Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Pear, Gorgonzola and Walnut Salad

This past Thursday our department at work had a Thanksgiving potluck.  By the time I signed up all of the desserts were spoken for, so I decided to bring a salad.  I've had a salad similar to this before and I really enjoyed it.  I thought that the flavors would be a great compliment to the traditional Thanksgiving dinner.

Lots of folks don't enjoy salads.  I, on the other hand, could probably live on them.  I like them all.... leafy salads, layered salads, pasta salads, chicken salads, fruit salads.... the list is endless.  I look for salads that aren't "boring".  Something that's more flavorful than just a bag of lettuce and a bottle of dressing.  This salad has so many flavors that mesh so well together.  Honestly.... I could have just this salad and some warm bread and butter and call it a meal.

For the salad greens I used prepackaged baby field greens from the local supermarket.  Since I prepared the salad at work this was the easiest option (and what I would have done even if I had prepared the salad at home).  You can use any salad greens that you like.

The original recipe called for toasted walnuts.  I chose to make candied walnuts instead and they were so good!  I did not use all of them for the salad, so I snacked on the rest of them for a couple of days.

My favorite part of the salad is the gorgonzola cheese.  Now I knowwhat you're thinking... it's somewhat pungent.... and it looks funny.... but have you ever tried it?  It's good, I promise.  If you just can't handle the gorgonzola you could substitute feta cheese, but it won't be as tasty.

Here is the recipe with the modifications that I made.  It presents beautifully and tastes even better.

Pear, Goronzola, and Walnut Salad adapted from Inn Cuisine

For the salad:

1 regular size bag (your choice) prepared salad greens

2 fresh pears, either French Butter, d’Anjou or Comice, peeled and cut into 1/4″ wide slices

Note: To prevent the peeled, pear slices from browning, I quickly swished them in fresh lemon juice and set aside.

5 ounce package (or container) of crumbled Gorgonzola (or feta)

3/4 cup walnut halves or pieces, candied (see below for recipe)

Optional – dried cranberries &/or dried cherries for extra color, flavor and texture

For the vinaigrette:

3 tablespoons red wine vinegar

1 tablespoon Dijon-style prepared mustard

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

coarse salt

freshly ground pepper


Put prepared lettuces in a large salad bowl. Add pear slices, Gorgonzola and toasted walnuts.

To make the vinaigrette, combine red wine vinegar, prepared Dijon-style mustard and salt in large measuring cup. Stir to dissolve salt. Mix in the olive oil. Add more salt and pepper to taste. Mix thoroughly with a spoon or small, wire whisk.

To serve, mix the vinaigrette again and pour over the salad, tossing gently with your hands. If necessary, add additional salt and pepper to taste. Transfer to individual salad plates or bowls, arranging pears, Gorgonzola and walnuts as you find visually appealing.

If desired, serve with warm French bread.

Candied Walnuts from SimplyRecipes.com

Candied Walnuts Recipe


1/2 cup sugar

1 1/2 cups raw walnut halves

1/8 teaspoon coarse salt


Preheat oven to 350°F. Use middle rack in oven. Lay walnuts out on a baking sheet in a single layer. Bake for 5 minutes. Test for doneness. If not quite toasted enough, toast for 1 or 2 more minutes. Be careful not to burn. Remove from oven and let cool in pan on a rack.

Pour sugar into a medium saucepan with a thick bottom. Have walnuts nearby, ready to quickly add to the pan at the right time. Cook sugar on medium heat, stirring with a wooden spoon as soon as the sugar begins to melt. Keep stirring until all the sugar has melted and the color is a medium amber. As soon as sugar is melted and the color is a medium amber, add the walnuts to the pan, quickly stirring and coating each piece with the sugar mixture.

As soon as the walnuts are coated with the sugar mixture, spread them out on a rimmed baking sheet, lined either with a Silpat non-stick mat, or with wax paper or parchment paper. Use two forks to separate the walnuts from each other, working very quickly. Sprinkle the nuts with the salt. Let cool completely.  Try not to eat them all before you make the salad.


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