Monday, November 17, 2008

Winter Flavors

When we went to the races way back last October, I was asked to bring a dish along. Since I had some pears on my counter,

that got me thinking about a recipe for roasted pears I had recently seen that seemed interesting. Well, of course, I could not remember where I had seen idea, so I cast about on my favorite food internet sites for inspiration. Several hours later and now so ravenously hungry I was wondering if I could fool myself into thinking the cat food was really expensive pate - I mean, a little parsley sprinkled on the top and some ritz crackers...mmmmmm...who could resist? Thinking better of THAT plan, I headed to the kitchen, clutching several pages of recipes for roasted pears.

Eventually I ended up with the salad pictured above - roasted pears, pancetta and toasted walnuts with blue cheese over arugula dressed with lemon vinaigrette. Well received and versatile as either a salad or addition to a beef flank sandwich. I also want to work on a roasted pear chutney, which I think would be fabulous with pork, but that is for another day.

Roasted Pear Salad with Pancetta and Blue Cheese

serves 6

3 bosc pears, halved and cored, sliced into wedges (4 or 5 per half)
2 T. extra virgin olive oil
1 t. kosher salt
fresh ground black pepper (to taste)
12 slices of pancetta
2 to 3 ounces blue cheese (I used bleu d'auvergne)
1/2 cup walnuts

Pre-heat oven to 375

Spread the pancetta slices on a sheet pan and bake in oven until crispy. Watch as slices can go from done to burned in a second. Better to take out a little early.

Toss the pear slices with the evoo, salt and pepper. Spread on a sheet pan. Roast in oven for 15 to 20 minutes, just until edges are starting to caramelize.

Place the walnuts in a dry saute pan (do not use non-stick) just large enough to hold in one layer. Toast over medium high heat, tossing frequently, for 3 to 5 minutes.

Dress the arugula with Lemon Vinaigrette (recipe below). Arrange pancetta on top, then pears, blue cheese and walnuts.

Everything can be prepared ahead of time and assembled just before serving.

Lemon Vinaigrette

1 garlic clove

big pinch kosher salt

freshly ground black pepper

1 T. dijon mustard (plain or grainy)

zest from 1/2 of a lemon

2 T. fresh lemon juice (never bottled!)

4 T. evoo

Shred the garlic on the tines of a dinner fork in the bottom of a mixing bowl. Add the salt, pepper, mustard, zest and lemon juice and stir to combine. Whisk in the evoo until dressing is emulsified.

You can also place all the ingredients in a lidded container and shake hard to combine.

Taste dressing and adjust seasoning, adding more evoo if you prefer.