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AN INSTANT, ELEGANT DESSERT

Pears poached in red wine is an elegant dessert that you usually see only in fancy restaurants. Our desperate version is fat-free and takes less than 10 minutes, start to finish. While it's fast enough for any busy night, it's so stunning you'll be tempted to schedule a dinner party.

The restaurant rendition of this classic confection would start by peeling and coring fresh pears and simmering the fruit in the wine, which turns it a garnet color. But guess what?

Color aside, the texture and flavor of poached pears are exactly the same as plain old pears right out of a can. And you don't have to peel anything.

We get our brilliant color, too, by making a speedy wine syrup to drizzle on top. Because the alcohol burns off in cooking, it's fine for kids. Be sure to choose a dry red wine that's of a quality you'd be happy to drink. (The wine supplies the essential flavor for the dessert.) Because the recipe calls for only a half-cup, the rest is available to sip from a glass. Who knows, you could be inspired to light the candles.

EASY ELEGANT PEARS WITH RED WINE GLAZE

2cans (15 ounces each) pear halves packed in fruit juice

1cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup dry red wine

juice from 1/2 lemon

ground cinnamon to taste
Drain the juice from the pears and discard or reserve for another use. Divide the pears evenly, with the center side up into shallow dessert bowls, and set aside.

Combine the sugar, wine and juice from the lemon half in a 2-quart saucepan. Place the pan over medium-high heat and stir constantly while bringing the mixture to a boil, about 3 minutes.

Boil the mixture, stirring constantly, until it thickens, 1 1/2 to 2 minutes. Immediately remove the pan from the heat and drizzle the syrup evenly over the pears, pooling the syrup in the cored center of the fruit. Dust very lightly with ground cinnamon to taste. Serve at once. Serves 4.

Note: Be sure to use pears packed in their own juice. Pears packed in heavy syrup will be too sweet.

Approximate values per serving: 279 calories (none from fat), no fat, no cholesterol, no protein, 67 grams carbohydrates, 2 grams dietary fiber, 7 milligrams sodium.

Send us desperate tales of woe or everyday success stories and your favorite quick recipes to Desperation Dinners, c/o United Media, 200 Madison Ave., New York, N.Y. 10016; or e-mail: ddinners@aol.com.

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