This is a special salad in the fall and winter months when many greens, pears, walnuts and fennel are in season. I like an assortment of greens — some lettuces, a few of the bitter chicories and some dark leaves like spinach and watercress. Comice, Bosc and red Bartlett are all good pears; they should be completely ripe. You could use Gala or Nittany apples in place of the pears. This is one of those dishes where you can gather pieces of each different ingredient together to get the perfect bite. This recipe is generous because the guests always come back for seconds. An easy way to make Parmesan curls is to draw a vegetable peeler over a chunk of Parmesan.
• 6 cups washed lettuce leaves, torn into bite-sized pieces
• 2 cups washed curly endive, escarole or radicchio leaves, torn into bite-sized pieces
• 2 cups washed spinach, watercress or orach leaves (a wild edible resembling spinach), torn into bite-sized pieces
• 1 medium fennel bulb, trimmed and thinly sliced lengthwise
• 1 large or 2 medium pears or apples, peeled, cored, quartered lengthwise and thinly sliced crosswise
• 1/4 cup Italian Parmesan curls
• Generous 1/3 cup lightly toasted walnuts or pecans, coarsely chopped
• Handful of dried cranberries or cherries
• 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
• 2 tablespoons walnut oil
• 2 tablespoons sherry or balsamic vinegar
• Salt and freshly ground pepper
Toss greens together and arrange on a large serving platter. Scatter fennel pieces, pear slices, and Parmesan curls over the greens. Sprinkle the walnuts and dried cranberries over the salad.
In a small bowl, combine olive oil, walnut oil, vinegar, salt and pepper. Stir well with a fork. Adjust the seasoning with salt, pepper or vinegar if necessary. Drizzle dressing over salad, toss well and serve immediately or present the salad and pass the vinaigrette as it is served.
Adapted from The Greens Book by Susan Belsinger and Carolyn Dille, Interweave Press, 1995. Susan Belsinger is a culinary herbalist who loves playing with food. She delights in kitchen alchemy — the blending of harmonious seasonal foods, herbs and spices.
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