mixed green salad with pear & candied walnuts

I served this at Thanksgiving dinner as a starter course and so a lot of extra steps were taken to dress up this salad. The baby red pears highlight the season, the candied walnuts add texture, and the frico salad bowl is the finishing touch that makes this dish elegant and sophiticated, and perfect for holiday get-togethers.

Since I was tackling Thanksgiving dinner myself last year for eight people plus a baby, I knew I had to plan ahead, and so I made the vinaigrette a couple days in advance. The recipe is adapted from Emeril Lagasse’s show the Essense of Emeril on the Foodnetwork. The pears can be sliced a couple hours before serving, but be sure to either rinse the slices in salt water and pat dry or drizzle with lemon juice so they don’t oxidize and turn brown. Dress the salad and toss in the pear and walnuts just before serving. I must admit, the parmesan frico bowls were quite difficult to make, but definitely won a lot of presentation points! If you do plan on making the frico bowls for a special ocassion, be sure to complete some trials runs first to get the hang of it. The first couple times I tried it, either the cheese had cooled down too much to be able to mold it or I didn’t spread out the cheese far enough apart to be able to get that basket-weaved look. Be careful not to burn your fingers in the process as well! Once you master the technique you’ll not only have a beautiful presentation laid out, but also an edible bowl to enjoy after your salad (instead of having to wash additional dishes)!




PREP TIME 30 Min
COOK TIME 50 Min
READY IN 2 Hr
   
SERVINGS 8

 

INGREDIENTS:

For the Pear-Spiced Vinaigrette:

2 (2-ounce) baby red pears, firm but ripe, peeled, cored and cut into 1/4-inch slices*
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons white wine (or Champagne) vinegar
2 tablespoons minced shallots
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary
1/3 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon sea salt (See the Guide)
1 1/2 teaspoons sliced green onions (scallions), white parts only
1/2 cup grapeseed oil

 

For the Parmesan Frico Bowls:

3 cups finely shredded Parmesan cheese

 

For the Mixed Green Salad:

2 (2-ounce) baby red pears, firm but ripe, peeled, cored and sliced into 1/8-inch slices*
1 (6-ounce) bag mixed greens
1/2 cup candied walnuts
1/4 cup Pear-Spiced Vinaigrette
8 Parmesan Frico bowls

 

EQUIPMENT:

Blender or food processor
Chef’s knife (See the Guide)
Cutting board
Medium saucepan
Airtight container**
Non-stick skillet
Thin spatula
Small bowl or unopened canned good
Large bowl
Tongs

 

DIRECTIONS:

For the Pear-Spiced Vinaigrette:

  • Combine the pear, vinegar, shallots, sugar, rosemary, and black pepper in a medium saucepan and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer until the pears are tender, about 6 minutes. Remove from the heat and transfer to a blender or food processor.
  • Add the mustard, soy sauce, salt, and green onions, and cover the lid with a wet towel. Puree on high speed. With the machine running, gradually add the oil in a thin stream and blend until emulsified. Remove from the blender and refrigerate in an airtight container until ready to serve, up to a week.**

For the Parmesan Frico Bowls:

  • Heat a non-stick skillet or omelet pan over medium-high heat. Sprinkle 1/4 cup of shredded Parmesan cheese onto the hot pan, spreading the cheese evenly in one thin layer.
  • Cook for 3-4 minutes until golden and bubbly. Working quickly, use a thin spatula to transfer the Parmesan frico over an upside-down bowl or unopened can.*** Gently mold the frico around the surface to form a bowl. Let cool until firm, about 2 minutes. Continue with the remaining Parmesan cheese.

For the Mixed Green Salad:

  • In a large bowl, toss together the salad and pears with the dressing. Divide the salad among the Parmesan frico cups and top with candied walnuts. Enjoy immediately.

 

NOTES:

  • Baby red pears can be found at your neighborhood Trader Joe’s during the fall season, usually sold in 1-pound bags. If you can’t find baby red pears, smaller-sized red Anjou pears will work as well. To slice each pear, simply cut the pear in half, length-wise, and scrape out the center core using a metal measuring spoon or melon baller. Turn the flat, cut-side of the pear onto the cutting board and slice.
  • Since the vinaigrette will keep for up to a week, you’ll want to store the extra dressing properly for use on another night. Any airtight container will do, but I’ve found that the individual glass bottles of Lorina Sparkling Lemonades are perfect. Simply run the glass bottle under hot water to peel off the label and clean off any sticky residue with baking soda. You can create your own label and present homemade bottles of the pear-spiced vinaigrette as take-home gifts for your guests!
  • I’ve tried forming the Frico bowls using various objects around the kitchen and discovered that a can of soup works quite well. Just be sure the wipe the can clean first!



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