Pears are at their peak this time of year. They are the perfect addition to the salad you serve this holiday. Pears come in nearly 1,000 varieties, but the most common types found in the supermarket are the Anjou, Bartlett, Bosc, and Comice. Following is a bit of information about those varieties.
Anjou—This pear is egg-shaped with pale-green or red skin. It has ﬁrm, juicy ﬂesh and a sweet, mellow ﬂavor. Anjou pears do not change colors as they ripen. This pear can be used for both cooking and eating.
Bartlett—The majority of pears grown in the US are Bartlett pears. This pear is considered to be one of the better eating pears. It has a smooth texture and juicy ﬂesh, and its green skin turns yellow as it ripens. A majority of the Bartlett harvest is canned.
Bosc—The Bosc pear has yellow-brown skin. It has crisp, creamy white ﬂesh that tastes sweet, yet spicy. Bosc pears have fat bottoms and long tapering necks that come to a point. They do not change colors as they ripen and are ideal for both baking and cooking.
Comice—Known as the “Queen of Pears”, the Comice is considered the best eating pear. This French variety is a fat pear with yellowish-green skin and a russet to red blush. Its ﬂesh has a buttery, sweet taste and a fruity fragrance.
I made this salad for the first-time last year with Comice pears, but the Anjou or Bartlett would also be delicious. It was a big hit with my family. The combination of red leaf lettuce and baby spinach highlighted with red craisins have such a festive flair. My family prefers a simple balsamic vinaigrette dressing with this recipe, but poppy seed dressing or a mustard vinaigrette would also pair well.
Red and Green Christmas
For the dressing:
6 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
6 tablespoons olive oil
In a small bowl, place balsamic vinegar. Whisk and slowly add olive oil, continuing to whisk until emulsified. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.
For the salad:
½ to 1 head red leaf lettuce, washed, dried, and torn into bite-size pieces (about 6 cups)6 cups baby spinach, washed and dried
3 pears, cored and thinly sliced
½ cup craisins, or to taste
½ cup pecan halves
5 ounces Roquefort or your favorite blue cheese, crumbled.
Place red leaf lettuce and spinach leaves in a large bowl and toss to combine. Cover 6 salad plates with the lettuce/spinach mixture. In the middle of the salad plates, arrange pear slices. Sprinkle each salad with craisins, nuts, and Roquefort cheese. Drizzle dressing over salad. Do not toss. Serve immediately.
Tips on shopping for pears: This fruit does not ripen well on trees and is, therefore, picked in a fully mature state, but unripe condition. Pears should be ﬁrm and have good color for their variety. Do not buy pears that have bruises or blemishes. When purchased, the skin on pears should be bright, shiny, and tight.
Tips on storing pears: To ripen, place them on their bottom in a cool place. To speed up the ripening process, place pears, along with an apple or banana, in a paper bag that has a few punctures. Pears will be fragrant when ripe, and the ﬂesh near the stem will yield to gentle pressure. Also, as a pear ripens, its ﬂesh will become matte and may contain a few brown spots. Once ripe, pears can be stored for 2 to 3 days in the refrigerator.
Availability: Anjou and Bosc: fall, winter, and spring. Bartlett and Comice: fall and winter.
Carol Ann Kates is the award-winning author of cookbook, Secret Recipes from the Corner Market and Grocery Shopping Secrets. She’s an expert in how to shop, select, and store produce for maximizing home cooking outcomes and minimizing time and money spent. As a former supermarket and deli operator, Carol Ann shares grocery-insider wisdom—the same expertise you used to receive when patronizing a mom-and-pop establishment. Contact her at CarolAnn@CarolAnnKates.com and explore her website, www.CarolAnnKates.com.
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