The truth is, this is the fanciest salad I make. Another truth? I don't make it often enough.
Roasted Pear Salad isn't the least bit hard, it's just roasted pears cloaked in a savory-sweet wine sauce and served over salad greens and, for those who truly like to indulge, rounds of warm toasted goat cheese.
So sure, it's an elegant salad worthy of a special occasion, like Valentine's Day at home, say. But it's also simple enough for less scheduled, less predictable celebrations. A pretty fall evening, the last one warm enough to eat outside. Or the night long-time friends come for dinner. Or, you know, just because it's finally Friday, the work week over.
One enchanted evening, you will find your true love …
The first bite is all romance, the second is true love, the third, well, prepare for the life-long commitment that roasted pears inspire.
Here, pears play the beautiful bride in a romantic salad. But do roast extra pears, for as simple as simple can be, roasted pears work over ice cream, drizzled with crème anglaise, tucked into morning oatmeal, or simply savored, one small soft spoonful at a time.
"...it was amazing! My girlfriends loved it." ~ Anonymous
ROASTED PEAR SALAD
Time to table: 1-1/4 hours
Makes 4 side salads or 2 supper salads
PEARS & GRAPES
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- Pinch of good salt
- 2 fresh, ripe pears
- 1 cup grapes, preferably red but green work too
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic, slivered
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1/2 cup chicken stock, preferably homemade
- 1 cup dry wine (white or red, sherry and marsala work too)
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 2 tablespoons cold butter
- Salt to taste
- 1 teaspoon mustard
- 2 tablespoons good vinegar
- 1 tablespoon good olive oil
- Salt & pepper to taste
TOASTED GOAT CHEESE ROUNDS, optional
- Goat cheese, in roll form, chilled
- 1 egg white whisked with 1 teaspoon water
- Panko seasoned with salt & pepper
- Salad Greens
- Chopped Green Onions, white and green parts
- Roasted Pears, room temperature
- Sauce, warm
- Roasted Grapes, room temperature
- Toasted Goat Cheese Rounds, warm, optional
- Toasted Walnuts, optional
PEARS & GRAPES Heat oven to 300F/150C. Drizzle oil onto a non-stick baking sheet (or cover a baking sheet with parchment first), sprinkle with salt. Cut pears in half lengthwise, stem to stern; the stem is too tough to cut through, so cut right alongside it. Remove any bruised spots inside the pears, the ones on the skin are fine. Use a serrated grapefruit spoon or a melon baller to remove the core; a paring knife can help as well. Arrange the pears face-down on the baking sheet, rubbing their flat sides into the oil and salt. Tuck the grapes in between. Roast until pears are soft and the cut sides are caramelized, about 60 minutes; check at 45 minutes, the grapes may soften first, you don't want them to caramelize. After roasting, gently flip the pear halves so their cut sides are on top, this prevents sticking. The pears and grapes may be roasted a few hours in advance, just bring them to room temperature before assembling the salad.
SAUCE In a medium saucepan, heat oil on medium until shimmery. Add the garlic, let gently simmer until golden. Stir in the tomato paste, then the stock and wine. Bring to a boil, let the sauce simmer until it reduces by half. Add the honey, return to a simmer. Add the butter, stir until melted. Let the sauce come back to a simmer and simmer for two to three minutes, thickening slightly. The sauce may be made a day ahead of time, just reheat before assembling the salad.
VINAIGRETTE In a small bowl, whisk the mustard and vinegar, then whisk in the olive oil. Taste and season with salt and pepper to taste.
TOASTED GOAT CHEESE Slice goat cheese roll into half-inch thick rounds (one per serving) by wrapping dental floss around the roll to "slice" off a round. Dip each round in the egg white-water mixture, then in the panko mixture. If needed, chill until ready to toast just before serving. To toast, heat a non-stick skillet on medium high, toast each round until golden and warmed through, about 30 seconds per side. Serve warm.
TO ASSEMBLE Just before serving, in a large bowl, toss the Salad Greens and Green Onions with Vinaigrette, then arrange on individual salad plates or one large communal serving platter. One at a time, use a slotted spoon to dip a Roasted Pear half into and then out of the warm Sauce, coating the pear completely; move it to a cutting board and slice into the pears, leaving the pear intact at the stem end, then fan the pear half across the Salad Greens. Drizzle the Pear Halves with additional warm Sauce (or serve on the side). Arrange the Roasted Grapes across the Salad Greens. Top the salad with Toasted Walnuts and tuck in Toasted Goat Cheese Rounds is using.
ALANNA’s TIPS I’ve had some luck roasting unripe pears but for certainty, use ripe pears. I do find it truly difficult to ripen pears, however. That's the only thing hard about this salad! Too often, once the pears have ripened, their insides have turned brown and you can't use them for this salad. Would apples work? Yes, I think so! If there's juice and oil left on the baking sheet after roasting the pears and grapes, use it instead of olive oil to make the Vinaigrette. If you like, toast the walnuts while the pears roast (either on separate pan or off to the side), just take the walnuts out first once they turn golden and aromatic after 15 to 30 minutes. For something simpler than the Toasted Goat Cheese Rounds, goat cheese or blue cheese crumbles are good substitutes.
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