Valentine’s Day thoughts on how to find love, happiness and a really good dessert
Eliza Osborne

Valentine’s Day thoughts on how to find love, happiness and a really good dessert

Just a few days ago it was raining so hard the bounce could fill your shoes.

Snow this week, though, with plenty of dark days still ahead giving good reasons for staying close to home.

Winter does have its pleasures, I think, although the foods of the season can pale a bit as it goes on. And on. Palates can tire. Mine has, anyway, although I like cold weather roasts and stews. But after a while there is a certain long-cooked sameness about it all, and the variety and abundance of summer’s fresh local produce can seem very far away.

Valentine’s Day offers one bright spot in the dreariness of mid-winter. Remember how exciting exchanging valentines was in elementary school? We all had our little crushes. And still, now, the day offers a chance to think for a moment about the loves in your life — friends, family, your dog if you have one. So do that — think the good thoughts about the past and the present, and make a plan to shake up an otherwise rote menu. One suggestion follows for how you might brighten a meal and the day, or any other day.

Winter Fruit Stew, Spiced and Spiked

Serves 8

Start this one day ahead. Easy to finish and keeps well.

2/3 cup bourbon or brandy

3/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon allspice

3/4 cup granulated sugar

1 cup dried mission figlets, sliced in half and hard stems cut off

3/4 to 1 cup dried apricots, coarsely chopped

1 cup jumbo raisins, or regular raisins, yellow or black

3 ripe Bartlett or Anjou pears, peeled and medium chopped

2 teaspoons finely grated fresh ginger

Vanilla ice cream

1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped walnuts or pecans

I have a friend who has a stall on the boardwalk in Atlantic City — beat that, by the way — whose more serious business is supplying nuts to casinos. He recommended a place called to me and I have ordered regularly from them ever since. Nuts, dried fruits, etc.; organic options, very high-quality products and good service. You might try them, although, of course, all the ingredients can easily be bought locally, weather allowing. Guido’s has them, among many others.

Cook the bourbon, spices and sugar in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and stir in the figlets, apricots and raisins. Pour the mixture into a gallon-size zip-top freezer bag. Seal the bag, removing as much air as possible, and chill for 24 hours. The next day, put the mix into a large, heavy pot along with the pears and ginger. Heat this to a simmer. You can serve at this point, or refrigerate and later dip out servings into a microwavable dish with a cover. For four servings, cooking about 3 and a half minutes will be enough. You’re looking for nicely warm, not hot. Sprinkle with the walnuts or pecans, and serve with vanilla ice cream.

So that’s the really good dessert. The advice? Love and happiness, I have learned, are a moving target. Sometimes you just have to take a shot. Go on.

Clarification: the end of my previously published column, Really Good Chicken and Rice, was altered from what I originally wrote. It should have read:

“Anyway, I was thinking about the grocery bagging. What you want to do is put the heavy stuff into small bags, and put those onto the floor of the back seat. Then take your big bag, which you’ve filled with good bread, soft cheeses, berries, tomatoes, potato chips — all the fragile things that make life worth living — and sit that on top. You can’t ignore what’s weighty, and these things are going to be there if you’re leading an examined life. Keep them under control and in proportion. But you’ve got to protect the things that bring you joy. Keep them uppermost. Don’t forget.”

Several sentences were deleted from this paragraph, so that it appeared to offer only very basic instructions about how to load groceries into your car. I’m assuming most people already knew how to do this.

Pam Osborne lives in Salisbury.

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