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Food: Downpour alters plans, but roadside meal grand

Kate Lawson
The Detroit News

My sister Suzanne and I had planned a road trip to Asheville, North Carolina, for the Toe River Studio Tour the first weekend in June. More than 100 artists and galleries opened their doors to display beautiful glassware, pottery, jewelry, painting and wood working and we drove from her home in Cleveland straight down I-77 to be a part of it.

We packed the car with water and snacks, and planned a delightful repast to break up the trip. On the way out the door Suzanne grabbed a tablecloth. We envisioned a lovely roadside park, a canopy of trees to keep the highway noise at bay and a mild respite from the hundreds of miles of concrete as we ate our lunch. Then the rain came – in torrents. Smack in the middle of the mountains, water pelted the car so hard we couldn’t see a thing but the truck lights ahead. With white knuckles and gritted teeth I steered the course. By the time we maneuvered through the maelstrom we couldn’t wait to pull into the nearest travel plaza in West Virginia. Clean bathrooms and a food court dining area became our haven.

So, while folks were waiting in line for fast food, we began unpacking our lunch: Fresh egg salad with pita bread, and for dessert, some lovely poached fruit with mascarpone. We set the table with plates and utensils and drew a few stares as we delicately dipped poached pears, figs, apricots and prunes into the creamy cheese. We wisely decided to forgo the tablecloth.

I thought of that delicious fruit treat as I unpacked my treasures after the trip. One especially nice piece, a beautiful blown glass bowl made by Mike Hayes in Bakersville, N.C., was the perfect vehicle for this ideal dessert. Two special memories of a great trip.

Kate Lawson is a retired food writer at The Detroit News. You can reach her at katecook@comcast.net.

Poached Fruit With Mascarpone

Recipe adapted from “Barefoot Contessa Parties” by Ina Garten. Vin Santo is a sweet Italian dessert wine most wine shops carry. Can substitute Maderia, Sauternes or sweet sherry if needed. This recipe can be easily halved.

1 (750 ml) bottle vin santo (or sweet sherry)

11/2 cups sugar

1 large cinnamon stick

6 whole cloves

1 vanilla bean

1 orange, zest julienned

1 lemon, zest julienned

10 pears (preferably Bosc, peeled cored and quartered)

11/2 cups large dried figs

11/2 cups large dried apricots

3/4 cup large dried pitted prunes

1 8-ounce container mascarpone

Ice cream or frozen yogurt (optional)

Place the vin santo, sugar, cinnamon, cloves, vanilla bean and zests in a large, shallow saucepan with 2 cups of water. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes.

Place the peeled pears in the poaching liquid and simmer for 20 minutes, carefully turning the pears once with a spoon. Remove with a slotted spoon. Add the figs, apricots, prunes, and the first batch of poached pears and simmer 5 to 10 more minutes, until the pears and the dried fruit are all tender.

Chill the pears, dried fruit, zests, and poaching liquid. Remove the cinnamon, cloves, and vanilla bean before serving if you like. Serve over ice cream or yogurt or top with a dollop of mascarpone. Serves 10.

Per serving: 510 calories; 11 g fat (6 g saturated fat; 19 percent calories from fat); 82 g carbohydrates; 71 g sugar; 0 mg cholesterol; 33 mg sodium; 4 g protein; 9 g fiber.