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Poached Pear, Rogue River Blue Cheese, and Hazelnut Salad

(recipe, Lisa Schroeder & Danielle Centoni)

Introduction

I love the interplay between sweet and savory that fruit can add to salads. Here, fresh pears are poached in red wine to give them a gorgeous color and deeper flavor that's delicious with the assertive blue cheese and toasty hazelnuts. This is definitely a company-worthy dish, although if you make the components ahead you can enjoy it even on a busy weeknight. Store any leftover vinaigrette in an airtight container in the fridge and use within a couple of weeks.

Ingredients

    Vinaigrette
    1. ¼ cup red-wine vinegar
    2. 1 tsp. Dijon mustard
    3. ⅓ cup hazelnut oil (optional)
    4. ⅓ cup canola oil (or ⅔ cup if not using hazelnut oil)
    5. ½ tsp. kosher salt
    6. ¼ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
    Salad
    1. 6 cups mesclun greens, washed and dried
    2. 2 Wine-Poached Pears
    3. 2½ oz. Rogue Creamery Oregon Blue or other blue cheese, crumbled (about 1 cup)
    4. ½ cup hazelnuts, lightly toasted, skins removed, and chopped (see Note)

    Steps

    1. In a small bowl, whisk together the vinegar and mustard. Add the oils in a slow, steady stream while whisking vigorously. Continue whisking until all of the oil is incorporated and the dressing is thickened. Add the salt and pepper.
    2. In a large bowl, toss the mesclun with 2½ tablespoons of the dressing and taste. Add more dressing, if needed. Divide the greens among four plates.
    3. Halve and core the poached pears. Cut lengthwise into ¼-inch slices and evenly distribute on the greens. (They also look nice sliced but held together by the upper part of the pear; this is called "fanning.") Sprinkle with cheese and hazelnuts, drizzle with reduced poaching syrup if desired, and serve.

    Note

    To toast or roast hazelnuts, preheat the oven to 275 degrees. Spread the shelled hazelnuts in a single layer on a baking sheet. Toast for 20 to 30 minutes, or until the skins crack and the nuts turn light golden brown and smell fragrant. (You can also roast them at 350 degrees for 10 to 15 minutes, but check them periodically to make sure they don't burn.) Remove the nuts from the oven and set aside to cool. To remove the skins from toasted hazelnuts, place them in a colander with large holes. Put the colander in the sink and use a clean dishtowel to rub the nuts so the skins peel off. Shake the colander occasionally to encourage the skins to fall into the sink. Another way to remove the skins is to put the warm nuts onto a clean dishtowel and gather it closed. Let the nuts steam for 4 to 5 minutes, then rub vigorously for 1 to 3 minutes. Rub longer to remove even more skin. For recipes, like a cake, that require all the skins to be removed, blanch the nuts for 1 minute in boiling water spiked with baking soda (1 tablespoon per cup of water). Then plunge the nuts into cold water; the skins will slip right off. In this case, you would roast them after they were peeled, at the lower temperature. Culinate editor's notes: Skip all the nut prep by simply buying roasted and salted hazelnuts, such as those sold by Freddy Guys. If you don't want to bother with the poached-pear preparation, just slice up some fresh pears or apples. And a mix of butter lettuce, endive, and parsley makes a nice wintertime substitute for the mesclun greens.