Perfectly balanced pear salad

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Let’s face it: Salad can be boring. The run-of-the-mill salad — bibb lettuce with chopped carrots and tomatoes, topped with thousand island dressing — that I grew up with never made me too enthusiastic. Then, years ago, I purchased a copy of “Raising the Salad Bar” after reading a review of it in The San Francisco Chronicle. This book has had a home among my cookbooks since then, and I find myself turning to it more frequently during summer months, when I am less inclined to turn on my oven.

The thing I like about this book is that it has salads of all types. Whether you want a summer salad with fruit, like this Mixed Greens and Roasted Pear Salad, or something more substantial with steak, they’ve got it. And every recipe I’ve tried from this book has been good.

This pear salad has a nice sweet flavor accented by crunchy walnuts and cheese that has a bite to it. You can use whatever greens you’d like, and make substitutions as you see fit. I leave the red onions off because they tend to be too harsh for my taste. If you don’t have a food processor for the vinaigrette, you can mash the pear with a fork and stir everything together.

In any case, this was a nice dinner on a hot night. It’s one worth adding to your file.

Ingredients
3 pears, peeled, halved, and cored
Olive oil
1 small head red leaf or bibb lettuce, washed and dried
1 bunch arugula, large stems removed, washed and dried
1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
4 ounces gorgonzola, crumbled
1/3 cup chopped, toasted walnuts

Pear Vinaigrette
1/2 roasted pear (of the three called for above)
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup apple juice
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar, sherry, or apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
Salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Brush the pears with a little olive oil, place them on a baking sheet cut sides down, and bake for 20-25 minutes. The pears should be browned on the bottom and easily pierced with a fork. Set aside to cool. Reserve half of one pear for the dressing.

In a large bowl, mix the lettuce, arugula, and red onion.

To make the vinaigrette, place the reserved roasted pear half, oil, apple or pear juice, vinegar, lemon juice, and salt and pepper in a food processor or blender. Process until mixture is pureed. Add a little more oil or juice to thin the mixture, if necessary. Add enough dressing to coat the salad; mix well, then divide the salad among individual plates. Top each serving with a roasted pear half and sprinkle goat or blue cheese over all. Top with toasted walnuts.

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