If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you’ll know I love salads. Of course they are nutritious and delicious, but they’re also one of the best ways to use seasonal produce. I am constantly inspired just walking around my farmers’ market, looking at what’s on display. Last weekend, I was taken with these gorgeous heads of what I assumed was radicchio. But after reading longtime Paris resident David Lebovitz’s post on this amazing-looking Bacon Radicchio Risotto, I realized they were actually the slightly less bitter red chicory (chicorée rouge de trévise). I decided they would make a fantastic Pear Gorgonzola Salad with some ripe sweet pears, arugula, glazed walnuts, Gorgonzola cheese, and a balsamic vinaigrette. And you know what? I was right.
The arugula and red chicory (or radicchio) have a slight bitterness that pairs (pears?) beautifully with the sweeter ingredients in this salad. I told my favorite veggie and fruit vendor what I was planning, and he immediately steered me to some little sweet pears that were perfect. He also wanted to know which day I would be making the salad so that he could pick me out some that would be ripe on that day. (This is a fairly typical question from the French market vendors that I absolutely adore.) Lightly glazing the walnuts and adding some buttery Gorgonzola and a balsamic vinaigrette takes this dish over the top.
This pear salad is perfect on a side of an everyday meal or with a bowl of soup. But it’s also a great option for your holiday table. I don’t know about you, but all the creamy, starchy, heavy foods that often make up our Thanksgiving or Christmas buffet are even better with the counterpoint of a tangy and bright salad, especially one that is gluten-free. Not to mention that the colors of this salad are festive all by themselves! Make a big salad bowl for your table, dressing on the side, and watch this go as quickly as the mashed potatoes.
How do you make Pear Gorgonzola Salad?
First, we’ll glaze those walnuts. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit/175 degrees Celsius. Toss 1 cup walnuts, 1 tablespoon maple syrup, and 1/4 teaspoon chile powder together on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Spread out into a single layer.
Bake for 8 minutes, stir gently with a spatula, and bake for another 3-5 minutes, until nuts are lightly toasted and caramelized. Remove and let cool on sheet pan, then break them up with your hands if the nuts stick together.
Meanwhile, prepare the vinaigrette by whisking together balsamic vinegar, shallots, and maple syrup. Slowly whisk in olive oil to emulsify dressing. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Now prepare your greens by rinsing and patting dry. Cut or tear the radicchio into bite-sized piece. Slice pears. To serve, combine arugula and radicchio and toss with 1 T. of the dressing. Add pears, gorgonzola, and walnuts and toss. Serve additional vinaigrette on the side.
What is Gorgonzola cheese?
Gorgonzola is an Italian blue cheese, made from cow’s milk and produced mainly in North Italy. Gorgonzola can be a variety of textures: soft and buttery or firm and salty. Its texture is mainly determined by its 3-4 month aging process, with older cheeses becoming more firm. Typically Gorgonzola is one of the milder blue cheeses in terms of pungency of flavor. For this salad, I chose a younger, creamier Gorgonzola, but any version would be lovely.
What is Gorgonzola cheese typically used for?
Gorgonzola is wonderful with pasta, gnocchi, and risotto, as it melts beautifully. It also makes a delicious pizza topping—in fact, gorgonzola with pears, arugula, walnuts, and a drizzle of honey make for a fantastic pizza. You can also serve Gorgonzola with honey and/or figs on a cheese plate. Or mix with marscapone for a salty/sweet spread. Finally, melt it into a sauce and serve with a perfectly prepared steak.
What ingredient substitutions could you make for this Pear Gorgonzola Salad?
I love the combination of these ingredients together, but there are so many different options that would also work. You can use almost any kind of salad greens, including baby spinach, frisee, or kale. For fruit, you could replace the pears with apples or persimmons if you’re making this in the late fall or winter. During other times of the year, swap out the greens and fruit for whatever is available in your local market. And while for me the Gorgonzola is the star of this salad, I would also happily eat any other blue, feta, or goat cheese.
Salads on the brain now? Check out some of my other delicious salad recipes for more inspiration.
- Kale Salad with Cranberries
- Fig Salad with Blue Cheese
- Green Bean Salad with Baked Goat Cheese
- Salade de Tomates
- Black Bean and Corn Salad
- Spinach Beet Salad with Goat Cheese
For the Salad
- 1 c. walnuts (3.2 oz/90 g)
- 1 T. maple syrup
- 1/4 t. chile powder or cayenne pepper
- 3 c. arugula (2 oz/60 g)
- 1 small head radicchio or red chicory (7.8 oz/220 g)
- 4.25 oz/120 g Gorgonzola cheese, crumbled
- 3 small pears (13 oz/375 g)
For the Balsamic Vinaigrette
- 1 T. chopped shallots
- 1.5 T. balsamic vinegar
- 1 t. maple syrup
- 4.5 T. extra-virgin olive oil
- kosher salt, to taste
- freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit/175 degrees Celsius.
- Toss walnuts, 1 T. maple syrup, and chile powder together on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Spread out into a single layer.
- Bake for 8 minutes, stir gently with a spatula, and bake for another 3-5 minutes, until nuts are lightly toasted and caramelized.
- Remove and let cool on sheet pan, then break them up with your hands if the nuts stick together.
- Meanwhile, prepare the vinaigrette by whisking together shallots, balsamic vinegar, and maple syrup.
- Slowly whisk in olive oil to emulsify dressing.
- Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Prepare your greens by rinsing and patting dry. Cut or tear the radicchio into bite-sized piece.
- Slice pears.
- To serve, combine arugula and radicchio and toss with 1 T. of the dressing.
- Add pears, gorgonzola, and glazed walnuts and toss.
- Serve additional vinaigrette on the side.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 4 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 510Total Fat: 41gSaturated Fat: 9gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 30gCholesterol: 23mgSodium: 500mgCarbohydrates: 29gFiber: 6gSugar: 17gProtein: 12g