Toasted Pound Cake with Spiced Clementines
1/2 cup sugar
4 allspice berries, lightly crushed
2 cinnamon sticks, lightly crushed
2 peppercorns, lightly crushed
1 star anise, lightly crushed
1/2 cup water
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
6 slices purchased pound cake, each about 1/2 inch thick
1/4 cup fresh mint leaves, cut into thin ribbons
In a saucepan, combine the sugar, allspice, cinnamon sticks, peppercorns, star anise and water. Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean and add the seeds and pod to the pan. Set over high heat and bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Remove from the heat and let steep for 30 minutes. Strain the syrup into a bowl, discarding the spices and vanilla pod.
Cut away the skin and pith from the clementines. Cut crosswise into thin slices. Add the clementines to the syrup, cover and refrigerate overnight. Bring to room temperature before serving.
Preheat an oven to 400°F.
Place the cake slices on a baking sheet. Bake until lightly browned on both sides, 5 to 6 minutes. Place the clementines and syrup in a serving bowl and sprinkle with the mint. Serve immediately alongside the toasted pound cake slices. Serves 6.