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Tuesday, November 17, 2009

poached pear and bleu cheese salad with pear vinaigrette



it's funny how much the inventory at the farmers market changes in just a few short fall weeks. heirloom tomatoes, sweet corn, and zucchini give way to storage potatoes, variegated maize, and butternut squash. one of the fall stand-outs for me lately has been the pears. they are beautiful and plentiful and i can basically eat my way through the market by happily accepting samples from farmers showcasing the many varieties and flavors offered in the pears they've grown. i never know what i'm going to do with them when i make the purchase, but somehow i can't leave the market these last couple of weeks without an armful.



the first use for a pear was to slice it into a salad. pear on salad is wonderful, but i was certain the idea could be jazzed up a bit. my recipe search turned up one from chef albert breuers for a poached pear and bleu cheese salad with pear vinaigrette. i love poached pear, but had only had it as a dessert. this recipe was a delicious eye-opener.

(i followed the recipe almost exactly, though made a few minor substitutions and changed amounts to make a salad for 2.)


poached pear and bleu cheese salad with pear vinaigrette

for poached pears:

2 pears, any variety, peeled with stem left intact
3/4 cup white wine
1 1/2 cups water
1 Tbsp sugar
1/4 tsp good quality vanilla extract
1 3-inch section lemon peel, yellow part only
1 3-inch section orange peel, orange part only
1 cinnamon stick

add all ingredients to small stockpot and bring to a boil. (may need to add more wine and water if the pears are not covered by the cooking liquid, or, as i did, turn them over a few times during the cooking.) reduce heat and simmer 20-25 minutes, then remove from heat and cool. reserve poaching liquid for vinaigrette.


for vinaigrette:

1 poached pear
1/8 cup olive oil
1/8 cup red wine vinegar
1/8 cup poaching liquid from the pears
salt and pepper to taste

remove stem and seeds from poached pear and puree in blender or food processor. add to bowl with vinegar and poaching liquid and add oil slowly in a stream while whisking to emulsify. taste and season with salt and pepper. (can be refrigerated up to 1 week.)


for salad:

lettuce of your choosing (i used a salad mix of red and green lettuces, chard, arugula)
pear viniagrette (recipe above)
2 ounces crumbled bleu cheese (i prefer oregon rogue river blue)
1/2 cup pecans, toasted
1 poached pear (recipe above)

mix salad greens with vinaigrette, top with 1/2 poached pear, cheese, and toasted pecans.



this salad is flawless. the pear and vinaigrette are just sweet enough, the nuts and cheese balance them perfectly, and it's a smart way to sneak more fruit into your diet by having pureed pear in the dressing. i even saved the leftover poaching liquid and simmered it on the stove for a little while the next day. it made the house smell like pear-vanilla heaven, and if i'd taken it off the stove in time it would have been a perfect syrup over something yummy-- ice cream?

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