In Season: Paula Wolfert's Caramelized Quinces

Photo: John Burgoyne and Photography by Victor Prado

Scent alone—sweet and floral and uncannily pervasive—is reason enough to seek out the quince, available now at your local Greenmarket. One placed innocently on a kitchen counter acts like some sort of natural-world time-release air freshener, two together are almost overpowering, and the perfume department at Saks Fifth Avenue has nothing on a bowlful. You can’t really eat this ancient fruit without cooking it, and cooking it well, as demonstrated in this recipe adapted from Paula Wolfert’s The Food of Morocco ($45; Ecco). Steamed, then sautéed in butter and honey, the quince has a flavor that is mild, pleasantly sour, and, like its aroma, a little mysterious.

Paula Wolfert’s Caramelized Quinces

3 large quinces, washed
Juice of 1 lemon
2 tbs. unsalted butter
2 tbs. floral honey, such as lavender, acacia, or orange blossom, thinned with 2 tbs. water

(1) Halve and (2) core the quinces (do not peel), dropping them into a bowl of water to cover with the juice of the lemon. Fill the bottom of a couscous or pasta pot with water, set a snug-fitting vegetable steamer or colander on top, and bring to a boil. Add the quince halves, cover, and steam until completely tender, about 1 hour. Transfer to a rack to drain. Melt the butter in a 10-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the honey and bring to a boil, stirring. (3) Carefully cut each quince half in half, add to the skillet, and cook, uncovered, over medium heat, turning occasionally until glazed on all sides (about 5 minutes). Serve with chicken or lamb tagine or even good Greek yogurt for dessert. Serves 4.

*This article originally appeared in the November 19, 2012 issue of New York Magazine.