Humboldt Fog Cheese & Merlot Poached Pear Salad

Humboldt Fog Cheese & Merlot Poached Pear Salad
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About This Recipe

As the sun dips below the horizon and casts its golden hue over the undulating vineyards of Napa, I often find myself reminiscing about the culinary treasures that this valley has bestowed upon me. Today's culinary muse is a delightful Humboldt Fog Cheese & Merlot Poached Pear Salad—a dish so emblematic of the wine country that it almost feels like you're dining amidst the Napa vineyards with every bite.

This dish was conceived during a summer trip to the Northern reaches of California. While the name might give away its star ingredient, the humble origins of this salad began with the tangy and earthy Humboldt Fog cheese. Imagine the coastal mists of Humboldt County wrapping around you as you taste this cheese, its flavor as iconic as the Redwoods that grace its landscape. Paired with the velvety richness of Merlot-poached pears, it's an experience of juxtaposing flavors—bold and subtle, creamy and crisp.

To truly savor this masterpiece, it's vital to source the freshest ingredients. The Napa Farmers Market is my personal sanctuary for any recipes I whip up. The organic pears from the farms at the edge of the wine country are a dream for this dish. As for the Merlot, while many would reach for a bottle from one of the big names in the valley, I recommend trying something from Trujillo Wines, a hidden gem that offers some of the most authentic recipes of Merlot, bursting with flavors of plum, cherry, and a hint of cocoa.

Now, when it comes to sides, a crusty baguette or a loaf of sourdough, preferably from Model Bakery in St. Helena, works wonders. It's perfect to mop up any leftover Merlot reduction. If you're contemplating dessert, keep it light and local—a scoop of lavender honey ice cream or perhaps a zesty lemon tart, echoing the citrus groves that dot parts of Northern California.

Wine pairings, the quintessential question every home chef in Napa contemplates! Apart from the same bottle of Merlot you poached your pears in, a glass of Sauvignon Blanc from Amici Cellars—another lesser-known but equally stunning—is sublime. Its notes of green apple, passion fruit, and subtle minerality complement the salad brilliantly.

I can't emphasize enough how much Napa, with its undulating vineyards and golden meadows, has inspired chef meals at home. This salad, a meld of coastal cheese and valley wine, is a summer dinner idea that encapsulates the very essence of Northern California. And for those evenings when you don’t feel like donning the chef hat, Napa's restaurants boast wine menus that read like poetic tributes to the vineyards they originate from. Tucked away in a corner of downtown is Bistro Jeanty, a place where the wine list is as exquisite as the farm to table menu they serve.

With culinary tales as rich as its soil, Napa Valley continually inspires with its blend of nature, history, and gastronomy. For all those visiting or those lucky enough to call it home, I always advise exploring beyond the beaten path. Discover a winery you haven't heard of, pick produce straight from the farm, and always, always let the land and its flavors guide your culinary journey. Whether you're on the hunt for easy healthy dinners or simply want to revel in the glory of wine country, Napa promises and delivers. Until the next culinary adventure, cheers to good food and splendid wine! 🍷🥗🍐

Hero Ingredient Spotlight: Humboldt Fog Cheese

Humboldt Fog cheese, named after the misty and majestic Humboldt County in California, is more than just a cheese - it's a taste experience. This artisanal cheese, boasting a creamy texture and unique tang, is characterized by its thin, edible layer of ash running through its center. Crafted using traditional cheese-making techniques, Humboldt Fog offers a mild goat cheese taste with citrusy notes that pairs perfectly with the sweetness of Merlot-poached pears. This cheese not only complements our salad but stands as a testimony to the rich culinary heritage of Northern California.

How to Perfectly Poach Pears in Merlot

Poaching pears can seem intimidating, but with the right technique, it's straightforward and rewarding. Here's a step-by-step guide:

  1. Select the Right Pears: Bosc pears are ideal for poaching due to their firm texture which ensures they hold their shape while cooking.
  2. Peel the Pears: Use a vegetable peeler for a smooth finish. Keep the stem intact for a gourmet touch.
  3. Simmering the Merlot Mixture: Ensure the wine mixture is simmering and not boiling. A gentle simmer ensures the pears absorb the flavors without becoming mushy.
  4. Monitor the Time: 15-20 minutes is the sweet spot. Test the readiness by piercing the pear with a fork - it should glide in smoothly.
  5. Cooling: Let the pears cool in the wine mixture for an even deeper flavor infusion.

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Can I substitute another wine for Merlot? Yes, other red wines like Grenache or Cabernet Sauvignon can be used, but Merlot's deep and fruity profile from Napa Valley is ideal for this recipe.
  2. I have a nut allergy. What can replace the roasted walnuts? Roasted pumpkin seeds or sunflower seeds are a great nut-free alternative, providing a similar crunch.
  3. How long will the salad keep in the refrigerator? It's best enjoyed fresh, but leftovers can be stored in the fridge for up to 2 days. Store the Merlot syrup separately.
  4. I can't find Humboldt Fog cheese in my area. Any recommendations for a substitute? A creamy goat cheese or another ash-ripened cheese like Valdeon would work. However, the unique tang of Humboldt Fog is irreplaceable.
  5. Do I need any special tools for poaching? A medium saucepan and a slotted spoon are all you need. Ensure the saucepan is deep enough to immerse the pears.

Tips for Success

  1. Pairing with Wine: Complement this salad by serving it with a glass of the same Merlot used for poaching. The echoed flavors elevate the dining experience.
  2. Serving Temperature: Serve the salad slightly chilled. This enhances the contrast between the cool greens and the warm poached pears.
  3. Presentation is Key: When plating, lay out the pear slices in a fan arrangement on top of the greens for a restaurant-quality presentation.

Indulge in this Humboldt Fog Cheese & Merlot Poached Pear Salad, a true embodiment of the flavors and heritage of Napa Valley. Every ingredient and every step is a journey through the rich culinary landscapes of Northern California. Enjoy the symphony of flavors and let the land inspire your culinary adventure.

Recipe Overview

Humboldt Fog Cheese & Merlot Poached Pear Salad
Lily Anderson
4 servings
Calories Per Serving:
Prep Time:
Cook Time:
Total Time:

Ingredients List


  • 2 ripe but firm Bosc pears, peeled and halved
  • 2 cups Merlot (preferably a deep and fruity one from Napa Valley)
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 star anise
  • 6 cups mixed salad greens (arugula, frisée, and radicchio are great choices)
  • 4 oz Humboldt Fog cheese, crumbled
  • 1/4 cup roasted walnuts, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

Step-by-Step Directions

  1. In a medium saucepan, combine the Merlot, sugar, cinnamon stick, and star anise. Bring to a simmer over medium heat.
  2. Once the sugar is dissolved and the wine is simmering, carefully place the pear halves into the saucepan. Let them poach for about 15-20 minutes, turning occasionally, until they are tender but still hold their shape.
  3. Remove the pears from the wine and set aside to cool. Reduce the wine mixture by half or until it slightly thickens into a syrupy consistency.
  4. Once cooled, slice the pears thinly.
  5. In a large bowl, toss the mixed salad greens with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt, and pepper.
  6. Divide the salad among the serving plates. Lay the pear slices attractively on the greens, sprinkle with crumbled Humboldt Fog cheese, and roasted walnuts.
  7. Drizzle some of the reduced Merlot syrup over the salads for an extra touch of sweetness and serve.

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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