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Pears With Blackberry Sauce
1 1/4 cup granulated sugar -- plus
1/3 cup granulated sugar -- divided
1 piece (1-inch) vanilla bean or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
8 fresh pears -- peeled, cored and halved
2 cups blackberries or red raspberries
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons berry liqueur -- optional
1. In saucepan, bring 2 cups water and 1 1/4 cups sugar to a boil, stirring until sugar has dissolved. Add the vanilla bean or extract; lower heat and simmer 5 minutes.
2. Add the pears and simmer gently until tender. Poach half the pears at a time if necessary, turning them to poach on both sides. (Microwave instructions: In microwaveable bowl, combine water and sugar. Cover and cook on High until mixture boils. Remove lid, stir and add vanilla bean. Cook at 50 percent 1 to 2 minutes longer. Place pears in syrup, spooning syrup over fruit. Covet and cook on High 7 to 10 minutes, turning pears once, until nearly fork-tender.)
3. Drain and transfer pears to a bowl. Cool, cover and chill.
4. In food mill, processor or blender, puree the berries. Strain through medium sieve into a saucepan; stir in 1/3 cup sugar, 1/4 cup water and the lemon juice. Heat, stirring until the sugar has dissolved. Add berry liqueur. Cover and chill.
5. Divide pear halves among 8 plates. Just before serving, spoon berry sauce over pears.
Makes 8 servings. Preparation time: About 20 minutes. Cooking time: About 10 minutes.