Warm Salad of Grilled Pear, Roast Sichuan Pepper Almonds, Balsamic Braised Red Onions

Mâche, Gorgonzola Dressing

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Preparation info

  • Difficulty

    Medium

Appears in

Salads

Salads

By Peter Gordon

Published 2005

  • About

Pear and blue cheese is one of those classic combinations that just work. This salad takes that idea and gives it a bit more grunt – layering on a few more flavours and textures. This is a lovely autumnal meal, perhaps following on from a light vegetable broth and then finished with a warm fruit tart with crème fraîche.

Ingredients

  • 3 medium red onions, sliced into 1 cm thick rings
  • 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, oregano or thyme leaves
  • 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 125 ml extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 tablespoons boiling water
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 handfuls of whole almonds, skin either off or on
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground Sichuan pepper, sieved
  • 1 tablespoon caster sugar
  • 150 g Gorgonzola
  • 4 large ripe pears (crisp ones will work best)
  • 400 g mâche

Method

Preheat the oven to 220°C, gas 7. Mix the onion rings and herbs, and put into a non-reactive baking dish just large enough to hold them comfortably. Pour on the balsamic vinegar, all but 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and the boiling water. Lightly season and seal tightly with foil. Bake in the centre of the oven for 50 minutes, then check to see how they are. You want them to steam away in their sealed baking dish; they will wilt, soften and change colour. They need to have lost almost all of their texture and become tender. If they need some more time, reseal and bake for another 20 minutes. Leave to cool to room temperature, then drain in a small colander or sieve, reserving the juices.

Turn the oven down to 170°C, gas 3½, and line a baking tray with baking parchment. Mix the almonds with the remaining oil, Sichuan pepper, half the caster sugar and a little salt. Bake on the lined tray, tossing every 5 minutes, until golden, about 15–20 minutes. Remove from the oven and leave to cool.

Make the dressing by placing the reserved onion juices in a small pan with the Gorgonzola and warming gently, stirring as you do so, to melt the cheese into the dressing, keeping it barely warm.

Preheat the grill. Cut the pears into slices about 1 cm thick, cutting out the seeds with a sharp knife, and lay on a lightly oiled foil-lined tray. Place under the grill and cook to caramelize, then turn the pear slices over, sprinkle the remaining sugar over them and cook to really caramelize them. Remove from the grill.

To Serve

Divide half the pear pieces between 4 plates, then sit the mâche on top. Lay the remaining pears on top of this, scatter over the almonds and onions, then pour the dressing over.