Monday, January 27, 2014

Roast Pear & Arugula Salad with Port Cherries

After the indulgent holidays many people choose to embrace a little lighter fare such as salad. But that doesn't mean it has to be boring and bland or total deprivation. Just a little moderation is good. A few ripe Bosc pears prompted a mid-winter salad full of bright, fresh flavors. Bosc pears are a favorite of pastry chefs because they hold their shape nicely when cooked and they have a lovely perfumed flavor. But any kind of pear will work. You can peel the fruit if you prefer, but I like the flavor and color contrast the skin provides.

Given that it is cold and blistery outside I wanted to deepen the flavor of the pears by roasting them in the oven. It both intensifies their flavor and makes the whole house smell fabulous.

My aunt gave me a bottle of her homemade port for Christmas. It is quite delicious. I macerated dried, tart cherries in warmed port to plump them.

I am in love with arugula. I can't get enough of it. I adore the peppery taste. I put in on sandwiches. I top a simple tossed green salad of arugula with fried eggs. I put it in soup. Here it is used as the base of the salad, add goat cheese for tang, toasted almonds for crunch, cherries for tart, and pears for sweet with a shallot vinaigrette to round out the flavors.

To keep the salad neat I toss the arugula in the vinaigrette alone then arrange the other ingredients on top. You can finish with additional vinaigrette if you choose, but it doesn't really need it.

I couldn't stop eating this salad as I was photographing it. I kept having to make new plates to photograph it is that good. This salad would go nicely with Christmas Carbonara.

Roast Pear and Arugula Salad with Port Cherries

3-4 Bosc pears (any kind of pear will work)
3 ounces (85g) dried tart cherries
2 ounces (4 Tablespoons/55 ml) port wine, optional
1/4 cup (30g) slivered almonds, toasted
4 ounces (113g) goat cheese, crumbled
5 ounces (141g) baby arugula
1 teaspoon finely minced shallot
2 ounces (4 Tablespoons/55 ml) white balsamic vinegar or cider vinegar
3 ounces olive oil

Preheat oven to 350℉ (176℃). Wash and dry the pears. Cut in half, remove the core, cut each half into 4 slices. (Peel the pears if you prefer, but there is a lot of flavor in the peel and the color contrast is pretty.) Place on a rimmed baking sheet. Roast in the preheated oven 20-25 minutes until a knife easily penetrates the flesh. Remove from oven and allow pears to cool.

Put cherries in a heat-proof glass bowl. While the pears are roasting heat the port (if using) until hot about 1 1/2 minutes in a microwave or about 3-5 minutes on a stove. Remove from heat and pour over the cherries. Macerate in the liquid for 10-15 minutes until they plump slightly. Drain, reserving the liquid, set cherries aside to cool. (You can just use dried cherries without plumping them in wine if you prefer.)

Put the vinegar, a tablespoon of the reserved port (if using), the minced shallot, olive oil, salt and pepper to taste in a glass jar with a tight fitting lid. Shake vigorously. Or put all ingredients in a blender or food processor expect the olive oil. Slowly process adding the oil a little at a time until emulsified.

Put the arugula in a large bowl toss with the dressing. (You may not need all of it.) If making the dressing in a jar make sure to shake well before dressing the arugula. The dressing separates quickly. Divide arugula between 6 plates. Arrange pears on top. Sprinkle with goat cheese, cherries, and almonds and serve. Makes 6 serving.

If you have left over pears and cherries store in separate glass containers in the refrigerator. The two together make a sweet snack.

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