After that humungous burger on Thursday night; I was in the mood for a much lighter fare last night…
Before I start…I’d like you to check out Ngan’s blog, and the lovely Pan Roasted Pear Salad with Arugula, Parmesan, and Pecans. Ngan was so kind, and so gracious about me posting my pear salad today, and it’s truly appreciated. We were completely on the same wavelength yesterday with our pear salads…and I still say that great minds think alike! I’m still overwhelmed and humbled by the kindness of my fellow bloggers. Truly.
I mentioned a couple of months ago, that even though it’s winter, and the perfect time for soups and stews, there are times when I prefer a light salad….especially after a good month of eating nothing but heavy foods, and this salad is absolutely perfect. It fulfills my desire for both sweet and savory, and I walk away feeling tremendously satisfied.
My boss took me to the Red Coach Inn in Niagara Falls a couple of weeks ago, and I was completely enamored not only by the atmosphere of the restaurant, but also by the salad that I ordered. It was a simple poached pear salad, served with dried cranberries, candied walnuts, goat cheese, and a wedge of bibb lettuce , served with a maple fig dressing. It’s usually unlike me to finish a meal, but this one? I cleaned my plate. The salad, along with the company, was superb.
I loved this salad so much, that I decided to recreate it for Christmas dinner. As I was writing out my grocery list, I thought that I should change it up a bit. While I loved the goat cheese with this salad, I really thought that the pear would pair so well with bleu cheese. I was right. The tang of the bleu cheese and the sweetness of the pear really danced. I mean, really, really danced…
I served a buffet on Christmas Day, so I just cut the pears up into little cubes and served it in a big bowl, only for the ease of it all. But if serving it as an individual salad, then fanning the pear is definitely the way to go, or better yet, poach the pear whole, and make it the centerpiece of the salad. No matter how you serve it, this is truly a beautiful and delicious salad.
I used butter lettuce, which is really Boston bibb. I did make the maple fig dressing, but after poaching the pears in my friend Jim’s Chateau Niagara Riesling, I made a Riesling reduction; and added that to the vinaigrette. It was divine.
I really wanted some fresh figs to serve with the salad, but all I could only find dried figs. The dried figs worked out perfectly because they were very fresh, and not very chewy at all. It wouldn’t have mattered to me anyway; I love dried figs, regardless if they’re soft or hard to chew. I actually threw them in with the pears as they were poaching, and made a fig jam using the Riesling reduction, and then drizzled the fig balsamic vinegar over the jam. I’ll be making this jam again soon. Delicious. As soon as I can find fresh figs in the stores again, you can be sure I’ll be trying them in this salad. There is no doubt that they’d be the perfect addition.
The beautiful part of this salad; is that it can be easily made for a crowd, or just as easy to make an individual salad. Personally? I’d poach a few pears and store them for up to four days in the refrigerator. Make another salad, or enjoy the pear on it’s own. Remember to store them in their liquid, which means that if you’re going to make a reduction for the vinaigrette, then you’ll have to split the liquid so you have enough to store them.
(Serves Four… Or Two)
Just a quick note.. this recipe really only needs two pears, which is technically good for four salads. Technically. But for me? It’s good for two salads. I need one pear to nibble on while I’m preparing the salad. Hey, don’t judge! Try poaching a pear in Riesling, and then not feel the urge to taste it!! And once you do, there’s no going back….
Throw an extra pear into the wine.
I was discussing this salad yesterday at work with my friend Chris (yes, the chefman), and he asked me if I would be using Bosc pears. I asked him why, and he told me that Bosc pears are all they ever use at the restaurant. They are the best for poaching. They’re a pretty shape, and they tend to hold their shape the best. I didn’t use Bosc for this salad, but I will remember that from now on. In the past, I’ve used red pears, and D’Anjou on Christmas day. I have a picture of the D’Anjou that I poached, and he’s absolutely right, they didn’t hold up well in the liquid. I just cut them into cubes. They were still delicious, just a little mushy on the outside. For this recipe, I used Bartlett. Why not Bosc as the chefman suggested? Because I had already gone shopping before we had that discussion! Otherwise, Bosc pears, it would have been..
Here’s what you’ll need:
Bleu Cheese (your favorite kind)
Poached Pears (Recipe to follow)
Candied Walnuts (Recipe to follow)
Fig Jam (Recipe to follow)
Fig Balsamic Vinaigrette (Recipe to follow)
3 cups Riesling (or your favorite white or red)
1 cup granulated sugar
2 pears (Bosc, Bartlett, Red…it’s really your personal choice)
Now, here is where you can get really fancy, and add orange zest, lemon zest, cinnamon, cardamom, star anise…etc, and that’s really delicious. But for this recipe, I just wanted a simple pear/wine flavor. The simplicity works for this salad..
Bring the wine and sugar to a boil, stirring often until the sugar is dissolved. Reduce to a simmer, and add the pears. Simmer for about 10 to 15 minutes. Watch them, the time will vary according to the ripeness of the pear. Remove from the liquid, and set aside.
If you are going to add the Riesling reduction to the vinaigrette, then continue to simmer the liquid until it reduces to a syrup; it will be about 1/3 of the liquid. Set aside to use in the vinaigrette and jam. Store in your refrigerator to use in other dressings, drizzle on roasted vegetables, etc. Drizzle it over goat cheese and serve with water crackers. Just don’t let it go to waste!!
6 dried figs, 8 if they’re really small
¼ cup Riesling Reduction
Fig Balsamic Vinegar
While the pears are poaching, throw dried figs into the saucepan with them. Poach the figs for about 15 minutes or so, or until they are softened. Save a couple of the figs for presentation (and eating) purposes, and throw the other four poached figs into a small food processor along with the Riesling reduction, and process until it turns to jam. Serve drizzled with balsamic vinegar in mini bowls, or on the side of the salad.
1 cup walnuts
1 tsp butter
½ cup brown sugar
In a small saucepan, heat the butter and brown sugar until the sugar is melted. Add the walnuts and stir until they’re coated with the sugar mixture. Pour the walnuts onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, and bake at 350 degrees for about 10 to 15 minutes so that the walnuts take on that yummy toasted flavor. Remove from oven, let cool.
Fig Balsamic Vinaigrette
I buy my Fig Balsamic Vinegar at D’Avolio. I’m lucky to be centralized between a couple of their shops. If you can’t find Fig Balsamic near you, you can order from them online!
1/3 cup Fig Balsamic Vinegar
3 tablespoons Riesling reduction
½ cup olive oil (use the light olive oil, not extra virgin)
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp fresh ground pepper
Pour the vinegar, Riesling reduction, olive oil, salt and pepper into a blender. Blend until emulsified.
Assemble the salad:
You can pretty much use your creativity when it comes to assembling this salad. Slice the pear at a diagonal to about 1/2” before the top, and fan it. Leave the pear whole as the centerpiece in the salad. Chop it into cubes. It’s really all up to you and your taste in presentation!!
Add the lettuce, cranberries, and walnuts to the plate. Arrange the pear on top. Sprinkle with bleu cheese, and drizzle with the fig balsamic dressing. Serve with the fig jam.