~ Spinach Salad w/Grilled Pears, Toasted Walnuts, Gorgonzola & a Pear-Infused Balsamic Vinaigrette ~
Summer is the season of fresh fruits and vegetables, and, Summer is in full swing. With each day that passes, our garden and local farmers markets reward Joe and I with something freshly-picked, cool, crunchy and colorful. With regards to fruit, sweet and savory is my favorite year-round flavor combination. Whenever I can, I love to to pair fruits, fruity sauces and/or dried fruits with my favorite proteins, cheese included. Thanks to Joe's fruit trees (apple, cherry, peach, pear and plum + an occasional pineapple), tomato plants, berry bushes and berry patch (blueberry, raspberry and strawberry), I get lots of opportunities to please my fruit-loving palate:
I like cherries or plums with my duck; apples, peaches or pears with my pork; blueberries, strawberries or raspberries with my poultry; pineapple with my ham, and; tomatoes with my beef. And that's only the short list for the fruits Joe grows here at home. Melons and citrus or tropical fruits, which I buy at the market, are superb with grilled, broiled or poached fish and seafood. In the Winter, these pairings come in the form of fruity cooked sauces or condiments with oven roasted or stovetop prepared meats. In the Summer, fresh or dried fruits go into many of my cold salads and salsas -- along with fruit juices and fruit-infused vinegars for my salad dressings. The grill is usually my tool of choice for cooking the proteins, and, sometimes I grill the fruit too!
I was given a box of organic bosc pears a few days ago and am taking this opportunity to share as many pear-loving recipes with you as I can (before they overripen). When it comes to fruit, pears can be perilous -- no not dangerous. But, getting optimum flavor from a pear requires pear care.
Underripe = hard, tart, starchy
Ripe = yielding, sweet, juicy & slightly-but-pleasantly gritty
Overripe = soft, tasteless, mealy
Pears ripen after they are picked from the tree, they ripen from the inside out, and, ripen best if stored at a cool room temperature for 1-4 days. The time depends upon the variety of pear, size of pear, and most importantly, the stage of ripeness when purchased. If you are like me, my usual test for fruit ripeness is how each piece feels in my hand, which usually equates to: softness = ripeness. This is not the case with pears. Pears are ready to eat when they yield to gentle pressure next to the stem. If the wide body of the pear is any more than slightly yielding, it is overripe.
I choose and use only perfectly ripe pears in my recipes!
6 tablespoons pear-infused balsamic vinegar
6 tablespoons lemon-infused olive oil
3 tablespoons walnut oil
6 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
pear nectar to total 1 1/2 cups of liquid, about 10 tablespoons
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 1/2 teaspoons freshly-ground peppercorn blend
3 cups baby spinach leaves
1 bosc pear, sliced into 6-8 discs, slightly less than 1/2" each
4 very thin discs (shaved) red onion, each cut into 4 quarters
6 tablespoons crumbled Gorgonzola dolce cheese
6 tablespoons chopped and very-lightly toasted walnuts
3-4 tablespoons of my vinaigrette per salad, to taste
Note: I always chop and toast more walnuts than I need and keep them stored in the freezer.
Using a small round cookie cutter (or just a paring knife) remove the tough center core and seed section from each pear disc.
lemon-infused extra-virgin olive oil.
Place the pear discs, oiled side down on the hot grill pan.
Transfer pear slices to a plate and allow them to cool. Meanwhile:
I like to assemble this decadent salad rather than toss it:
~ Step 8. This is not a salad I toss, opting instead to assemble them on individual plates: On each plate, make a bed of 1 1/4 cups of spinach leaves. Distribute the onions over the spinach. Place 3-4 slightly-warm or room-temperature grilled pear slices over the spinach leaves. Top each salad with a small mound of remaining spinach leaves, then scatter the Gorgonzola crumbles and toasted walnuts over one and all. Serve and drizzle with dressing at the table.
Judiciously drizzle dressing on each salad at the table...
Special Equipment List: 2-cup measuring container w/tight-fitting lid and pourer top; cutting board; chef's knife; 3/4"-1"-round cookie cutter; grill pan; 8" x 8" baking pan or 9" pie dish (for toasting walnuts)
For a divine way to end the meal, click into Categories 6, 9 or 21 to get my ~ Simply Splendid Lemony Pear Almond Coffeecake ~!
"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti
(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2014)