When I find myself in a bookstore – alone – I head straight for the cookbook section. I pull down a few that pique my interest and get lost in the possibility of cooking wonderful things. Sometimes, the book is so enticing that I have to buy it. But because my collection is pretty large, a book has to be pretty special – and useful – for me to walk out of the store with it.
Several years ago, I was paging through a book and I found a recipe that sounded incredible. Honey Roasted Pear Salad. I loved everything about it and thought for a moment about buying the book. I don’t for the life of me remember the title or the author but I do remember that there was a lot of meat in those pages and I realized that the salad was probably the only recipe I would use. So what did I do? I made a few quick notes on a piece of paper and left the book in the store.
Tell me I am not the only person who has done this. I love books. I love authors. I love cookbooks. I love cookbook authors. I don’t want to take anything away from anyone. I just couldn’t justify paying $35 for one recipe.
I do believe in karma and karma paid me back. After making the recipe a few times (and loving it), I lost the slip of paper with my notes. I went digging through my kitchen drawers yesterday trying to find it and it is gone. So I re-created it. I hadn’t made it in over a year (why, I don’t know) so what I came up with is really my own creation. The one (ingenious) idea I kept is using the marinade for the pears as the dressing.
If you love pears in salad, I highly recommend you give this a try. How often do we want to use pears and they are as hard as rocks? In this version, because the pears are roasted, you will still get a delicious result with semi-ripe fruit. This is a fairly sweet salad so you will want a nice salty cheese to balance it. I used a Gorgonzola but Parmesan would be delicious here as well. I cut the pears into 1 inch pieces but if you want a fancier presentation, you can just thinly slice them and roast them that way.
2 ripe (ideally) pears, peeled, cored and cut into 1-inch pieces
2 tbsp. walnut oil
1 tbsp. white wine
2 tbsp. sherry vinegar
1 tbsp. honey
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
1 cup walnuts, toasted and very coarsely chopped
3 oz. Gorgonzola cheese, crumbled
½ cup dried cranberries
5 oz. salad greens
Preheat the oven to 425°F with the rack in the middle position.
In a large bowl, whisk together the walnut oil, white wine, sherry vinegar, and honey. Sprinkle in a good pinch of salt and a few grinds of pepper and whisk again. Taste for balance of flavor. Add the pears and toss well to coat. Let them sit for a few minutes then, using a spoon, transfer the pears to a baking sheet. You will want to leave most of the liquid in the bowl.
Bake the pears for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and toss well. Put the sheet back in the oven for another 5 to 10 minutes, or until the pears are lightly caramelized but not burned. Remove and set aside. Whisk the teaspoon of mustard into the pear marinade and again, taste for balance of flavor. This will be your dressing.
Place the greens in a bowl and add the pears, walnuts, cranberries, and cheese. Toss carefully with the dressing.