I had a salad similar to this one at an Italian Restaurant in Norman, Okla., a few years ago. If I remember correctly, it was Ms. Angee’s birthday that evening and we were all a little amazed at how pretty a salad could look. A few weeks later, I recreated a version of it for Nathan and he was pretty impressed. It looks like a difficult recipe to put together, but it’s actually pretty simple.
You can experiment with different cheeses, dressings and greens to get a salad that you truly love. You can also add in different kinds of candied pecans or walnuts. The ones we used this time we found at a local health food store and they had just a hint of sweetness with cinnamon.
Also note that it’s a beautiful salad with the pear left whole. However, if you dice it up and toss it into the salad, you don’t have to slice up the pear as you eat it. You can also poach a couple of extra to use as dessert.
There is also another tip when it comes to wine. This recipe calls for quite a bit of red wine, so I suggest you go ahead and buy a bottle. You can enjoy the leftover wine while the pears cool. However, if you sometimes hesitate to cook recipes that include wine because you don’t want to open a whole bottle, then I suggest trying the individual size wines that are available now at most liquor stores. They work great for sauces and you aren’t forced to use up an entire bottle before it goes bad. And, then there’s box wine. That’s a different subject entirely. It’s a subject I’m not willing to talk about publicly… yet.
Poached Pear and Feta Salad
2 1/2 cups red wine
1/2 cup water
3 tablespoons organic granulated sugar
1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
2 cloves whole
1 medium dried bay leaf
3-1/2-inch rosemary sprig
Mix all these ingredients together in a saucepan that is large enough for the pears. You want to find a pan that is deep enough and will allow the pears to be submerged in the liquid. Bring the liquid to a boil and stir to make sure that sugar is fully dissolved.
As the liquid heats, peel 2 pears and trim the bottoms flat so they will stand upright. Place the pears into the boiling poaching liquid, turn down heat to low and cook for about 5-8 minutes or until pears begin to soften. Turn the pears regularly so they will cook evenly.
Take the pears off the heat and set aside, leaving them in the poaching liquid as it cools for at least one hour. Turn the pears every 20 minutes to make sure the coloring is even. You may choose to store the pears in the poaching liquid overnight in the refrigerator if you want.
After one hour, remove pears from poaching liquid. Add 2 tablespoons of sugar to the liquid and reduce over high heat until it reaches a light syrup consistency.
Before plating, we recommend freezing the plates. This will help keep the greens from wilting.
To Plate Salad:
Drizzle wine reduction onto cold plate
Sprinkle with cheese
Sprinkle with candied walnuts
Place pear on plate
Drizzle more wine reduction
Add salt and pepper to taste