The Gleeful Gourmand: Autumn Pear Salad

Friday, October 4, 2013

Autumn Pear Salad

That most glorious of seasons is finally here! Fall is everywhere you look: The leaves are slowly beginning to change, Pumpkin Spice Lattes are being consumed in vast quantities, Halloween and Autumn decorations are up, and a nip is in the air!

Wait, scratch that last one. A nip is most definitely not in the air. Make that temperatures in the upper 80s, and that's our beginning to October right now. Here in Virginia we're experiencing a really hot Indian Summer. Everything is as dry as can be, and I'm sitting here in shorts. After an unseasonably cool and wet summer, it seems strange now that summer would suddenly show up at our door in October. It's hard to want to drink a Pumpkin Spice Latte when you're sweating profusely. But here we are, with myriad promises of abundant rain and colder weather on its way next week.

Despite the heat, Fall is still putting on its pretty show.

The Beauty Berries in our backyard strutting their stuff.

But what to do when one wants to experience the flavors of Autumn, but it's too dang hot for chili, pumpkin pie, and roasted butternut squash soup? It's Autumn Pear Salad time.

A few weeks ago my Mom treated me to lunch at Brio Tuscan Grille, and I had their fabulous Tuscan Harvest Salad. Filled with all sorts of delicious things like mushrooms, roasted chicken, cranberries, apple slices, bacon, gorgonzola cheese, and almonds; it was one of the best salads I'd had in a long time. The crunch of the apples was particularly inviting. It got me thinking about how to recreate it at home.

Gratuitous bacon shot.

Here's where I ran into a problem: My husband is allergic to apples, and both he and my son are allergic to tree nuts. What to do for that sweet component and necessary crunch? Asian Pears. It's the perfect solution: slightly sweet, and crunchy all at the same time, with nary an itchy mouth or upset stomach from its consumption. I fooled around with the rest of the ingredients, and settled on a slightly different take, but the beauty of this salad is that you could literally add or subtract whatever you wanted from the recipe to make it your own. I also did some research on making an Italian vinaigrette, and came up with a pretty good substitute to the bottled stuff - though if that's what you have on hand, I say use what works! The best part about this salad: It's so easy. Thanks to an herbed rotisserie chicken, it's a quick assembly. Fresh, light, yet hearty enough for a meal.

Autumn Pear Salad.

Paired with a fresh, crusty baguette, and a cold glass of Chardonnay, it's the perfect Indian Summer meal. Here's what I ended up using:

Autumn Pear Salad

2 heads of crisp romaine lettuce
1 small package of cherry tomatoes, halved
2 ribs of celery, diced
2 Asian Pears, sliced thinly (wash, but do not peel)
Half a package of frozen corn, prepared to your liking*
5 slices of crispy bacon, chopped
1 herbed rotisserie chicken diced, or sliced thinly
Crumbled Gorgonzola Cheese (slight dusting, a little goes a very long way)

Assemble salad. I bake my bacon in the oven to drain off the grease, but you can make it however you see fit. *A note on corn: The first time I made the salad, I roasted the corn with some olive oil and pepper in the oven, and the second time I steamed it quickly and tossed it with a bit of butter and black pepper. Both ways were perfectly fine.

Italian Vinaigrette

1 large clove garlic, minced
1/2 cup white wine vinegar
1/2 tsp. to 1 tsp. honey (to your taste)
Pinch of Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 Tbsp. Italian Seasoning (or more, to taste)
1 cup olive oil

Whisk all ingredients vigorously. Drizzle over salad until salad is just moist. Toss to mix.

Here are some things you could add to your salad if you want to mix it up a little bit: Cranberries, Almonds, Pecans, Pumpkin Seeds, Sunflower Seeds, Thinly Sliced Jicama, Mushrooms.



Kirsten Oliphant said...

This looks so good! I didn't have all the ingredients, but totally added pears to my salad the other day, even though my mom questioned me. Then we all agreed: delicious.

Also, I DETEST Facebook.

Jenna said...

Hey, leave your angry rants for someone else!!

Glad you tried it and liked it, and glad my comments are working. Sad that I have no one else willing to comment... :(

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