissolved and mixture is slightly reduced, about 4 minutes. Add pears, cut side up, and cook (undisturbed) until they begin to release their juices, about 3 minutes. Turn pears over and cook just until slightly softened, about 3 minutes. Let cool slightly, then arrange pears, cut side down, in prepared pan.

Return skillet to medium heat and cook liquid in skillet until thickened and syrupy, about 4-5 minutes, depending on juiciness of pears. Pour syrup over pears and let cool while you prepare the batter.

In a medium bowl, combine almond flour, all-purpose flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and nutmeg.

Using an electric mixer on medium speed, beat eggs, orange zest, and remaining 1½ cups sugar in a large bowl until pale and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Add oil and continue mixing for another 1-2 minutes. Fold in dry ingredients just until fully incorporated. Pour batter over pears and smooth top.

Bake cake (on foil-rimmed baking sheet, to catch drips from springform pan) until top is golden brown and a tester inserted in the center comes out clean, 50–60 minutes (it took 70 minutes for me). Transfer to a wire rack and let cool in pan, 15–20 minutes. Run knife around edges of cake to loosen and invert onto rack. Remove parchment and let cake cool completely.

If you want, drizzle cake with more pomegranate molasses just before serving.

Pear Vanilla Jam


The weather in New York has been crazy. On Christmas eve, the high was 72°F (22°C). That was hotter than the weather in Cyprus! Because of the unusually warm fall, things have been a little strange around here. The grass outside our building is lush and green. The rose bushes a couple of blocks away are still blooming. So have the trees in the park in our neighborhood. The stores are putting all of their winter clothes on sale. Nothing has sold. Fashionistas are apparently freaking out because they can’t wear this year’s winter clothes. Christmas this year felt like an imposter. When people are walking outside in shorts and t-shirts it doesn’t give you quite that holiday spirit (unless you live in LA or Florida I guess).

It’s hard to even enjoy this nice weather, knowing that it may be a harbinger of more extreme weather, super hurricanes, plagues of locusts, alien invasions, and humanity’s annihilation! So prepare yourselves for the apocalypse by making this pear vanilla jam. The recipe is from my friend JC who has been making it for years and generously shared it with me. The jam is lovely and it will keep you well fed in your doomsday bunker.

Pear Vanilla Jam


4 lbs (1.8 kg) ripe Bartlett/Williams pears, peeled, cored and diced in small pieces
Sugar, 45% of the weight of chopped pears
Seeds scraped from 1 vanilla pod
1/4 cup lemon juice


First, peel, core, and dice the pears. Weigh the diced pears. Place them in a large, heavy pot and add 45% of the weight of the pears in sugar (so if your diced pears weighed 1 kg, add 450 g of sugar).

Add the vanilla seeds and the lemon juice. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Continue boiling for about 20 minutes.

Test the jam by placing a little on a plate that you’ve kept in the freezer. Return to the freezer for 2-3 minutes. Push the jam with your index finger. If the liquid part is wrinkling, the jam is done. If not, boil it for another 5 minutes. Don’t boil it for more than 25-30 minutes. Since the jam doesn’t have added pectin it never gets quite as gel-like as other jams but it’s solid enough to be spreadable.

The jam can be canned for long term storage (in your bunker). Alternatively, you can place it in clean jars and freeze it.

Vegan Pear Caramel Ice Cream


When my friend Lisa told me a few years ago that she had decided to go vegan, I was devastated. She was someone that enjoyed food, all food, just as much as I did. She ate everything and really savored new food experiences. I remember one night when she and I were having dinner with another friend at Le Villaret in Paris. It was a tasting menu and we were probably on our third or fourth course. The food was exquisite, the wine superb. The three of us took a bite of what was impossibly even better than the courses that preceded it and we looked up at each other amazed. Lisa had tears in her eyes. So did I.

So you get the idea. Lisa has always been one of my most precious food buddies. An indomitable eater. A loyal gustatory companion.DSC03418

I reacted to her news of going vegan much like some parents react to their kids coming out to them. “Why?” was the first thing I asked. “Are you sure this is what you want?” Followed by “What about me?” and inevitably “I don’t understand this but I love you and I will support you, no matter what.”

Ok, maybe it wasn’t so dramatic. She did make this decision for valid reasons. She no longer trusted the food supply system (watching “Food Inc.” had done a number on her) and cutting out all meat products was a way for her to regain some control over what she ate. So, I took it in stride and accepted it as a new challenge: every time she visits me, I strive to “veganize” a recipe I like. Sometimes it works well (like with the pain d’épices that comes out great). Sometimes it’s tougher.

For her last visit, I wanted to make some pear ice cream, since pears were in season. I adapted my favorite pear ice cream recipe from David Lebovitz and the result was actually pretty good. Personally, I’d much rather have it made with heavy cream, but the vegan version is still creamy, with a strong pear flavor and a slight burn from the caramel. And it made Lisa happy, which made losing the heavy cream worth it.

DSC03424Vegan Pear Caramel Ice Cream – Adapted from Perfect Scoop: Ice Creams, Sorbets, Granitas, and Sweet Accompaniments

Note: The trick to this is to separate the cream from the water in the coconut milk. I used the Thai Kitchen brand of coconut milk. The cream had already separated to the top of the can. Whatever brand you use, make sure not to shake the can before opening it, other wise the cream will mix with the water. Some people refrigerate the cans first for the cream to separate. I didn’t have to but it may work for you.


2 14 oz cans of coconut milk (unsweetened, not the lite version; do not shake the cans)
3 medium-sized ripe pears, peeled and cored
3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons sugar
heavy pinch of salt
a few drops of fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon pear-flavored eau de vie or kirsch (optional)


Using a can opener, remove the top of the two cans completely. The coconut cream should be at the top. Using a spoon remove the cream until you reach the coconut water at the bottom of the can (discard it or use it for something else, like smoothies). You should have about 2 cups of coconut cream from the two cans.

Dice the pears into 1/4-inch pieces.

Spread the sugar in a large, heavy saucepan. Cook over medium heat, carefully watching and stirring occasionally with a heatproof spatula until melted. When the sugar is a deep amber, stir in the pears. The caramel will seize, but continue cooking and stirring occasionally (again with a heat-proof spatula) for about ten minutes, until the pears have cooked through and the sugar has dissolved.

Remove from the heat and stir in 1/2 cup of the coconut cream, then mix in the rest of the cream, salt, lemon juice, and eau de vie/kirsch (if using).

Cool to room temp, and then puree in a blender until smooth. If you want, you can press it through a strainer. I prefer that it has a little bit of the pear texture.

Chill in the refrigerator and churn in ice-cream maker according to manufacturer’s instructions.