December 23, 2010

Roasted Pear Salad with Blue Cheese and Walnuts

Ever have a recipe that you know you want to make, but it takes you a little while to actually get around to making it? Ever have one that took you two years to finally make? Well, this is mine.

I first saw this recipe while I was at the gym. I've mentioned before that watching the Food Network was basically my main reason for going to the gym. (I don't have cable, OK?!) If my timing was wrong, I'd get stuck with Paula Deen or Sandra Lee. But if the stars aligned in my favor, I'd get to watch Ina Garten's show, The Barefoot Contessa.

Ina's recipes always look delicious and she seems like she'd be a sweet person to have as a next door neighbor. So there I was one day, all sweaty and whatnot, and Ina comes on and makes this wonderful looking pear salad. It's got blue cheese and walnuts and dried cranberries, and all manor of delicious ingredients. And it doesn't look hard to make. I put it on my mental list of recipes I really want to try.

Subsequently, I went so far as to bookmark the recipe on my laptop. It languished there for two whole years. I never forgot about this recipe, but somehow I never went out of my way to get the ingredients, either. Then last week, somehow after all this time, it happened.

Pears were on sale at my normal supermarket, so I bought two. Later, on a whim, I stopped at a Grocery Outlet--which by the way has an excellent cheese selection if you didn't already know. I got a big hunk of blue cheese for next to nothing. I knew I had nuts and cranberries on hand. This was finally coming together! I picked up some spinach and lemons and I was ready to go.

Or so I thought. As I started making this salad, I realized that I used up my dried cranberries making some cookies recently. I dug around and found some dried blueberries--sometimes you have just have to substitute. Then I got to the part about apple cider, which I never have on hand and forgot to buy. "Oh man, I really blew it now," I thought. Just when I thought I had it! I was trying to come up with something I could use in place of apple cider...

when Mark reminded me that I randomly happened to have some on hand, probably for the first time ever. I am working in a fifth grade class and after their Christmas party we had extra Martinelli's left over. The teacher gave me a bottle. I had completely forgotten about it. But there it was in my refrigerator--a veritable Christmas miracle, if you ask me!

Long story not-so short, this recipe finally came together (in adapted form) two years after it initially piqued my interest. It was oh so worth the wait.

Roasted Pear Salad with Blue Cheese and Walnuts
  • 2 pears, ripe but still firm
  • 1/4 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice (from about 1 lemon)
  • 3 oz. blue cheese, crumbled (plus more for sprinkling)
  • 1/4 cup dried blueberries or cranberries
  • 1/4 cup walnuts or pecans (plus more for sprinkling)
  • 1/2 cup apple cider
  • 2 tablespoons red wine or port
  • 1/3 cup lightly packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 lb. baby spinach or arugula
  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Peel the pears and slice them in half lengthwise. Chop off a little of the rounded sides so that they will be sit steadily in the baking dish. Scoop out the seeds with a spoon or melon baller, leaving a well for the filling. Toss the pears in the lemon juice, to help them from browning. Arrange the pears, core-side up in a small baking dish and set aside.
  2. In a small bowl, mix together the blue cheese, berries and nuts. Divide the mixture among the wells in the pears, compacting it into the wells and mounding it up a bit. (If you have extra, sprinkle it on the salad.)
  3. In the same bowl, mix the apple cider, wine and brown sugar. Stir to dissolve the sugar. Pour over and around the pears in the baking dish. Bake pears, basting occasionally with the liquid, until tender--about 30 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, just before the pears are done, whisk together the olive oil and lemon juice. After you take the pears out of the oven, add 1/4 cup of the basting liquid to finish the dressing. In a large bowl, toss the greens with the desired amount of dressing. Pour rest of dressing into a serving vessel.
  5. Separate the greens onto 2 large plates. Place 2 warm roasted pear halves on each bed of greens and sprinkle with desired about of blue cheese and nuts. Serve immediately, with extra dressing on the side.
Serves 2 as a main course or 4 as an appetizer

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