Saturday, November 21, 2009

Salad Week: Pan-Roasted Pear Salad

Today begins Salad Week for Brandon and me. I think the crispy treats and alfredo put us both over the edge and in need of serious green therapy. We were craving healthy food, and what better time to begin a week (almost) of dinner salads than right before the Thanksgiving holiday?

We kicked off the week with a heavenly salad: pan-roasted pear with watercress, parmesan and pecans. I could not find watercress anywhere in Amherst or Madison Heights (not surprising), so I left that out. Despite this omission, the salad still had us raving.

This past work week was interminable. So, naturally, with a happy-hour martini in my right hand, I pulled out pears and leaf lettuce and cheese from the fridge with my left--almost burned the walnuts that were toasting in the meantime. I have never "roasted" pears before; watching the white slices turn gold and then rich brown with balsamic glaze, I reached a new cooking high.

This salad was a thrilling circus of textures and flavors. I am still giddy about it here, a day later. The zip of parmesan, tangy-sweet glazed pears, roasty nuts, aromatic shallots, and mild greens combined to a bowl of dinnertime bliss. We ate it all, sharing the pears with Rosie, who immediately refused any subsequent spoonfuls of baby food.

Salad Week: Day 1 was a repeatable success!

Here's the recipe:

Serves 4 to 6.  Published November 1, 2007.  From Cook's Illustrated.

  • 3 ripe but firm pears (about 1 1/2 pounds), quartered and cored (see note above)
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil plus an additional 2 teaspoons
  • 4 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 small shallot, minced (about 1 tablespoon)
  • 1/2 medium head green leaf lettuce, washed, dried, and torn into 1-inch pieces (about 4 cups)
  • 2 small bunches watercress, washed, dried, and stemmed (about 4 cups)
  • 4 ounces Parmesan cheese, shaved into thin slices with a vegetable peeler
  • 3/4 cup pecans, toasted and chopped


1. Toss pears, 2 teaspoons sugar, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/8 teaspoon pepper in medium bowl. Heat 2 teaspoons oil in large skillet over medium-high heat until just smoking. Add pears cut-side down in single layer and cook until golden brown, 2 to 4 minutes. Using small spatula or fork, tip each pear onto second cut side; continue to cook until second side is light brown, 2 to 4 minutes longer. Turn off heat, leave skillet on burner, and add 2 tablespoons vinegar; gently stir until vinegar becomes glazy and coats pears, about 30 seconds. Transfer pears to large plate and cool to room temperature, about 45 minutes. Cut each pear quarter crosswise into 1/2-inch pieces.

2. Whisk remaining 2 tablespoons oil, remaining 2 tablespoons vinegar, remaining 1/2 teaspoon sugar, and shallot together in large bowl; season to taste with salt and pepper. Add lettuce, watercress, and cooled pears to bowl; toss and adjust seasonings with salt and pepper. Divide salad among individual plates; top each with portions of cheese and nuts. Serve immediately.

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