Saturday, March 10, 2012

Special Roasted Pear Salad

I have a theory when shopping.  When I find something I love that costs less than $20 I might just buy it on the spot.  However, if it's more than $20, I usually walk away and think about it.  If I find myself keeping on thinking about it, then I know I might need to really consider going back and getting it.  I guess you could say, I'm looking for "staying power."

The same is true with recipes.  When I eat something and can't stop thinking about it, I know I need to get the recipe and make it.  Well, this is one of those.  A few years ago, at my friend, Connie's birthday dinner, one friend made this special roasted pear salad. [The recipe is from Barefoot Contessa's Back to Basics cookbook –  of course...that Ina Garten!]  It was such an amazing start to the meal.  It felt so special – pear filled with blue cheese, dried cranberries and walnuts, roasted with a yummy sauce placed on a bed of mixed greens.  It was so tasty and memorable.

So a couple of years later, when my Monday women's group was planning a holiday dinner together, I suggested this Pear Salad.  It seemed like an appropriate occasion. They all appreciate food, and with only 8 women, it wasn't overwhelming to roast the pears. We actually planned the menu around this salad. And it was everything I remembered it to be.  It was special, without being over the top or odd – a special occasion salad. 

I don't know about you, but in my home, I don't serve meals in courses.  We just put it on the table all together and go for it! So when I have the rare occasion to dine at an upscale restaurant and they serve the meal in courses, it throws me off.  I really love a good salad and the main dish is quite often not my favorite part of the meal.  So, when they serve a salad and then take away the plate to replace it with the main course, I am often conflicted.  I remember one time Dave and I were at Stoney River (the "Legendary Steak Restaurant") and I order a lettuce wedge for my first course and Salmon and Asparagus for the main dish.  I loved the lettuce wedge- with crispy lettuce, crumbled really-good bacon, diced tomatoes and a yummy house blue cheese dressing.  I thought to myself, "If I eat this entire thing, I won't be able to eat my meal...but I think it's awkward to ask the server to box up half of my lettuce wedge to take home, and I'm not going to waste it! I also think I might love the salad more than the main dish, and then I will have passed on my favorite part of the meal."  I know, I was over-thinking this.  This decision wasn't crucial- like which college to attend, or what to name a child, but I tell you, this (eating in courses) is such a rare occurrence, and I am so frugal, that I have to really analyze these decisions!

I decided to keep my salad through my main course.  The confused server kept passing by and asking me if I was done with my salad plate.  I kept telling him that I would hold on to it.  When the main dish came, it was tasty and very pretty but I was so glad that I kept my salad, because I decided that I could eat all of my salad; 1/2 of my dinner; and take the rest of my main dish home. 

So, although this pear salad looks lovely as a first course, presented to your guests, it might cause a dilemma for them if you require that they eat it before the main course. They might want it to be their main dish because it is that tasty and special. A highlight of the meal!

I thought I would post about this special salad, in case you are starting to plan an Easter meal. 
The only challenge I foresee in making this recipe for a holiday feast is if you have a large group coming OR you don't know how many guests you will have.  It would be costly to make it for a large group (since each person gets 1/2 of a pear), and it's hard to stretch this recipe to accommodate spontaneous guests, because of the pears.  Otherwise, it would be a delightful salad for serve! 

Roasted Pears with Blue Cheese
adapted from Barefoot Contessa

3 ripe but firm pears 
Freshly squeezed lemon juice (3 lemons)
1/4 cup dried cranberries
3 ounces crumbled blue cheese
1/4 cup walnuts, toasted and chopped
1/2 cup apple cider
3 Tbsp. port (or I used cooking wine)
1/3 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
1/4 cup good olive oil
6 ounces greens (baby arugula, spinach, whatever you like)
Kosher salt

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Peel the pears and slice them lengthwise into halves.
With a small paring knife and a melon-baller (or spoon),
remove the core and seeds from each pear, leaving a round well for the filling. 
Trim a small slice away from the rounded sides of each pear half so that they will sit in the baking dish without wobbling.  
Toss the pears with lemon juice to prevent them from turning brown. 
Arrange them, core side up, in a baking dish large enough to hold the pears snugly. 

Gently toss the crumbled blue cheese, dried cranberries, and walnuts together in a small bowl.

Divide the mixture among the pears, mounding it on top of the indentation.
In the same bowl, combine the cider, port and brown sugar, stirring to dissolve the sugar.  Pour the mixture over and around the pears.  

Bake the pears, basting occasionally with the cider
mixture, for 30 minutes, or until tender.  Set aside until still warm or at room temperature.

Just before serving, whisk together the olive oil, 1/4 cup lemon juice, and 1/4 cup of the basting liquid in a bowl.  
Place the greens in a large bowl and drizzle with the dressing.  Toss well.  
Divide the greens among 6 plates and top each with a pear half.  
Drizzle each pear with some of the basting liquid, sprinkle with salt, and serve.
Bon Appetit!


  1. This sounds truly amazing, Julie! I'm going to tuck this idea away for a special occasion.

  2. Yes, it's a good one to "tuck away"! I hope you are well.