Sometimes cooking and eating should be simple – allowing fresh, seasonal ingredients to stand on their own without a belabored process. That’s what this recipe is about. And, also that I’m craving lighter, raw food the past few days.
It’s pear season and, like most of you, I enjoy eating pears as a healthy snack – whole. However, pears are also a tasty addition to a mixed green salad during the fall and winter months.
This time of year there is a good selection of pears at the market, most common varieties in the United States are Bartlett, Bosc, Anjou, Comice and Asian/Nashi. For this salad, I opted for Comice because they are creamy, juicy and sweet when eaten raw, a nice contrast to the other ingredients that make up this salad: peppery arugula and mixed greens, creamy shaved manchego cheese, walnuts and balsamic dressing.
This is a satisfying salad either as a full meal or as a side paired with a warm bowl of soup. Last year, this salad was a hit at Thanksgiving.
Tidbits on Pears:
- Pears were cultivated over 4,000 years ago and are believed to have originated in the Caucasus region from where they spread west to Europe and east to Asia.
- The fruit can be generally categorized as European pears and Asian pears – European are eaten ripe and soft after harvest, while Asian pears are eaten more crisp like an apple.
- Pears are picked and shipped unripe because of their fragile nature. Buy them a few days before you want to eat them, selecting ones without blemishes or bruises. Allowing them time to ripen at room temperature improves their texture and flavor. If you are not ready to eat or use soon, store in the refrigerator.
This is a versatile salad and ingredients can be substituted to your liking. Prepare the pears last because they tend to brown; rub with fresh lemon juice to deter.
Sweet & Peppery Pear Salad
1 (5 oz.) package mixed greens with arugula
1/2 cup walnuts (roasted optional)*
1/3 pound piece young manchego cheese, shaved
1/3 cup dried cranberries, optional
3 ripe Comice pears, peeled, cored and sliced
Easy Balsamic Dressing
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon honey, optional
- Prepare balsamic dressing: whisk oil, balsamic and honey in a small bowl or shake vigorously in a jar; add salt and pepper to taste.
- *Optional: Roasting nuts for about 7 minutes in a 350 degree oven will bring out their nutty flavor.
- Place mixed greens in a large salad bowl or divide among individual plates. Shave pieces of manchego cheese on top of greens using vegetable peeler. Add walnuts and cranberries, if using. Remove stem and core from pears, slice and add to salad. Generously drizzle balsamic dressing on top. Serve and enjoy.
Pears: Anjou, Bartlett or Asian/Nashi
Greens: arugula, endive, radicchio or mache
Nuts: almonds or pecans
Cheese: pecorino, parmigiano-reggiano, camembert or gorgonzola