Salads are a great way to incorporate some fruit into your diet. Apples and pears go well with many meats and cheeses and dried fruits make nice toppings. Now that the weather is warming up, I’m starting to feel like eating green salads again, and the gorgeous bosc pears available in the local produce section inspired me. Today we’re making a fresh Spring Pear and Walnut Salad featuring dates and walnuts and our favorite honey mustard dressing.
Thanks to modern logistics, fresh pears are available pretty much year round in the US. The varieties will change with the seasons, of course, but they are also available in jars and cans. Canned pears can be a great substitute for fresh as the flesh holds its shape and texture well during processing. Since pears are very perishable once they are ripe, the pears you find at the market will generally be unripe and will require a few days of maturing. Look for pears that are firm, but not too hard. They should have a smooth skin that is free of bruises or mold. Pears are generally not uniform in color, but you don’t want a large spot or puncture. The firmer, less ripe pears are excellent for salads as they will be easy to slice without damaging the fruit.
I’ve been buying bagged spinach to use in salads, smoothies and as a quick side for meals. Have you checked the prices of the bagged greens lately? They are outrageous! Let’s take an example from a circular from my local store: $2.99 for 6 ounces of pre-washed baby spinach. After you do the math, it works out to $7.97 per pound! When I can find them, I’ll purchase the large bags of spinach, kale or a blend (from 12 ounces to a pound). They are often on sale for less than the convenient sizes. Once the bunches are available on a regular basis at the farmer’s market or at the store, I will buy them. It’s usually cheaper per pound, even accounting for the longer stems and the extra effort required to clean the leaves.
Either way, for bunches or larger bags, it’s a good idea to wash the greens before storing them. The larger cellophane bags tend to be very wet and sometimes the leaves at the bottom are smashed. Rinse the greens, sort them and trim the stems as desired. A salad spinner will help get rid of the extra water, otherwise pat the leaves dry with towels. Pack them loosely in large bags with some toweling to help maintain the moisture balance.
In addition to the pears and spinach, I used walnuts, dates, onion and fontina cheese to round out my salad. A crumbly blue cheese would also be a good choice. Or perhaps raisins instead of dates. There are no hard and fast rules. Make the salad your own.
- pears, sliced into long, thin slices
- red onion, sliced into petals
- dates, chopped
- cheese, slivered or crumbled depending on the variety
- ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
- ¼ cup apple cider vinegar
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 2 tablespoons mustard (I like a sharp mustard for this rather than yellow)
- salt and pepper to taste
- Put all the dressing ingredients into a small, lidded jar (at least 8 ounces) and shake to combine. Adjust the ingredients to your taste.
- Arrange the greens on a plate.
- Place the pears on top of the greens, fanning the slices.
- Garnish with the onions, cheese, chopped dates and walnuts.
- Dress with the honey mustard vinaigrette.
Do you have a favorite Springtime meal?