My Pear Salad with Creamy Walnut Vinaigrette is just about the first thing I make when gorgeous pears show up in my grocery store. The star of this fall salad is a whole pear that’s been thinly sliced and stacked so you can still see the shape of the fruit; it’s beautiful enough for the holidays.
thinly sliced whole pears are the star of this fall salad
I love to serve pears this way in a salad because it retains their pretty shape, and makes such an elegant presentation. You can slice the pears with a very sharp knife and a steady hand, or you can do it the easy way, on a mandolin slicer. What’s fun about the mandolin is that it will slice through the pear and the stem, so you get a great look to your salad. Just stack the slices and fan them out slightly for this pretty presentation.
an earthy walnut vinaigrette is a perfect match for creamy, mild pears.
Walnuts and blue cheese are classic pairings with pears, but I took it a step further with my creamy walnut vinaigrette. I used walnut oil, which is so aromatic, and provides a nice change from the ubiquitous olive oil dressings. This recipe becomes ‘creamy’ because the oil emulsifies with the mustard and vinegar in a small food processor. I drizzle the oil in slowly while the machine is running which fuses everything together into a creamy dressing that will not separate.
If you don’t have a processor or an immersion blender you can emulsify your dressing by hand ~ just load the ingredients in a jam jar, screw on the cap, and shake like mad!
compose your salads for best presentation
Instead of chucking everything into your big wooden salad bowl and tossing, try a composed salad! Composed salads are salads that you arrange rather than toss. This pear and arugula salad is so easy to make, but really makes an impression on the table. I served it on individual salad plates, but you could also arrange it a large platter, family style, with multiple pears. Allow a stack of 3 or 4 slices per person. I can’t imagine a more elegant way to showcase this wonderful fall fruit.
what type of pear work best for this salad?
I used Bartlett pears, one of the most common grocery store varieties. Bartletts start out a pretty shade of medium green, and turn yellow as they ripen. They become super juicy as they ripen, so it’s best to catch them when they are ripe, but still firm enough to slice. Once they get to the yellow stage they’ll be too soft and juicy to slice thinly and neatly.
If you want to make this salad and your pears are ripening too quickly, just store them in the refrigerator, this will slow down the ripening process.
how to keep sliced pears from turning brown ~
Pears, like apples, will turn brown soon after you’ve sliced them, it happens because of a chemical reaction between the cut flesh and the air, called oxidation. Luckily you can slow that process way down and keep your sliced pears looking fresh by tossing them in lemon juice, or a solution of lemon juice and water. I don’t slice my pears too much in advance, though, I like to do that shortly before serving.
more fall salads with unique dressings
One of my favorite autumnal salads is this Kale and Fall Fruit Salad with Cider Poppy Seed Dressing ~ the cider poppy seed is another fabulous creamy dressing.
This gorgeous harvest kale salad comes with one of my favorite dressings, pomegranate allspice ~ you’re going to want to file that recipe away for other salads, too, the flavor is totally unexpected and so good.
My roasted apple and radicchio salad comes with a unique lemon-horseradish dressing. Talk about zesty!
Pear Salad with Creamy Walnut Vinaigrette
- 2-3 ripe but firm pears
- juice of 1/2 lemon
- 4 cups arugula or other baby lettuce
- 4 Tbsp walnuts
- 4-8 Tbsp crumbled blue cheese or gorgonzola cheese
- 1 tsp dijon mustard
- 3 Tbsp walnuts
- 3 Tbsp white wine vinegar
- 1/2 cup walnut oil
- salt and black pepper to taste
- To make the dressing put the mustard, walnuts, and vinegar in a small food processor. Process for about a minute, then, while the machine is running, drizzle in the oil (there should be a little hole in the top to allow the oil to drizzle slowly in.) When all the oil had been incorporated, scrape down the sides and process until everything is nice and creamy. The longer you process the smoother the consistency will be. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Slice the pear into 1/4 inch slices. I like to use a mandolin slicer for this. Sprinkle the cut slices with the lemon juice to prevent browning, making sure all surfaces are covered.
- Arrange arugula on 4 salad plates and top each pear slices, stacked but fanned out slightly. Scatter the nuts and blue cheese over the plates. Drizzle with the dressing, and season with fresh cracked black pepper.