Try this light and simple dessert when pears are at their peak. If that means that fresh raspberries are out of season, no worries — frozen raspberries work just fine.
Any leftover poaching syrup makes a spicy-sweet raspberry topping for vanilla ice cream or yogurt. It can also be frozen into intensely flavored popsicles or ice cubes, which will add a colorful burst of flavor to lemonade, ginger ale or sparkling water.
From Food to Live By: The Earthbound Farm Organic Cookbook by Myra Goodman
Select a large, deep saucepan that will just barely hold the pears standing up. Pour 5 cups of water into the saucepan and add the raspberries, sugar, orange zest, lemon zest, vanilla bean, cinnamon and star anise. Bring the poaching liquid to a simmer over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally until the sugar has dissolved.
Meanwhile, peel the pears with a vegetable peeler or small paring knife. If they have stems, leave them attached. Remove the core from the bottom end of each pear with a melon baller or spoon. Cut a thin slice off the bottom of the pears so they stand upright in the pan.
Add the pears to the pan with the poaching liquid; they should be submerged. Reduce the heat to low and let the pears simmer slowly until just tender, about 30 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and let the pears cool in the poaching liquid. When cool, remove the pears from the liquid and set them aside.
Remove the vanilla bean from the poaching liquid and strain the liquid through a sieve, pressing down on the berries to extract all the liquid from the fruit. Discard the seeds, zest, cinnamon and anise. Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean into the strained poaching liquid, then rinse the bean and dry to save for another use.
Transfer the poaching liquid to a medium-size saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Let the liquid boil until reduced by about half, 10 to 15 minutes. Taste the liquid and add lemon juice, if needed, to balance the sweetness.
Serve the pears at room temperature, placed upright in shallow dessert bowls and drizzled with the reduced poaching liquid.