Marge Perry, Newsday's weekly 3 Simple columnist, also writes, broadcasts, teaches and speaks about cooking, food and nutrition.
These crowd-pleasing desserts look more complicated to make than they are. All can be made a day ahead.
1 refrigerated piecrust (about 7 ounces)
5 Bartlett pears (about 2 pounds), peeled and thinly sliced
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon flour
1 lightly beaten egg
1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Coat a large baking sheet pan with cooking spray.
2. Working on a lightly floured surface, roll the crust out to a 14-inch circle; transfer to the sheet pan. (It is all right if the dough hangs over the edges.)
3. Toss the pears with the balsamic vinegar, brown sugar and flour. Arrange them artfully on the dough, leaving the outer 2-inch perimeter clear. Fold this edge in toward the center, gently pleating it as you go. Brush the dough with the egg.
4. Bake 10 minutes, rotate the pan and bake until the crust is golden and the pears are fork tender, about another 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool before cutting into wedges. Makes 8 servings.
To accompany with roasted pear Cut a 1/4-inch-thick slice out of the center of each pear. Place on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray and brush with butter. Place in a preheated, 425-degree oven 16 to 17 minutes, turning once, or until golden and tender.
Garnish each plate with chocolate shavings before serving.
1/3 cup amaretto
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons water
1 cup (6 ounces) dried
apricots, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon crystallized
ginger, finely chopped
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate mini-morsels
10 sheets frozen phyllo dough, thawed
1/2 stick (2 ounces) unsalted butter, melted
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Coat a baking sheet pan with cooking spray.
2. Combine amaretto, sugar and water in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave on high for 30 seconds, stir, and microwave another 30 seconds, until sugar dissolves. Stir in apricots and ginger; microwave on high until apricots are soft, about 3 minutes; let stand for 5 minutes. Place apricot mixture in food processor or blender; process until slightly chunky. Transfer to a bowl and let cool completely.
3. Stir chocolate into cooled apricot mixture.
4. Place 1 phyllo sheet on work surface (cover remaining dough with slightly damp cloth to keep it from drying). Lightly brush phyllo with melted butter. Lay another sheet on top, and again lightly coat with butter. Repeat until you've used all 10 sheets.
5. Spoon the apricot mixture in a long, 2-inch-wide strip, 2-inches from one long edge. Leave a 2-inch border of phyllo dough clear on top and bottom (short) edges. Fold the short edges up to cover apricot mixture at each end. Starting at the edge closest to the apricot mixture, roll the long edge over to enclose the filling; continue to roll, jellyroll- style. Place the log, seam-side down, on the prepared baking sheet pan.
6. Brush the outside lightly with butter and bake for 40 minutes, or until golden. Allow to cool completely before cutting across into slices. Makes 8 servings.
Nutritional analysis for each serving 301 calories, 3 g protein, 47 g carbohydrates, 3 g fiber, 10 g fat, 6 g saturated fat, 121 mg sodium
1 1/4 cups graham cracker crumbs
5 tablespoons butter, melted
1/4 cup sugar, plus 1 cup, divided
24 ounces cream cheese
1/4 cup brown sugar
3 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup sour cream
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin puree
5 large eggs
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Coat a 9-inch springform pan with cooking spray.
2. Combine the graham cracker crumbs, butter and 1/4 cup of white sugar. Pat the mixture on the bottom and part way up the sides of the springform. Bake 10 minutes; remove from oven and let cool. Reduce oven temperature to 300 degrees.
3. In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the cream cheese, remaining 1 cup white sugar, brown sugar, flour, vanilla, sour cream, cinnamon, allspice, ginger, nutmeg and pumpkin puree, and beat until smooth. Add the eggs, and beat until smooth.
4. Pour the pumpkin-cream cheese mixture into the cooled crust. Place the cake in the center of the oven and bake 1 hour. Turn the oven off and let the cake sit for another hour. Cool, then refrigerate at least overnight. Makes 16 servings.
Nutritional analysis for each serving 347 calories, 6 g protein, 30 g carbohydrates, 1 g fiber, 23 g fat, 13 g saturated fat, 292 mg sodium
TIP Instead of topping desserts with whipped cream, serve whipped creme fraiche. Its slight tang tastes especially good with fruit desserts. If you like it sweeter, add a touch of confectioners' sugar.