This salad is the perfect use for those pears that aren't ripe enough to eat out of hand. Our grocery store only seems to carry pears in two varieties: hard and rock hard. Of course, I could put them in a paper bag and wait a few days, but knowing me this will likely lead to the discovery of a rotten pear in 2-3 weeks! Roasting the pears is a great solution. They become soft and sweet, and perfectly delicious in this salad. I wouldn't try this with totally unripe pears, but with pears that are getting there but still too firm to eat, it seems to work well. The sweet pears pair (hee!) well with bitter greens and a light vinaigrette. Feel free to sub in your favorite bitter greens for the watercress. As always, you could jazz up the salad with some goat cheese to make it extra special, but it's a winner even sans-cheese.
Roasted Pear Salad (adapted from Gourmet)
2 large pears, firm but ripe
1 T olive oil
Salt and pepper
2 T finely chopped shallot
2 1/2 T cider vinegar
1/2 tsp honey
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp black pepper
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 bunch watercress, rinsed and trimmed
2 handfuls mixed baby greens, rinsed
1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Peel the pears and slice each into 8-10 thick slices. Toss with olive oil, salt, and pepper and roast in the oven for 15-20 minutes until soft and caramelized. Flip the pears over with a spatula once during roasting. Allow to cool for at least 15 minutes before making the rest of the salad.
2. Place the shallot, vinegar, honey, salt, pepper, and olive oil into a jar with a tightly fitting lid. Screw on the lid and then shake vigorously until all the ingredients are combined. Taste and add more honey, salt, and/or pepper as needed.
3. Place the pears in a salad bowl along with the watercress and baby greens. Add about half the dressing and toss to combine. Add more dressing as desired and pass any extra at the table.