Have I mentioned that Michael and I honeymooned in Zanzibar? Not to travel-name-drop, but Zanzibar is one of a few places referred to as the “Spice Islands.” The islanders cultivate many different spices, but they’re most known for cloves. Did we bring home a suitcase full of spices? Just about. Do we have more cloves than we know what to do with? Yes.
Here, you can see cloves drying on mats outside somebody’s house. As you drive (perilously) or walk down the road, the scent of cloves seems to fill your entire body, nostrils first.
We spent most of our time on the island of Pemba, which is just one tiny plane ride away from the biggest island, but a world away in terms of culture and infrastructure. Oh, and by tiny plane ride, I mean the plane is suuuuper tiny. I rode in the copilot’s seat and wondered if I’d be responsible for the lives of my fellow passengers if the pilot had a heart attack. It wasn’t like sitting in the emergency exit row on your average commercial flight–there was no laminated card to explain the procedure in pictures.
One of the touristy things to do in Zanzibar is to go on a spice tour. Because we were on very rural and un-touristed Pemba, I think our experience was a little different. Three men took Michael and me around a farm where the various spice plants grew willy-nilly; there were no neat rows of a monocrop to be seen. Even though this was the most clichéd part of our trip, we loved the spice tour.
Look! Those are fresh cloves! In my hand! I’m obviously still excited about this.
In an effort to revive the memory of our honeymoon, as well as making a dent in our spice stash, I made clove-spiced poached pears this week. I served them to dinner guests alongside a rich mousse, so they provided a refreshing contrast of flavors. These pears are a beautiful dark burgundy hue because of the red wine. The flavor is so heady with sweet/spicy clove that they conjure my memory of jostling along in an old SUV, driving in the sand next to the road because the road is too pot-hole pockmarked to traverse. Maybe we’ll have to stop and wait for a donkey to lumber out of the road, or for some kids to chase their chickens out of the way.
Clove-Spiced Poached Pears (I began with David Lebovitz’s recipe, but cut the sugar way back and added wine)
4 cups water
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons whole cloves
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
Pinch of salt
1 cup red wine
6 pears, peeled, cored, and quartered (I like a combination of different pear varieties)
Heat the water and sugar in a large saucepan over medium heat until the sugar dissolves. Add the cloves, vanilla bean, salt, wine, and pears and bring to a boil. Turn the heat down and let the mixture simmer until the liquid is reduced to a thin syrup, stirring occasionally. This could take anywhere from 1/2 hour to an hour. Let the pears cool in the syrup, and store them in the fridge until you serve them.
You can serve the pears with our without their syrup, but if you have syrup leftover, you may want to mix it with something sparkling for a pretty beverage.