Seabeck Succotash: Poached pears with cardamom and saffron

At twenty, Beth was a good cook and nearing sixty, she’s an even better one. She went to Evergreen College for a few years and followed her interest in plants to a job at the Looking Glass Gardens, a degree in Horticulture at the U. of Washington, a job at Seattle City Light, and eventually a thirty-year stint at the Seattle Center. We have cooked for each other during all those years and I can say that there was never a dud from Beth’s kitchen. Her food is well-cooked, perfectly seasoned, and beautifully presented. 

This year she and her husband hosted the annual Succotash event at their Hood Canal house, where charm is abundant, views are spectacular, but the kitchen can be challenging. Regardless of the culinary surroundings, this year’s menu, from Yotam Ottolenghi’s Jerusalem, was a stunner. His Middle Eastern recipes emphasize bold, clean flavors, call for fresh produce and herbs, and require plenty of mincing, chopping, squeezing, dicing, and sautéing.

We ate too much, drank just enough, stayed til the summer sun was gone, told many tales, and had a wonderful time.

Fava bean kuku


Rice pilaf

Bean and red pepper salad


Poached Pears With Cardamom And Saffron, from Yotam Ottolenghi’s Jerusalem

  • 1/2 tablespoon cardamom pods
  • 2 cups dry white wine
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon saffron threads
  • Pinch of kosher salt
  • 4 firm pears, peeled, stems intact
  • 1 6-ounce container crème fraîche

Gently crush cardamom with a rolling pin or the bottom of a skillet to slightly crack open pods without releasing seeds.  

Combine cardamom, wine, sugar, lemon juice, saffron, and salt in a medium saucepan over medium heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Bring to a simmer. Add pears; add water if needed to completely submerge pears. Cover with lid slightly ajar and simmer, turning occasionally, until pears are tender but not mushy, about 30 minutes.

Using a slotted spoon, transfer pears to a plate. Increase heat and boil poaching liquid until reduced to 1 cup, 10–15 minutes. Can be made 8 hours ahead. 

Cover and refrigerate pears. Let syrup stand at room temperature. Rewarm syrup before continuing. 

Spoon some of syrup over cold or room-temperature pears. Serve with a dollop of crème fraîche; pass remaining syrup.

Fava bean kuku

“This frittata-like dish is characteristic of the Iranian Jewish cuisine. Barberries, another typical ingredient, are tiny sharp berries. Try looking for them online or in specialist Middle Eastern and Iranian shops, otherwise substitute with chopped up dried sour cherries. Serve this as a starter with Yoghurt and cucumber.” Yotam Ottolenghi’s Jerusalem

  • 1 pound fava or broad beans, fresh or frozen
  • 5 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 medium onions, finely chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 6 medium eggs
  • 1 Tbsp flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tbsp fresh dill, chopped
  • 1 tbsp fresh mint, chopped
  • 1/2 tsp saffron threads dissolved in 1 Tbsp water
  • 1/4 cup dried cherries
  • 3 tbsp crème fraîche or plain Greek-style yogurt
  • salt and black pepper

Bring 4 cups of water to a boil, season with salt then add fava beans. Cook covered for 5 minutes if fresh, or 8 minutes if frozen. Drain fava beans in a colander.

Sauté diced onion and minced garlic in olive oil until translucent. Set aside. 

In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, flour, baking powder, sugar, dill, mint, saffron and its water, salt and pepper. Once smooth, fold in the cherries, crème fraîche, and onion mix.

To the egg flour mixture add cooked fava beans and sautéed onion. Mix well.

Grease oven proof dish with olive oil, then add the batter. Bake for 30 minutes or until done.

Serves 6.


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3 Responses to Seabeck Succotash: Poached pears with cardamom and saffron

  1. Jenni says:

    Another stunner! Thanks, Marla. By coincidence I made baked pears this week: halved, unpeeled Bartletts with TJ’s orange cranberries, chopped pecans, Armagnac (2 T. each of those), and 1 t. brown sugar on each half. Baked at 375 for 20-25 minutes. Served with a little half and half drizzled over.

  2. Maria says:

    Everything looks delicious, yummy!

  3. Beth says:

    I’m so honored to be on your blog! I made a couple more dishes from the Jerusalem cookbook since Succotash. Now that I have all the spices and ingredients in stock, it makes it much easier to be spontaneous about using that cookbook. Every recipe, so far, has been a winner.

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