Pear and fennel, blue cheese salad
Some people think of blue cheese as the strong, stinky cheese, but there is nothing better than that pungent flavor balanced out with some sweetness and secret spices. For this salad, you will get a contrasting explosion of anise and fennel with a peppery salad mix and then add the sweet bite of the pears. Speaking of pears, make sure you choose the right ones; it can make or break the salad. I am partial to red pears, small, ripe but firm. Stay away from any pears with blemishes and stems that are wiggly,which indicates over ripeness and a mushy texture. Now let’s get to the healthy salad that’ll have you feeling sweet and spicy.
Salad mix with arugula, and baby kale preferred: about 5 oz
Radicchio: 1 or 2 oz
Fennel: 2 oz, shaved
Pear: about 1 for 4 guests and more if preferred
Lemon juice: 1 tablespoon
Roasted Walnut pieces: 1 or 2 oz
Blue cheese: 3 oz
Dijon mustard: 1 tablespoon
White balsamic, or sherry vinegar, or champagne vinegar: 2 teaspoons
Olive oil: ½ cup
Walnut oil if available: 1 tablespoon
Curry powder: 1 pinch
Lemon juice: 1 teaspoon to taste
For the dressing, stir together Dijon and vinegar to make a thin paste, slowly whisk in some oil to create an emulsion (use both olive oil and walnut oil, if available). Add a bit lemon juice to taste and a dash of curry powder. Taste and correct.
Use a mesclun salad with a balance ratio of tender leaves and stronger leaves such as arugula, baby kale, add some radicchio to it (about 20% for color and taste). Shave some fennel with a vegetable peeler (or a mandolin for a large quantity). You will need the equivalent of 15-20% of the volume of salad leaves and reserve some fennel shaving to garnish the top of the salad.
Cut pear in quarter in the length. Remove core and stem, and slice it thin (about 1/8 inch segments in the length). Reserve it in a bowl and sprinkle with some lemon juice to prevent discoloration.
Gently roast walnut pieces in a pan being careful not to burn them. Remove and cool. In a large bowl, toss mixed salad with a bit of olive oil. Crumble blue cheese in it and walnut pieces.
Dress salad mixture then add pear slices and mix gently. Taste and correct to taste with a bit more olive oil, or walnut oil and lemon juice if needed. Plate and top with a few slivers of fennel.
Jean-Mark Sens grew up in France and Belgium and has been living in the Southern United States of America for the past 25 years, except for a short stint in the deep East of Maine, which brought him back to New Orleans. He has taught culinary arts at the Chef John Folse Culinary Institute, Eastern Maine Community College and more recently for Mississippi University for Women on the Gulf Coast, and also works with the Goldring Centre for Culinary Medicine in New Orleans. He has published a collection of poetry, Appetite, with Red Hen Press. The present recipes are part of Leafy Greens and Sundry Things, a book on the arts and technique of composing salads in need of a publisher.