A Salad for Fall

As a cook, I’m always a bit torn in the fall. Part of me is drawn toward the heartier dishes I can finally cook low and slow, when hours of stove time are no longer anathema. On the other hand, week by week, the more delicate vegetables are disappearing from the farmer’s market and I start to panic. No more tomatoes! No more berries!

Reminding myself to breathe, I fashioned this autumnal salad from some vivid green arugula (get it while you can) and a bit of curly endive. And who needs tomatoes when you can have sweet roasted pears!

The pears get a bit melty inside, and caramelized around the edges, with a great concentrated flavor. They’re sweet and rich, even if you don’t toss them with honey or sugar first. (Though feel free to do that, especially if you make a few extra for dessert.) I nabbed a few directly from the pan, but they’d also be awesome with a little dulce de leche ice cream.
The jewel in this salad, though, is a mellow blue cheese I discovered this week from Great Hill Dairy. I’m usually not a huge blue cheese fan, but this non-homogenized blue is smooth and pretty mild, with just a bit of tang.

You could throw in a little bacon (why not) or some toasted walnuts, but I went minimal with a walnut-oil based vinaigrette. We ate this salad alongside a cup of onion soup, but I wouldn’t mind this as a main course, served with a hunk of crusty bread.

Autumn Green Salad with Roasted Pears and Walnut Vinaigrette
serves 2-3

3 small yellow pears, firm is ok
1 T butter, cut in four pieces
1 small bunch arugula
1/2 head curly endive
1/3 cup mild blue cheese, cut in small chunks

For Walnut Vinaigrette
1/2 tsp mild creamy mustard (I used this, which I received as a sample at a tasting event. You may want to start with 1/4 tsp if you’re using a different brand.)
4 tsp white wine vinegar
1 tsp fresh lemon juice
3 T walnut oil
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400°F. Cut pears into quarters, core, and halve each quarter. You don’t need to peel them. Put in ovenproof skillet along with butter. Roast for five minutes, then toss to distribute butter evenly. Roast another 20-30 minutes, until pears are tender and a bit golden on the edges.

Meanwhile, clean salad greens and pinch into bitesize pieces. Place in serving bowl along with blue cheese pieces.

To make dressing, mix mustard, vinegar, and lemon juice well, then stir in walnut oil gradually. Add salt and pepper to taste. When pears are ready, toss greens with dressing and plate, topping with roasted pears. Serve with additional freshly ground pepper.

In autumn, pears, roasting, salad, vegetarian

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