This salad pairs sweet pears, bitter greens, and salty blue cheese to wake up the senses as the start of a special holiday meal.
Make the spiced nuts: Heat the oven to 350°F. Combine the sugar, cinnamon, coriander, and star anise or anise seed. Put the walnut halves on a baking sheet and toast them very lightly in the oven, just 2 to 3 minutes. Meanwhile, set a large skillet over medium heat and put the sugar mixture in it, shaking the pan to spread it evenly. When the sugar starts to melt a little, add the walnuts while they’re still warm. Shake the pan vigorously until the sugar melts completely, turns medium amber, and coats the nuts as much as possible, 2 to 7 minutes. Keep a good watch; this happens fast. You’ll need to nudge the nuts with a wooden spoon to cover them as much as possible. (This won’t be a completely smooth caramel, and the sugar will adhere to the nuts in patches.) Scrape the nuts onto a plate to cool in one layer. When completely cool, seal in an airtight container.
Add warm walnuts to melted sugar for spice-candied nuts. To coat them evenly, shake the pan or nudge the nuts with a wooden spoon.
Make the vinaigrette: In a small bowl, combine the shallot, salt, and vinegar. Whisk in the olive oil. Season with pepper and refrigerate until ready to serve. (The dressing can age for anywhere from a few hours to a day or two.)
Assemble the salad: In a large bowl, toss the greens with your hands. Just before serving, whisk the vinaigrette to blend and toss it with the greens. Taste for seasoning; the salad may need a bit more salt and pepper. Mound the greens in the center of each plate. Slice the pears (I like to leave the peel on for color and nutrients). Divide the cheese and the pear slices among the plates. Garnish with the spice-candied walnuts and serve.
nutrition information (per serving):
based on eight servings;
sat fat g
Photo: Scott Phillips