Pear salad with Gorgonzola, sliced almonds, and dried cranberries is a wonderful addition to your autumn recipe repertoire. A honey-pear dressing takes the salad from routine to impressive. Or for a quick, perfectly balanced vinaigrette, use the formula below to create your own with your favorite oil and vinegar. Adding shaved or caramelized fennel, pomegranate arils, and fresh herbs make for a stunning salad worthy of any meal or even a special occasion.
As a private chef, my goal is to create that perfect balance of flavors in every dish. So whether for dinner or dessert, I aim to make every last taste bud happy. And with a pear salad, the key is to bring in players that complement a pear's sweetness without stifling its subtleties.
Bright, tart flavors like lemon and thyme are perfect. As are herbs and vegetables with anise undertones like tarragon and fennel. Both offer an interesting contrast to a pear's floral aromas. Tree nuts like almonds, walnuts, and pecans add crunch and richness. And blue cheese like Gorgonzola is loaded with umami (a pear shortcoming, if there is one).
And that, my friends, is how you create a salad you actually want to eat!
Any variety of pear will be sweet, juicy, and herbal when ripe. Mixed salad greens are milder in flavor and texture. Arugula is peppery and crunchy, and a glamorous choice for a winter holiday meal.
- Ripe pears
- Arugula or mesclun (mixed spring greens)
- Sliced almonds
- Pomegranate arils (seeds) or dried cranberries (or both!)
- Lemon juice or a lemon
- Vegetable oil such as avocado, canola, or sunflower
- Salt, kosher recommended
- Fresh tarragon or thyme sprigs, optional
On the nuts. This recipe calls for sliced almonds, but walnuts and pecans are also incredible with pears (I'm severely allergic to the latter two, so I don't partake). Use what you have on hand and what you love.
Calling all blue cheese. Any blue-veined cheese is downright delish with pears. Gorgonzola is a cow's milk cheese with a milder tang. But others to try are Roquefort, Point Reyes (a personal favorite), and Stilton.
The fennel. Fennel is a bulb-shaped vegetable with literal roots in the Mediterranean region. I love sautéing it into my tomato sauce, but you can also enjoy it raw. Since it offers a sweet onion-meets-licorice flavor, thinly slice or shave fennel when eating it raw. If you find its flavors offensive, you can replace it with shaved celery for a similar crunch.
Salad dressings like a big, bold balsamic vinaigrette will overwhelm the unassuming flavors of ripe pears. So this recipe calls for a simple pear dressing with honey and squeeze of lemon. I spin the ingredients 'right 'round in my personal blender. But a conventional blender or food processor works, too. If you don't own a blender, you can simply mash ripe, peeled pears with a fork. Or push the fruit flesh through a mesh strainer with the back of a wooden spoon or flexible spatula. Then whisk it all together.
The Vinaigrette Ratio
The starting ratio of oil-to-vinegar for salad dressing that any chef swears by. Tailor the measurements to your liking and the specific oil and vinegar or citrus juice you choose.
3 parts oil + 1 part vinegar
For a vinaigrette that doesn't separate the moment you stop whisking, mix in a small amount of honey or mustard. For a lemon or orange vinaigrette, substitute some or all of the vinegar with fresh-squeezed juice.
- Slice and add the pears last. Ripe pears, especially once sliced, demand a delicate touch and will begin to oxidize (browning of the flesh caused by exposure to the air). So leave them out when you toss the other ingredients with the dressing. Then slice and add them after you transfer the salad greens and garnishes to your plate(s).
- Season the salad greens. When a salad is on the menu for one of my classes, I teach my students to add salt to the dressing and the salad greens. Yes, salt the salad, people. I promise you'll be glad you did. Even if you're on a low-sodium diet, pinching a little salt into scratch-made recipes won't come close to what you consume when eating processed and refined foods.
- Taste the dressing as you mix it. For a salad dressing that meets your standards, don't take anyone else's word on how much of any one ingredient. Taste it yourself as you make it. Bland? Add more salt. Too tart? Whisk in a little more oil. Lack zing? Squeeze in a little more lemon juice or vinegar.
- Caramelize the fennel. When sliced or shaved very thin with a mandolin, raw fennel is a crunchy, zingy addition to a salad. But when caramelized it takes on a sweeter, milder flavor.
How to Caramelize Fennel
You can slice, season, oil, and roast fennel in the oven at 400° F until the pieces brown around the edges (about 10 minutes). Or quickly caramelize it in a sauté pan on the stove. You don't need a lot of oil in the pan, the plant-based sugars in fennel will caramelize on their own over medium-high heat.
