You're going to laugh when you read this (true) story, but I'm thinking some of you might be able to identify ................. there may be even a few who can top this .................
................... It's been a bit crazy here at The Café lately with Christmas preparations and activities. Just like at your house I'm sure, there's been decorating, shopping, cooking, baking and all the usual pre-holiday hustle and bustle. On top of that we've had fun birthdays to celebrate and dear family arriving all the way from England. I don't know about you, but I've found myself having to operate at a little higher gear than usual: sometimes lately it seems like I've had to crank it into overdrive. Do you know what I mean? ................ No? Let me give you a little scenario that will explain precisely what I'm talking about. You see, it's exactly what happened as I created and prepared this delicious Roasted Pear Salad w/ Dried Cranberries, Gorgonzola, Sweet 'n Smoky Pistachios & Champagne-Honey Vinaigrette.
My husband was working from home one day earlier this week. I wanted to prepare something yummy for lunch since we'd been having so many quick and not-always-so-healthy meals on-the-go recently and lots of rich holiday food to boot. I started working on a salad that would be a light and special lunch that day, while at the same time, I could use it as a festive addition to one of our family Christmas meals.
I had some pretty pears, a bag of shelled pistachios and a wedge of creamy gorgonzola - it didn't take long for a fresh and fun salad to start evolving in my mind. A peek in the pantry revealed a bottle of champagne vinegar just crying to be used and ............. that seemed to seal the deal.
I decided to roast and caramelize the pears for my lunch/holiday creation. So this is where the funny part comes in. In order to roast pears without them softening them too much and turning the lovely fruit to mush before they begin to caramelize, it's important to start with a very high oven temperature. As in 500˚F. high! Of course, it's crucial at this elevated temperature that you watch the pears like a hawk. They will go from beautifully golden and caramelized to horribly black and burned in no-time flat.
I'd gotten going in the kitchen early that morning; the pistachios were cooling on the counter, all golden and glistening, the dressing ingredients were sweetly melding in a pretty carafe and I was getting the pears ready to roast. Suddenly I realized I hadn't had my shower yet, oh my goodness. I popped the pears into the hot oven, set the timer for five minutes and flew (ran) upstairs. I warmed the shower water, stepped (jumped) in, washed and conditioned my hair (the conditioner was down to the dregs so I had to add water and shake it to get the last drops), washed the important parts, stepped (jumped) out, dried off, threw on my robe, combed my hair, rubbed cream on my face, ran down the steps and GUESS WHAT? I had 23 seconds left on the timer! "YES!", I said to myself, pumping my fist into the air. So ................ can you top that one? ........................ Do you understand now what I mean by "a higher gear"? :)
Anyway, I flipped the pears and within 15 minutes and a few more flips, the were emerging from the oven golden and beautifully caramelized. I was clean as a whistle and had only to dry my hair to be ready for the rest of the day. We LOVED the salad and are looking forward to enjoying it again over the long holiday weekend. If you're looking for a light, delicious addition to one of your holiday meals, you've come to the right place! You can also make this a meal on it's own by adding lean chicken, shrimp, pork, leftover steak or other protein. This one has all the makings of a Café Little Black Dress Recipe!
Be sure to set a timer as you roast the pears! Oh, and don't be surprised at what you accomplish between the beeps!
Roasted & Caramelized Pear Salad w/ Dried Cranberries, Sweet & Smokey Pistachios & Champagne-Honey Vinaigrette
2 medium firm Anjou or Bartlett pears, halved and cored and cut into 1/4 inch slices
2 teaspoons butter, melted
1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons sugar
4 cups arugula*
4 cups butter lettuce*, or use your favorite greens or whatever looks freshest at the market
½ cup dried cranberries
½ cup crumbled Gorgonzola cheese
½ cup Sweet & Smokey Pistachios, click for recipe (if you're in a hurry, just use shelled, salted, roasted pistachios from the market)
Champagne-Honey Vinaigrette, recipe below
Instructions for the pears:
1. Pre-heat oven to 500˚F. Line a sheet pan with heavy-duty foil and spray generously with cooking spray.
2. Place pears on prepared sheet pan. Toss with the melted butter, oil and sugar. Spread out in a single layer. Roast for 5 minutes then flip slices to other side. Continue to roast until tender and caramelized, about 10-15 minutes more. (Watch carefully, because at this temperature pears can easily burn!) Remove from oven and allow to cool to room temperature.
Instructions for the salad:
1. Combine lettuces and arrange on 6 salad plates. Divide dried cranberries and gorgonzola evenly over the greens. Drizzle lightly with vinaigrette then scatter pistachios evenly over the salads. Pass extra dressing at the table.
You can use any combination of lettuces, but I think arugula and butter lettuce are especially nice. The deep green arugula is spicy and has a touch of delightful bitterness, the butter lettuce compliments it perfectly being pale green, sweet and mild.
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
2 tablespoons honey
¼ cup Champagne vinegar (I love the Trader Joe's Champagne vinegar)
¼ cup freshly squeezed orange juice
¼ cup canola oil
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
½ teaspoon sea salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Mix all ingredients in a glass jar. Shake well.