Over the past year, one of the things that I have come to appreciate about food blogs is the pictures. In some respects, this has come as a surprise to me. It took the pushing and prodding of several friends to convince me of the importance of including pictures on my own blog. And I would still be the first to defend the value of good food writing and cookbooks published without pictures when it comes to really learning how to cook. But if you have a solid grounding in the basics, sometimes a good picture is all you need to motivate you to get into the kitchen and get cooking.
Such was the case for me a few days ago when I was reading a post at Baking and Boys. Katrina had posted one of my favorite recipes for Chicken and Arugula Meatballs. At the end of her post she had a picture of the pear salad she had served with them. Suddenly I was really hungry for pears...and I wanted to eat them—sooner rather than later—in a salad like the one in her picture.
When I made the salad, I had some perfectly ripe, buttery-textured Bartlett pears. These made me want to tone down the "crisp" aspect of the salad a bit. So instead of crisp almonds, I chose to use softer pecans. Walnuts would have been good too. I also cut the celery into very thin slices so that its contribution to the salad would be more of a tender crunch.
Waldorf Salad is usually dressed with a mayonnaise-based dressing. I substituted a simple cream-based vinaigrette. This is currently my favorite all-purpose vinaigrette.
Fresh Pear Salad
2 ripe, but firm Bartlett Pears, peeled and cut into 1/2- to 3/4-inch pieces
4 to 6 T. dried cranberries or dried tart cherries
1/3 cup toasted pecans or walnuts, coarsely broken
1 stalk of Celery, split lengthwise and thinly sliced crosswise (about 1/4 cup)
Salt & Pepper, to taste
2 T. minced Italian Flat Leaf Parsley
Creamy Vinaigrette (below)
2 or 3 handfuls mixed baby lettuces
Combine pears, dried cranberries or cherries, pecans, celery and parsley in a medium sized bowl.
Season with salt & pepper and pour enough vinaigrette over to just coat; fold gently to combine.
Chill briefly before serving—as little as 15 minutes and up to an hour.
Season the lettuce with salt and pepper and toss with some of the vinaigrette. Arrange the lettuce on individual plates (or a platter) and top with the dressed pears. Serves 4
1 T. white wine vinegar
1 T. Dijon mustard
¼ c. canola oil
6 T. whipping cream
Salt & Pepper, to taste
Combine the vinegar and mustard in a small bowl and whisk until smooth. Continue to whisk while slowly drizzling in the canola oil to form an emulsion. Whisk in the cream. Taste and season with salt and pepper.