Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Roasted Pear Salad with Cranberries, Walnuts and Blue Cheese

Roasted Pear Salad with cranberries and blue cheese

We're Dateline people at our house. There's nothing I like more than curling up on the couch with my ginger lemon tea and watching the mystery of people murdering other people. I only like the murder episodes which is why I'm not exclusive. If 48 Hour Mystery has more intrigue or scandal that night, that's where I'll be. Sure, we spend more time locking our doors and checking the house for killers than most Steamboatians do, but it's worth it. I've come to accept that the suspect is usually always guilty on these shows, just like I've come to accept that most men don't enjoy just a salad for dinner. Huh? It has nothing to do with murder. I know. The Hook bring you back, not the intro, yes? Look, no one even said I was a real writer, okay? You only think it because I write, so therefore I am. And I've said nothing so far, and I can keep it up for as long as it takes. I'm grossly sorry for those of you who don't know The Hook by Blues Traveler and have no idea where this post has gone. Again, I can't stress this enough, but I sincerely apologize.

Roasted Pear Salad with cranberries and blue cheese

Back to salads and murder, but really just salads because I'm willing to bet you didn't visit this blog to read about psychopaths. It's just that I like to write about them from time to time. And, were back to salads for real now. The point I was trying to make with men and salads and dinner in the first paragraph is that I'm well aware that they don't usually all go together. Except in our house. A lone salad is fair game for dinner in these parts, so I made this one with the pears, cranberries, blue cheese and walnuts, and with all the roasting fruit with port and apple cider, my house smelled quite remarkable. I was very excited.  I served the gorgeous salad to oohs and ahh's at the table, and three minutes later when it was wolfed down, my husband looked at me and said "So, what's for dinner?" That, my friends, is what's considered a fail. The point? The salad is indeed fine to look at and lovely to eat, but a hearty dinner it makes not. This is a starter salad meant to be served as the first course. Now, lest you think this didn't occur to me before, I assure you it did, but I trippled the quantity of pears for my husband's salad and called it good. He likes eating light, I told myself. Wrong. Apparently, the addition of a whole pear is not the sort of lusty heartiness a grown man needs to be satisfied at the dinner table. Who knew? Learn from my mistakes, grasshopper. Serve this salad before you serve a maple-dijon pork loin with applesauce and mashed potatoes, or along side a fat roasted chicken, or with a butternut squash soup. Just don't serve it alone.

Roasted Pear Salad with cranberries and blue cheese

As you roast the pears, check to make sure the walnuts don't burn. My oven runs wicked hot and I usually have to put a piece of foil loosely over the top to prevent them from browning too much. It might sound like a pain, but it won't be, you'll smell those nuts roasting a bit too much if they need covering. Please pretend that last sentence wasn't as awkward as it was.

Roasted Pear Salad with cranberries and blue cheese

Roasted Pear Salad with Cranberries, Walnuts, and Blue Cheese
adapted from Barefoot Contessa, Back To Basics

serves 6

3 ripe but firm Anjou pears
Freshly squeezed lemon juice (3 lemons)
3 ounces coarsely crumbled sharp blue cheese such as Stilton
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup walnut halves, chopped
1/2 cup apple cider
3 tablespoons port
1/3 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup good olive oil
6 ounces baby arugula
Kosher salt
Black pepper

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees

Peel the pears and slice them lengthwise into halves. With a small sharp paring knife and a mellon baller, remove the core and seeds from each pear, leaving a round well for the filling. Trim a small slice away from the rounded sides of each pear half so that they will sit in the baking dish without wobbling. Toss pears with the lemon juice to prevent them from turning brown (save remaining lemon juice). Arrange them, core side up, in a baking dish large enough to hold pears snugly.

Gently toss the crumbled blue cheese, dried cranberries, and walnuts together in a small bowl. Divide the mixture among the pears, mounding in on top of the indentation.

In the same small bowl, combine the apple cider, port, and brown sugar, stirring to dissolve the sugar. pour the mixture over and around the pears. Bake pears for 30 minutes, or until tender, checking every now and then to make sure the walnuts don't get too brown (if so, cover the dish loosely with aluminum foil). Set aside until warm or room temperature.

Just before serving, whisk together the olive oil, 1/4 cup of the leftover lemon juice, and 1/4 cup of the basting liquid from the pears in a large bowl. Add the arugula and toss well. Divide the arugula among 6 plates and top each with a pear half. Drizzle each pear with some of the basting liquid, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and serve.