Friday, January 11, 2013

Pear, Walnut, and Blue Cheese Salad with Cranberry Vinaigrette

With a leftover can of Whole Foods' cranberry sauce in my pantry, the recipe for this novel vinaigrette caught my eye. It's nicely reminiscent of the holidays, now that we're solidly into January.  Make the dressing up to a week ahead, and store in the fridge, if you want to toss this salad together in a hurry.  Try the Soy Bleu from Veg Cuisine for a crumbly vegan version of blue cheese.

For the vinaigrette:
  • 1/2 cup canned whole-berry cranberry sauce
  • 1/4 cup fresh-squeezed orange juice
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon vegan sugar
  • 1 teaspoon peeled and minced fresh ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
For the salad:
  • 18 Bibb lettuce leaves
  • 2 cups peeled and sliced pear
  • 2 tablespoons fresh-squeezed orange juice
  • 1 cup (1/8-inch thick) sliced red onion
  • 1/3 cup crumbled vegan blue cheese (such as Veg Cuisine)
  • 2 tablespoons coarsely chopped and toasted walnuts*
1. To prepare the vinaigrette, whisk together the cranberry sauce, 1/4 cup orange juice, olive oil, vinegar, sugar, ginger, and salt; set aside.

2. To prepare the salad, place 3 lettuce leaves on each of 6 salad plates. The small, slightly-cupped leaves of Bibb lettuce are a perfect base for this kind of salad:

3. Toss the pear with 2 tablespoons orange juice.  Separate the onion slices into rings, and divide the pear and onion evenly among the salad plates.

4. Top each serving with 1 tablespoon blue cheese and 1 teaspoon walnuts, and drizzle each serving with about 2 and 1/2 tablespoons vinaigrette.

*Toast the walnuts in a small skillet over medium heat for about 5 minutes, until toasty smelling. Be sure to stir or shake the pan frequently to prevent burning.

Nutrition Info:
6 servings (3 lettuce leaves, 1/3 cup pear, 1/6 cup onions, 1 tablespoon cheese, 1 teaspoon walnuts, 2 and 1/2 tablespoons dressing), Calories 148

Tasting Notes:
More so than the cranberry, it was the burst of fresh ginger that stood out in the vinaigrette. The ingredients of the dressing sounded like an odd mix, but the end result is spectacular, not too sweet, and very Christmas-y. The rest of the salad had a little bit of everything - fresh lettuce, tender pear, salty blue cheese, and toasty walnuts. Even the raw red onion, which is not normally my favorite, was great here, and a nice foil to the pears and blue cheese in particular. A real keeper.


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