Tonight was one of those nights where nothing in particular was on the menu so my focus became how to use up my lovely fresh produce before it had a chance to go bad. Among the contents of my fridge were a forgotten full bag of baby spinach and some lovely Forelle pears. I chose this pear variety because they were included, poached, as part of a lovely roast duck for two my boyfriend and I had at Salts Restaurant in Cambridge to celebrate my birthday. The pears were so perfectly poached and sweet that when I saw the same variety at Stop & Shop I couldn’t help but grab four. They are a very small and juicy variety that are yellow in color with a tinge of orange-red when ripe. Inspired by our fancy meal out I decided to recreate the poached pears but instead serve them atop a spinach salad (roughly inspired by this recipe). To round out my greens I included toasted walnuts and one of my favorite cheeses – Wensleydale with Cranberries. All of the above ingredients were tossed gently in a pear vinaigrette which made use of, among other things, 2 of the poached pears and some of the liquid. The result was an elegant and satisfying salad for one that was entirely created from contents of my pantry and refrigerator.
-4 Forelle pears (These are quite small so if you cannot find them they are the equivalent of 2 medium sized pears)
-1/2 cup white wine
-1 cup water
-1 tablespoon sugar
-1 teaspoon vanilla extract
-1 whole star anise
-1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
-1 teaspoon grated orange zest
-1/2 a small cinnamon stick
-2 tablespoons walnut oil
-2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
-Salt and pepper to taste
-2 cups spinach
-2 tablespoons toasted walnuts
-2 tablespoons Wensleydale with Cranberries
Peel pears leaving stems in tact. Place in the bottom of a saucepan.
Into the saucepan, add the wine, water, sugar, vanilla extract, star anise, lemon and orange zest, and cinnamon stick and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat and simmer for 20 to 25 minutes or until tender. To check, I like to stick a toothpick into the thickest part of the pear. You are looking for the pear to be tender, but not mushy or hard. Cooking time can vary depending on ripeness and size so I fully recommend checking to ensure you get the right texture.
Strain the pear mixture reserving the four pears and 2 tablespoons of the cooking liquid. You can discard the spices. Core and slice the pears. You will use two pears for the salad and two for the dressing.
To make the dressing, puree two of the pears along with the poaching liquid walnut oil, sherry vinegar in a food processor or blender. Add salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.
Toss together the remaining pears with the spinach, walnuts, and cheese along with two tablespoons of the dressing, or more to taste. You will have lots of leftover dressing, but do not worry as it is quite tasty. Serve and enjoy!