Pears and blue cheese make this the perfect winter salad
Looking for a winter starter? Something fast enough for weeknights, but elegant enough for company?
We’ve got it! This Belgian Endive and Walnut Salad makes the season bright. Just add pears (which are at the height of their season) and tangy blue cheese (we opt for French Roquefort), and you have an easy dish that will make your tongue tingle.
And tingle rhymes with jingle.
Recipe: Belgian Endive and Walnut Salad
Belgian Endive and Walnut Salad is a classic French dish. Blue cheese, usually Roquefort (it’s French, after all), is a typical garnish. We add pears, which give the dish a pleasantly sweet note.
This dish takes 10 to 15 minutes to prepare.
The recipe serves 4, but you can easily scale it up or down.
For the vinaigrette:
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice or white wine vinegar
- a couple pinches of kosher salt (to taste – no more than ¼ teaspoon; see Notes)
- a few grinds of black pepper (about half a dozen for us)
- ½ teaspoon Dijon mustard (or to taste; we often increase this to a teaspoon)
- 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (the better the oil, the better the vinaigrette)
- 4 heads of Belgian endive (about 1 pound or a bit less; or to taste)
- ~1 cup walnut pieces
- ~6 ounces blue cheese (or to taste; we prefer Roquefort)
- 2 pears (whichever variety looks best in your market)
- Prepare the vinaigrette: Add all the ingredients for the vinaigrette to a small lidded jar or container. Shake vigorously until the ingredients are well combined (the mustard helps form an emulsion). You can make the vinaigrette hours ahead of time – just refrigerate it until ready to make the salad. Shake the container to reform the emulsion right before using.
- Prepare the Belgian endive: Cut off their root ends, then cut them across their width into pieces of about ½ inch. Place the pieces in a bowl of cold water (or just fill the kitchen sink) and agitate with your fingers to clean off any sand or dirt. If you see more than a little bit of sand or grit in the bottom of the bowl, empty it and clean the endive again. Spin the Belgian endive pieces dry in a salad spinner, then wrap them in a kitchen towel and refrigerate them until you’re ready to make the salad.
- Prepare the walnut pieces: Measure them out, then chop them roughly (if they’re large) and place them in an airtight container until ready to use.
- Prepare the cheese: Break or cut the cheese into chunks of ½ inch or less. Place the cheese chunks in an airtight container and refrigerate them until ready to use.
- When ready to make the salad: Place the Belgian endive pieces in a medium-sized mixing bowl. Toss them with the vinaigrette (shake the vinaigrette first) until they’re thoroughly coated. Plate the endive pieces.
- Wash the pears, peel them, then cut them into quarters. Cut away the woody core, then cut the pears into thin slices. Arrange the slices atop the endive on each salad plate.
- Distribute the chopped walnuts and blue cheese chunks over each salad. Serve and enjoy.
- We don’t usually toast the walnuts, but you could do that if you wish.
- You may want to chop some parsley and add it to the dish as extra garnish.
- Roquefort cheese (which is made from sheep’s milk) has a sharp, tangy flavor. But its flavor isn’t as overwhelming as that of some other blue cheeses. You can substitute another blue cheese if you want, but the flavor profile will be somewhat different.
- Once you cut the pears, they begin to oxidize and turn brown. That’s why we slice them right before serving. If you want to slice the pears ahead of time, submerge them in a solution of 50% water and 50% lemon juice to retard the oxidation.
- If you prefer, you can add the pear slices and walnuts to the Belgian endive pieces before you toss them with the vinaigrette. Plate everything, then add the blue cheese chunks.
- Pears usually are picked when they’re mature, but not fully ripe. They ripen at room temperature, so the ones you find at your supermarket may already have reached peak maturity by the time you buy them. If in doubt, ask the produce people to help you select pears that are at their best.
- We used Bartlett pears in the salad we photographed for this post (because they’re plentiful and of good quality at the moment). Bosc pears would also be a good choice.
- We use kosher salt in cooking. It’s less salty by volume than regular table salt (the crystals are larger and more irregular, so they pack a measure less tightly). If using table salt, start with about half the amount we suggest. But always season to your taste, not ours. (And remember, blue cheese is salty.)
- Programming Note: We’re taking off the rest of the year. We’ll be back January 8, 2020 with a new post. We hope everyone has a terrific holiday season!
The Pear of Us
“Great salad,” said Mrs. Kitchen Riffs. “Good to the bitter endive.”
“Roques my fort!” I said.
“That was kind of cheesy,” said Mrs K R. “Did the Dijon go to your nose?”
“It’s just my holiday spirit kicking up,” I said. “Guess I’m off my nut.”
“Never knew salad could be so dangerous,” said Mrs K R. “Maybe we should stick to cocktails.”
Happy Holidays! Don’t do anything you’ll vinaigrette.
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Fennel, Orange, and Arugula Salad
Or check out the index for more