Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Baked Pear Spinach Salad With Mascarpone, Cashews, And Champagne Vinegar Dressing

Here it is Tuesday, October 22nd already.  How did this happen?  Where is it going?  Why am I not ready for cold weather or the fact that I had to put on closed shoes on Sunday because it suddenly got cool?  Bye bye sandals until next spring.  Sigh.  It makes me so very sad when sandals have to go.  My feet are not very happy.  I'll be waiting until the first warm day to drag them back out.  Believe me.

One of the really nice things about fall though is the abundance of tree fruit like apples and pears.  YUM!  I like apples, but I LOVE pears.  Dan is not a fan.  He doesn't like the texture which to me is unfortunate, but to each his own.

My daughter and I were talking about pears last week and she mentioned she had baked some.  Baked pears?  Why had I never thought of that.  When I got home, I headed straight to the world wide web and researched some baked pear recipes.  This is one I created by combining several things together for this fabulously delicious salad for dinner.  (The dressing recipe is my own.)  Are they good?  Let me count the ways.  My, oh my.  Here is what you will need:

Pears - as many as you want to bake (I used Bartlett)
1/2 to 1 stick butter
1 container Mascarpone cheese
Cashews, rough chopped (I used about a cup)
Home made Champagne Vinegar Dressing - recipe below

To check if pears are ripe, push around the stem to see if it's soft.  If so, they are good to go.  You want ripe pears for baking.

First, if you have never baked pears, this is how I did mine.  I used Bartlett pears and cut the pears in half, scooping out the core in each half.  I used a teaspoon to core the pears.  You can bake 2 halves, or as many as you want.  I did 3 pears the first time which was 6 halves.  Sunday, I did 5 pears for 10 halves.  I melted a half stick of butter in a baking dish for the 6 halves and a whole stick for the 10 halves.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Put the butter in an appropriate sized baking dish and melt the butter in the oven.  As soon as the butter is melted, remove the baking pan from the oven and coat the pears in the melted butter.  I rolled them on the skin side, then placed them cut side down in the butter.  Bake for about 45 minutes until they are fork tender.  Sunday, I baked these and this is how they look when they come out of the oven.  Heavenly.
Now, turn the pears over to expose the cut and cored side.  Place large dollops of mascarpone cheese in each pear half and stick them back in the oven for about a minute or two until the cheese melts.  Don't let it all run out of the pears.  It's the really good part.
If you are not familiar with Mascarpone cheese, it is an Italian cheese that sort of has the consistency of cream cheese but tastes like whipped cream.  Double yum.

I decided I wanted salty and sweet to go with the fresh spinach, and I had a can of cashew halves on hand.  I rough chopped them and sprinkled them over the melted mascarpone cheese.  I put several hands full of fresh baby spinach on salad plates and put a pear in the middle of the spinach.  I sprinkled more chopped cashews on the spinach.  Now to make the dressing.  I don't always measure when making dressing, but this is pretty close and you may want to adjust it to fit your taste.  It is sooooooo good, especially the tanginess with the sweet and salty.  Yummo.

Champagne Vinegar Dressing

Finely mince about 1/4 of a small shallot, super fine.

Using a large clove of garlic, make a paste out of it by putting about 1 to 2 teaspoons of salt on a cutting board and mashing the garlic with the flat side of the knife.  Work the knife back and forth, pressing and mashing until you have a paste made from the garlic clove.

In a bowl, pour about 1/2 cup good quality extra virgin olive oil in and add the shallot and garlic paste.  Add about a tablespoon of Dijon mustard. (two big squeezes) Add the juice of one lemon and two big splashes of champagne vinegar (probably about 2 TBSP).  Add one small pinch of salt if needed and fresh cracked black pepper.  Whisk until combined and drizzle over the spinach and the pear.  Serve.  Consume.  Just try to savor each bite.  Delicious.  (The dressing is so good I could probably drink it with a straw.)

This is such a pretty salad to present with whatever entree you are serving.  Perhaps you will just want to eat the salad with some good crusty bread.  Or, maybe you would prefer the baked pear without the spinach and dressing and consider it dessert.  It all works and it is wonderful any way to choose to eat it.  Truly.  They also keep nicely in the refrigerator (covered) and can be eaten the next day.  I ate mine cold and it was delish!

Sometimes things just come together in an oh so right way.  If you like pears, this is a great way to enjoy them.  Yes indeedy.

Everyday Donna

Things to Remember:

Pears have been cultivated and enjoyed for thousands of years.  Homer referred to them as a "gift from the gods" in the Odyssey.  healthdiaries.com