Another fall favorite – the quince – is a true gem of a fruit, which really shines in this recipe.
I’ve made these slow-roasted quinces with ricotta and pistachios so many times this year, and I can’t get enough of this heavenly dessert. It’s my type of dessert – not too heavy, not too sweet, yet unusual and decadent tasting. The sweet, supple flesh of the quince, aromatic and so creamy after hours of slow cooking in a spicy syrup is just out-of-this-world delicious, and makes baked apples pale in comparison.
Ever since I found this almost forgotten fruit, lying in a local Middle Eastern market a few years ago, I’ve re-discovered how fragrant and delicious these fruits are, and I’ve been on the look out for them around this time of the year.
My fondest memories of quinces are of my grandma’s awesome quince preserve. It was so fragrant and somehow preserved its crunch, it wasn’t like any other jam I’ve tasted. I also remember eating the fruit raw despite its notorious tartness and astringency. Its strong, honey-suckle, rose-like aroma was so intoxicating, it just begged to be picked up and eaten. Yes, its flesh was gritty and astringent, but I liked the tart taste, and most of all the intense fruity aroma which kept me reaching for more. In fact, legend has it, that the ancient Greeks gave a piece of quince to the bride-to-be so her kiss was sweetly perfumed with the fruit! Some even speculate the quince was the actual apple of Eden (!?)
Despite her glorious tropical smell and delicious flesh, however, the quince has taken a backseat in the Western kitchens. It’s such a pity because a few fruits undergo such dramatic transformation when cooked, and become such a scrumptious delicacy like the quince.
You don’t find quinces easily – they are not at your local grocery store for sure, and I haven’t seen them at farmer’s markets either. Your best bet is to look at Middle Eastern or Latin stores. Quinces look like knobbly pears or apples, and they are pale yellow in color. They are not only hard to come by, they will test your patience too. But as you know, the best things in life, take time and patience. Not only your taste buds will be rewarded, but you are in, for a big surprise, as the quince transforms into a pale pink, almost translucent, slightly chewy, melt-in-your-mouth treat, with a surprising floral aroma. It’s best served while still warm, with a cold topping like this honey ricotta cheese, kissed with a pinch of cinnamon, and some crunchy pistachios to complete the perfection.
Please make, and thank me later! 😉
Slow-roasted quinces with ricotta and pistachios. With their intoxicating floral aroma, and soft, melt-in-your-mouth sweet flesh, these slow-roasted quinces, topped with honey ricotta, and pistachios are sure to become your favorite fall dessert recipe!
- 4 quinces
- 2 cups water
- 2/3 cups sugar
- 1 vanilla bean
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 10 whole cloves
- 2-3 cardamom pods, cracked
- peel from one orange
- juice from 1/2 lemon
- 1 cup ricotta cheese
- 2 Tbs honey
- pinch of cinnamon
- roasted, chopped pistachios for serving
Preheat oven to 350° F.
Prepare the syrup by combining the water, sugar and spices + lemon juice and orange peel into a pot, and bring to a boil.
While the syrup is heating, wash the quinces to remove the fuzzy layer, then carefully cut them in half, lengthwise, and remove the pith and seeds.
Arrange the quince halves, cut side up, on a baking dish (not too shallow), and pour the hot syrup over them.
Bake in the oven for 2 - 2 1/2 hours, basting them with the liquid every 1/2 hour or so, and turning them over once or twice. They should become pinkish and very soft, and the syrup will thicken (see notes).
While the quinces are roasting, prepare the topping by mixing the ricotta cheese with the honey and a pinch of cinnamon, and keep in the fridge until ready to serve.
Serve the quince halves while still warm, with a scoop of the cold honey ricotta cream, and top with chopped pistachios. Drizzle the syrup over.
Depending on the size and hardness of the quinces, they may take longer, or shorter to bake. Small ones will become soft after about an hour, but DO NOT be tempted to remove them from the oven yet - wait till their color changes to an orange-pink, and the syrup thickens (one more hour at least).