Pear and Blue Cheese Salad with Lemon-Honey Dressing

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Is is strange that in this season of chai tea, pumpkin bread, and apple cider doughnuts, one of the treats I look forward to most is a salad?

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This, to me, is the essence of seasonal eating – tender, succulent pears, sliced thickly and laid on a hearty pile of the last salad greens from the garden, scattered with a flurry of dried cranberries, blue cheese, and pecans, and very nearly drenched with a tangy-sweet combination of oil, lemon, and local raw honey.

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This is my very favorite salad.

In fact, it’s the only salad I make that comes with a fixed set of ingredients.  Salads around here usually consist of a pile of seasonal greens, topped with dried fruit, nuts, whatever is fresh from the garden, and maybe a hard boiled egg or some leftover chicken if I’m feeling fancy (I’m usually not), drizzled with my go-to homemade vinaigrette.  No fixed rules, no fancy cheeses (unless they’re in my fridge already), and no waiting around for a specific seasonal fruit.  I like my salads low-maintenance and spontaneous.

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But this salad is special.  So special that I don’t mind waiting for two-thirds of the year for perfect pears, or buying fancy cheese, or making a special dressing that doesn’t work with ordinary salads.

It’s fresh, and tart, and sweet, and delightfully pungent (blue cheese, I love you), and utterly worth every bit of wait and effort.

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I want to share it with you.

So if you’re looking for something a little special to serve alongside your turkey and stuffing (maybe swap out the gloopy green beans?), I hope you’ll give this a try.  It’s one of my most loved autumn dishes, and for a salad, I think that’s saying something.

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Pear and Blue Cheese Salad with Lemon-Honey Dressing

think – I’m not positive – that this recipe from the Food Network was my original inspiration for this salad.  The ingredients look right, and Food Network was one of only about three sources I used for recipes back when I first made this salad, oh, about a decade ago.  You’ll notice, though, that I’ve changed a lot.  I swapped out dried cranberries for the figs and completely reinvented the dressing, based on a vague memory of how it tasted.  Since then, I’ve tried the original dressing, and I actually like my improvised version better (it’s also a lot simpler to make).

Because this is a salad, and even fancy salads shouldn’t be too complicated, I’ve written the recipe pretty informally.  The proportions of the toppings are up to you, and the recipe for the dressing is written in parts, so you can make as much or as little as you want.

The lemon-honey dressing is absolutely perfect for this salad, and very good with other salads involving blue cheese, but without the pungency of the cheese, it really falls flat.  So I don’t recommend it as an all-purpose vinaigrette.  You will, however, want to make plenty of it because this salad tastes best when generously saturated.

Salad
Seasonal salad mix
Sliced pears (I used 1/2 pear for the meal-sized salad shown)
sweetened dried cranberries
roughly chopped pecans
blue cheese, crumbled

Dressing
1 part honey (If you have some local raw honey around, this is a great place to use it)
1 1/2 parts lemon juice (fresh is great, but I often get lazy and use bottled)
2 parts extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper, to taste (I used a hefty pinch of salt and a few grinds of pepper for the amount of dressing shown)

Pile seasonal greens on a plate and top with desired amount of toppings.  Combine all dressing ingredients in a container with a tight-fitting lid, seal container, and shake vigorously until well mixed.  Pour a generous amount of dressing over your salad, and enjoy.

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