This salad could be the poster child for the Unabridged Mediterranean Diet Handbook (which probably already exists and with a better title). Bottom line, it's nutrient-dense and delicious. And with a few simple substitutions, it can accommodate many diets, however trendy or restrictive.
- Vegan. Ditch the Gorgonzola for a vegan salad (insert me sobbing). Several plant-based food brands have figured out a way to sort of replicate the essence of blue cheese. Follow Your Heart is one to look for that's widely distributed.
- Ketogenic or low-carb. If you stick to a lower carbohydrate diet or aim for a ketogenic one, you can enjoy a pear salad on occasion if you play your cards right. Omit the cranberries and instead of the pear dressing, serve it with a squeeze of lemon and a healthy drizzle of oil.
- GAPS diet. Choose raw honey for the dressing, and replace the blue cheese with a GAPS-legal one. Or simply omit the cheese altogether.
This salad is perfect on its own or served with soup and sandwiches. It's a showstopper of a holiday appetizer for a special gathering, Thanksgiving, Christmas, or any wintertime feast.
- Tuna Tartine
- Five-Spice Pumpkin Soup
- Sockeye Salmon with Lemon-Herb Vinaigrette
- Stuffed Pork Loin
- Braised Beef Shortribs
- Thomas Keller's Roast Chicken
For the Salad
- 1½ to 2 cups of arugula, mesclun, or any mixed salad greens
- 1 ripe pear, cored and thinly sliced
- 3 tablespoons of Gorgonzola (or any blue cheese), crumbled
- 2 tablespoons or 2 healthy pinches of sliced almonds
- ¼ cup fennel, sliced paper thin or shaved with a mandolin
- 2 teaspoons of dried cranberries or pomegranate seeds
- A healthy pinch or about ¼ teaspoon of coarse sea salt or flake salt
- 1 tablespoon of fresh herbs, tarragon or thyme recommended
- 3 tablespoons of honey-pear vinaigrette or a basic vinaigrette
- 1 ripe pear, any variety
- 1 tablespoon of honey
- 1 lemon, juiced
- 3 tablespoons of avocado, canola, olive, or sunflower oil
- ¼ teaspoon of kosher salt
- 2 sprigs of tarragon or thyme, leaves picked and sliced gently
- ¼ cup of vinegar such as apple cider, white wine, or champagne vinegar
- ¾ cup of oil such as avocado, olive, sunflower, or canola
- 1 tablespoon of honey or mustard like Dijon
- Slice large pieces of the pear away from the core and place them in your blender. You can peel the pear first for a smoother dressing, but the skin adds nutrients and a bit of texture.
- Add the rest of the dressing ingredients and blend until smooth.
- Taste the dressing and add more lemon juice, salt, or oil a little at a time to your liking. Stir in any chopped herbs right before serving.
- Store leftover dressing in an airtight container for up to a week.
Oil & Vinegar Dressing
- For a basic vinaigrette, whisk your vinegar and a little honey or any smooth mustard in a small bowl.
- Slowly drizzle in the oil while whisking constantly. This will emulsify (thicken and stabilize) the dressing.
- Whisk in any salt and fresh chopped herbs to your liking.
- Combine all of the salad greens and ingredients except the pear in a large bowl and season with a small pinch of salt.
- Drizzle in a few spoonfuls of your dressing and gently mix with your hands or tongs to evenly coat it all in the dressing. Then transfer it all to your plate(s) or platter.
- Slice large pieces of the pear away from the core. Then slice the pieces into quarter-inch wide slices. Scatter the pears about the salad.
- Sprinkle the salad with chopped herbs and/or a few granules of coarse sea salt.
- Slice and add the pears last. Ripe pears, especially once sliced, demand a delicate touch and will begin to oxidize (browning of the flesh caused by exposure to the air).
- Taste the dressing as you mix it. For a salad dressing that meets your standards, don't take anyone else's word on how much of any one ingredient. Before you toss the salad ingredients with the dressing, taste it. Bland? Add more salt. Too tart? Whisk in a little more oil. Lack zing? Squeeze a little more lemon juice or vinegar in.
On the Nutrition Information
The nutrient amounts below are based on the recipe as written. Any modifications and substitutions will vary the amount of sugar, carbohydrates, and fat.
- Prep Time: 10 minutes
- Cook Time: 10 minutes
- Category: Salads
- Method: Caramelizing
- Cuisine: Mediterranean
- Diet: Vegetarian
- Serving Size: 1 Salad
- Calories: 527
- Sugar: 22.7 g
- Sodium: 627.7 mg
- Fat: 40.9 g
- Carbohydrates: 37.3 g
- Protein: 8.9 g
- Cholesterol: 22.2 mg
Keywords: pear salad, pear salad recipe, pear salad dressing, how to caramelize fennel
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