Arugula and Pear Salad with Toasted Walnuts

Arugula and Pear Salad with Toasted Walnuts
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About This Recipe

When it comes to the culinary delights of Napa Valley, it isn’t just the world-renowned wines that capture your senses. The fresh, farm-to-table dishes curated with locally sourced ingredients are just as enthralling. One such dish, inspired by the bounties of California’s wine country, is the Arugula and Pear Salad with Toasted Walnuts. For those who've always wondered about introducing pears in a salad, this is your golden ticket.

Pears have a longstanding history in California. Their sweet, juicy flavor profile and buttery texture make them a perfect addition to salads. They harmoniously blend with the peppery notes of fresh arugula, and when combined with the crunchiness of toasted walnuts and the rich, creamy texture of cheese (be it blue or goat cheese), you have a salad that is a symphony of flavors and textures. This dish is like a sonnet, paying tribute to the diverse and lush landscapes of Napa and Sonoma.

But what makes this salad quintessentially "wine country"? Well, let's take a trip down memory lane. The first time I had the pleasure of tasting a salad with pears was at a quaint family-owned orchard in Sonoma. The owner boasted about the versatility of pears and handed me a basketful, challenging me to create something inspiring. That evening, as I overlooked the picturesque vineyards from my kitchen window, the Arugula and Pear Salad with Toasted Walnuts was born.

Now, any culinary dish from this region is incomplete without its wine pairing. Given the intricate flavors of this salad, one needs wines that are equally charismatic. Enter Albariño and Sauvignon Blanc.

Albariño, with its high acidity and vivacious citrusy notes, complements the salad beautifully. It effortlessly balances the sweetness of the pears while resonating with the peppery zing of the arugula. If you're ever in Sonoma, a visit to Habitat is an absolute must. Their rendition of Albariño, aromatic with a hint of crispness, is a testament to California's capability of producing exceptional white wines.

Then we have the classic Sauvignon Blanc - a wine that, in my opinion, feels like it was crafted keeping this salad in mind. With its herbaceous undertones and bright acidity, it pairs immaculately with the varied flavor profile of our dish. Frog's Leap in Napa Valley is an oasis for Sauvignon Blanc lovers. As you sip their wine, there's an evident freshness, punctuated by notes of green apple and lemon - a delightful companion to our Arugula and Pear Salad.

Now, while the salad can be a showstopper on its own, if you’re looking to design a full course meal, consider starting with a light appetizer like bruschetta topped with heirloom tomatoes from local Napa farmers. Post the salad, a main course of grilled chicken marinated in herbs (maybe those you've picked up from the Oxbow Public Market) would be perfect. Round off this delightful feast with a dessert of lemon tarts or, if you're feeling particularly indulgent, a chocolate mousse.

If you're planning a trip to the Napa Valley or are just curious about its offerings, this salad epitomizes the region's ethos - fresh, local, and brimming with flavor. As you dig into it, let the flavors transport you to the serene vineyards, rustic farms, and the ever-inviting aura of wine country. And for those who embark on this culinary journey, always remember - the soul of Napa isn’t just in its wines, but in every bite of its nourishing produce. Enjoy your meal, and as we say here in Napa, "Cheers to good food and even better company!"

Hero Ingredient Spotlight: Arugula

Arugula, often termed as 'rocket' in various parts of the world, is more than just a leafy green. Its peppery bite, rich in vitamin C and potassium, adds a distinct zest to salads. Known for its aphrodisiac properties since ancient Roman times, this hero ingredient isn't just delicious—it's packed with health benefits. Rich in antioxidants and phytochemicals, it's a heart-healthy choice. When paired with sweet ingredients like pears, it offers a flavor contrast that dances on the palate.

How to Toast Walnuts Perfectly

Toasting walnuts can elevate their nutty flavor, making them a crunchy, aromatic addition to your dishes. Here's a step-by-step guide:

  1. Preheat Your Oven: 350°F (175°C) is the optimal temperature for toasting walnuts.
  2. Spread Evenly on a Baking Sheet: Ensure the walnuts are in a single layer. Overlapping can result in uneven toasting.
  3. Watch the Clock: Walnuts toast quickly, usually within 5-7 minutes. You'll know they're ready when they turn a shade darker and emit a fragrant aroma.
  4. Cool Before Using: Let the walnuts cool completely before adding them to your salad to maintain the crisp texture.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

  1. Can I substitute arugula with another green? Yes, baby spinach or kale are good alternatives. However, keep in mind that these greens lack the peppery bite of arugula.
  2. Which cheese pairs best with this salad? Both blue cheese and goat cheese work beautifully with this recipe. If you're seeking a milder flavor, opt for goat cheese. For a bold tang, blue cheese is your go-to.
  3. How do I store leftover salad? It's best to consume the salad immediately. However, if you have leftovers, store in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Keep the dressing separate, and add just before serving.
  4. I have a nut allergy. What can I replace the walnuts with? Roasted chickpeas or pumpkin seeds provide a delightful crunch without the nuts.
  5. Can I use store-bought dressing? While homemade dressing is recommended for freshness and flavor, a quality store-bought balsamic vinaigrette can be a quick alternative.

Tips for Success

  1. Use Ripe Pears: The sweetness of ripe pears juxtaposes beautifully against the peppery arugula and tangy cheese.
  2. Chill the Plates: Serving salad on chilled plates can enhance the freshness of the dish, especially during warm months.
  3. Experiment with Added Proteins: For a heartier variation, consider adding grilled chicken or smoked salmon.

Recipe Overview

Recipe:
Arugula and Pear Salad with Toasted Walnuts
Author:
Lily Anderson
Season:
Fall
Yield:
4 servings
Calories Per Serving:
260
Prep Time:
PT10M
Cook Time:
PT7M
Total Time:
PT17M

Ingredients List

Ingredients:

  • 5 cups fresh arugula
  • 2 ripe pears, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup walnuts
  • 1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese or goat cheese (depending on your preference)
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Optional: A pinch of dried cranberries for added color and tang

Step-by-Step Directions

  1. Preheat your oven to 350°F (175°C). Spread walnuts on a baking sheet in a single layer.
  2. Toast the walnuts in the preheated oven until they start to turn golden and become fragrant, about 5-7 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside to cool.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk together olive oil, balsamic vinegar, honey, salt, and pepper until well combined. Adjust seasoning to taste.
  4. Add the arugula to the bowl and toss gently with the dressing to coat.
  5. Plate the dressed arugula on individual plates or a large serving dish.
  6. Top with pear slices, toasted walnuts, and crumbled cheese.
  7. If desired, sprinkle with a handful of dried cranberries for added color and a burst of tangy flavor.
  8. Serve immediately and enjoy!

Share Your Results

Was it everything you dreamed it could be? Let me know how it turned out for you and share a picture on social media with the hashtag #LilyCooksNapa

Hello and welcome to Napa Home Chef! We're thrilled you're joining us to explore the vibrant world of wine country cooking. Our team has crafted bold, creative recipes inspired by Napa Valley's lush landscapes, bountiful harvests, and world-renowned wines. We hope you enjoy the journey with us!

Get ready to experience the rich flavors and unique culinary delights that embody the essence of wine country living. Happy cooking!

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