In early November, we celebrated Thanksgiving dinner (yes, I know, very late for Canadians) at my sister’s house. They served the most wonderful dinner that included a fabulous salad made with spinach, toasted pine nuts, pear wedges, shaved parmesan and a simple vinaigrette (oil, vinegar and grainy mustard). The pear was just at that stage of ripeness when it is quite firm. And yet not so firm that there was no pear flavour.
The salad was so delicious that we had to try making it here. With a few minor changes (like one of my other sisters, I’m incapable of following a recipe exactly).
Tree-ripened pears are almost impossible to find at this time of year so (What am I saying? At any time of year, here, in the land of “pick the fruit the moment it looks like fruit and let it ripen off the tree so it will remain unbruised because the dupes who buy it only buy for looks rather than flavour”) I beg your pardon for that outburst… where was I?? Oh yes, unripe pears….
Here’s how I made the salad:
Because all the pears we found were impossibly hard, I decided to mandoline a pear, dip the slices in cider vinegar to stop them from oxydizing and oven-dry them on a rack to concentrate the flavour. I used the toaster oven at its lowest heat – it took about 30 minutes because I decided the pear slices shouldn’t be tooooooo chewy.
And we didn’t have any spinach leaves, but some red leaf lettuce was languishing in the fridge just begging to be married with oven dried pears.
I toasted a good shot of pinenuts in a little butter til they were golden. T put together a vinaigrette with olive oil, cider vinegar, grainy mustard, a touch of raspberry/balsamic vinegar, garlic, dried thyme, salt and pepper.
I believe I mentioned that my sister shaved parmesan cheese over the Thanksgiving salads. But we haven’t had parmesan cheese in the house for ages. Instead, we’ve been buying Portuguese Ilha Branca. It is not unsimilar and it’s deliciously nutty in exactly the same way a good Parmesan is. At a much lower price. I’m happy to report that Ilha Branca works equally well.
This salad was a wonderful way to start dinner. It would be delicious served French-style, after a main course too.
Thanks again to my sister for this fabulous addition to our salad repertoire! (I can’t decide if we should use spinach or red leaf lettuce when we make it again….)
Sparkling wine goes perfectly with this salad. Not wanting to splash out for a decent champagne, and unable to get our favourite Blanquette de Limoux, we got a wonderful Bordeaux from the Vintages store on Queen’s Quay. (Thank you to the lovely woman working there, who understood immediately what we were looking for, after asking what was being served and how it was going to be prepared.)
You might be wondering why we neeeeeeeeded a sparkling wine to go with this particular dinner. Because, after all, red wine would be delightful with this salad too. But red wine would not have gone so well with the next course… stay tuned for the next installment.