The more food I make at home, the more I try to simplify or streamline the process. This means making the most of a few ingredients and yet still getting as much flavor as possible. Roasting is an easy way to intensify flavor in just about everything, and is a standard method in our kitchen for cooking chicken and vegetables. It's also a great approach to cooking fruit, and the technique I use to make this pear and lavender butter. For the roasting temperature, I took Mark Bittman's advice in How To Cook Everything Vegetarian, and then lengthened the time suggested to an hour to get a nice caramelization on the pears. The extra fifteen minutes was literally the golden ticket to flavor for the pears, creating a deep gold in the puréed butter.
You can find lavender buds in most stores, and they're cheapest if you can buy them in bulk. I grow and harvest my own, so they are very fragrant; make sure the lavender you buy has not lost its perfume. Pears are now in season, so you can experiment with different varieties; so far I've tried Seckel and Bosc, next I'd like to try Comice and then Anjou. The aroma of roasting pears in our kitchen is deeply satisfying as the weather slowly begins to chill out, and very comforting on a dark, rainy day. Spread thickly on a toasted english muffin, this pear and lavender butter is a real luxury.
Pear and Lavender Butter
4 to 6 ripe but still mostly firm pears, depending on size, about 2-1/4 lbs. before peeling (I used Seckell, but Bosc will work well too)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons raw honey
1 teaspoon lavender buds
1 teaspoon lemon zest, lightly packed
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
About an hour before you roast the pears, melt the butter over low heat in a large saucepan. Remove from the heat and stir in the honey, lemon zest, lavender buds, and salt. Cover and let steep for about an hour.
After one hour, preheat the oven to 350ºF. Warm the butter mixture briefly if it has solidified, and remove from the heat. Peel the skin from the pears using a vegetable peeler or paring knife. Cut pears into halves, and carve out the hard center core. Cut the pear halves in half, so you have thick pieces, around 2-inches long. Add pears to the large saucepan, and toss to coat the pears with the butter mixture. Using a spatula, spread the pears on a large baking sheet, scraping any remaining butter mixture from the saucepan onto the pears. Roast for 30 minutes, turning the pears about halfway through, and roast for another 30 minutes until the the pears have begun to caramelize. Remove the pears from the oven and let cool for a couple of minutes. Scrape the pears, with any remaining caramelized sauce from the baking sheet, into a high-powered blender or a food processor, and purée until smooth. Some bits of the lavender buds may remain whole; if you don't like having them in the finished pear butter, you can strain the pear butter once it is puréed through a medium sieve, otherwise, leave them in for flavor. Scoop into a pint-sized mason jar, let cool for an hour uncovered, and refrigerate.
Makes about 2 cups