Growing up we had a neighbour with a pear tree out back of the house. We’d play in the backyard, in and around all the pears that had fallen to the ground. Some in good shape. Most rotten and long forgotten. I didn’t think of picking up a few and eating them or taking them home. Asking my mom to make something with them. Not once. If it were an apple tree, I would have taken a shirt full and asked for a crisp or pie. But it wasn’t. So they littered the lawn and adorned the tree.
There’s something about pears, long since relegated to the background when discussing fruits and people’s favourites. Even with the varieties of pears available it still lacks the star power of apples or oranges, peaches and cherries. On down the list. As of recent, pears have become more popular. They stand out more to me now. I notice them popping up in more recipes than ever before and other recipes being altered to include pears where once apples or other fruits were featured. A resurgence. No longer just poached, they are great for baking and cooking and raw as an ingredient.
Growing up salads weren’t a big favourite of mine. Especially when I was young. My mom would chop up some iceberg lettuce and vegetables and toss with a favourite bottled dressing at the time. I’d eat it, but not always because I liked it. Certainly didn’t love it. Eat your salad, my mom would say. So I did. A small side plate of salad. As time progressed I was introduced to other options. Caesar, cobb and spinach. I equally loved them. But I only had them from time to time. Those were special days though, the house salad reigned supreme. A daily basis. Regularly refusing mine.
Now that I’m married, W asks for a salad with dinner every night. Almost. I’ll be down in the kitchen making dinner when she asks. It’s a good idea if we have some salad with dinner, she says. Yes, both of us. She always wants to see some green on my plate. Sometimes I’ll skip and make just enough for her. Even though I know it’s smart if I have my share of greens and salad. I should more often. And she looks out for me. But it’s hard. I’m more focused on soups and mains and dessert. It takes a special salad to change that.
I know the importance of moderation. Self control. There are moments during the year when watching what you eat and choosing better options seems more important. It’s easy to forget and let go and choose the path with least resistance. Indulge. Dinner parties and birthdays and holidays and family gatherings. Rich, decadent foods. Loaded foods. Easy answer.
The winter holidays are a particular sticking point when saying no to extra plates or larger plates and passing on something is met with an offending eye. Just try it. It’s hard to say no. That leads us to the Superbowl, where everybody gathers around for an extended day of sport and commercials and we eat and eat all day long. Nobody brings over bowls of fruit or plates of veggies. Nobody thinks about sides and salads. It’s meat and gravy and cheese and heavy sauces. The moment the day ends I feel the effects. I needed cleaner options. Better ones. Starting now.
Now that the big game ended days ago and there are no family holidays on the horizon, it feels like the perfect time to try to find some balance. Healthier choices and lighter fare . It was the ideal time to include more vegetables in my daily routine and enjoy salad. Really enjoy it. More often. So the day after the Superbowl I went to the kitchen to make this salad. The first day and first step. It has to start somewhere.
The combination of ingredients in this salad works perfectly together. The pears, bitter apples and Roquefort, watercress and pistachios and creamy roquefort dressing. I sat down, already partially filled from the previous day and made this. It was light, refreshing, bursting with flavour and delicious. It was the salad I wish I had growing up. Or I did, and sadly forget. I might have just eaten more of them. The sauce was creamy yes, but still a far cry from the table of goods the day before. Or a lot of days. And it’s a point of reference moving forward.
We had this with some wine and then went for a drive to a spot outside our city where we could take pictures of the waterfront and a classic old church, stunning in its details and view. That and get some exercise, feel the slight chill against our skin and move. Just us. And after a few hours out enjoying the unseasonal weather and playing with our cameras, we came home. A weekend now complete. The right path laid out in front of us. At least until the next big holiday.
You don’t win friends with salad. I heard that years ago and I laughed. It’s true. If left with no other choices, they’ll always choose something else. Unless they have this salad. You definitely win friends with this. How could you not?
From my kitchen to yours,
Pear Roquefort Salad:
- 2 pears, thinly sliced (using a mandoline)
- 1/2 apple, thinly sliced (using a mandoline)
- 100 grams Roquefort, crumbled
- 1/4 cup watercress leaves
- 2 tbsp. pistachios, roughly chopped
- sea salt and cracked fresh pepper, to taste
- FOR THE DRESSING:
- 1/3 cup sour cream
- 1 1/2 tsp. white wine vinegar
- 2 tbsp. mayonnaise
- pinch of salt
- 1 garlic, turned to paste
- 1 cup Roquefort cheese
- 2 cranks on the pepper grinder
- Using a mandoline, thinly slice pears and half an apple. Place in a bowl of water with a few tablespoons of lemon juice to prevent browning and keep aside.
- In a medium bowl, combine all the dressing ingredients and whisk until smooth.
- For plating, stack the pear slices one atop of the other, with a couple apple slices added in. Dress with watercress leaves and chopped pistachios over top and along the sides and crumble Roquefort cheese over top. Lightly pour dressing over top and around the stacked pears. Season.
- Serves 2.