This is my ideal winter salad. It offers a light, crisp counterpoint to just about anything you might be stewing or roasting, but also the depth of flavor to stand up to hearty dishes. The seasonal notes feel right on a chilly night.
It's also simple to make, which is why it is a weeknight staple in my home this time of year.
The salad itself has just four ingredients, and each can be varied based on what you like or what you have on hand. I use red leaf lettuce for its bright color and yielding crispness, but green leaf, kale, spinach or escarole would also work. Then there's the fruit, cheese and nut trio that make the salad so lip-smackingly good.
The classic combo is juicy slices of ripe pear, pungent blue cheese crumbles and buttery toasted pecans. But feel free to swap in sliced apple, grapes or pomegranate; another cheese, such as feta or chevre; or a different nut, such as almonds or walnuts. The dressing, with its tang of Dijon mustard balanced by an earthy sweetness from maple syrup, is universal enough to work with anything.
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Winter Salad With Pears, Pecans and Blue Cheese
1 1/2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons pure maple syrup
1 tablespoon finely chopped shallot
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Leaves from 1 large head of red leaf lettuce, torn
1 large, ripe pear, peeled, cored and sliced
2 ounces blue cheese, crumbled
1/3 cup toasted pecan pieces
Whisk together the vinegar, mustard, maple syrup, shallot, salt, pepper and oil a medium bowl until emulsified.
Place the lettuce in a large mixing bowl and toss with the dressing until coated.
Divide the dressed lettuce among individual plates. Top each portion with slices of pear, some blue cheese crumbles and pecan pieces. Serve right away.
Per serving (based on 6): 170 calories, 3 g protein, 10 g carbohydrates, 14 g fat, 3 g saturated fat, 5 mg cholesterol, 230 mg sodium, 2 g dietary fiber, 6 g sugar
Yield: 4 to 6 servings.