Grilled Winter Pear Salad

So it’s winter, apparently,

and the Christmas songs are playing, and somewhere in the country it’s snowing thickly, dreamily, but here in Los Angeles it’s sunny and warmish and breezy, so I say–Christmas who?–looks like grilling weather. I have spent every Christmas in memory out here in the sunshine, and every year around this time I begin to suspect that I’m being robbed of something essential, essential to the inner life maybe, and to call that thing snow would be too easy, wouldn’t it?

I was eighteen when I first saw the stuff falling, and I marveled at how precisely it looked like snow. It looked like every image of snow I’d ever seen. Imagine my wonder. Nothing since has seemed so perfect. When it was thick on the ground and on the branches of trees it even glittered. I found it harder to feel lonely, somehow, when it was snowing.

But here, today, it is salad weather. It’s a nice day to go for a walk. It’s not a bad beach day. Sushi sounds better for dinner than a rib roast. This is how I have spent my Christmases, and I’d be lying if I said it didn’t put me out a little bit. There is something to say about authenticity here, my expectation of it, and it’s something I don’t love about myself.

But I want you to know that this salad was not an attempt to get in the spirit of the season, as they like to say, though the flavors would be at home, I am sure, on any generic holiday table. I think there is some point, a certain age–maybe it happens when you’re young, maybe it’s after you leave home–when Christmas dies a little bit, and it is permanent, an enduring little death of the imagination.

And I have equated snow to a cure for this sadness, somehow. I am not just being nostalgic. I don’t think I am. This is what it is: snow forces me see what it is I’m not feeling, what it is I’ve lost, and maybe it makes me remember it, and maybe I feel a shadow of that magic stuff again, a ghost of it, if you will.

And maybe I lied. Maybe warm pears and Roquefort cheese and dried cranberries really are an attempt to feel something, some magic, some authenticity, my stand-in for snow this year. The flavors are all here, but in the end it’s a cheeky kind of replacement: grilled pears, grilled salad. I have not forgotten where I am.

I hope you try it. It’s wonderful. It tastes–even if it does not feel, it never feels–like Christmas.

Grilled Winter Pear Salad

Ingredients:
- 2 Anjou pears, ripe but firm
- 2 oz crumbled Roquefort cheese
- 1 palmful dried cranberries
- 1 palmful roasted chopped walnuts
- 1 cup arugula
- 1 cup lamb’s lettuce (mâche)
- Squeeze of lemon juice

Dressing:
- 1 tsp honey
- 1 tsp Dijon mustard
- 3 tbsp white wine or champagne vinegar
- 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- Kosher salt and pepper

Directions:

Light the grill and clean the grate. You want a medium flame, not too hot. (You can also do this in the oven. Preheat to 375 degrees.) Prepare the pears. Peel them, halve them, and remove the core with a spoon or a sharp knife.

Place pears face-down on the grill. Lower the lid and cook, without moving, for 5-10 minutes. Cook time depends on the heat of the grill and the ripeness of pear. When you turn them over they should be tender but not falling apart, with distinct grill marks.

While the pears are grilling, mix the dressing. Combine honey, Dijon mustard, vinegar, and oil in a small bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside. In another bowl, combine crumbled Roquefort and dried cranberries with a fork.

Turn the pears. Mound the cheese mixture onto each pear, then lower the lid, and cook for another 5-10 minutes, until the cheese is melted and the pear is warmed through. Toss arugula and lamb’s lettuce in 2/3 of the dressing. Reserve the rest for the pears.

Assemble the salad. On a large plate, arrange the pears over a bed of dressed lettuce. Season with salt and pepper. Pour remaining dressing over the pears, and sprinkle the plate with roasted walnuts. Serves three or four as an appetizer, two as a light meal.

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10 responses to “Grilled Winter Pear Salad

  1. Wow, what a beautiful post! Good thing you spent some time here in Evanston to get your twinkly-lights-in-the-frost fix :) I was just marveling today at all the lovely little lights and wintery things around. It’s snowy and freezing, but I’m enjoying it … maybe since I’m not in school and don’t have to walk everywhere any more. :) And since I know I’m heading to CA for the holidays. Yay for west coast Christmases!

  2. i spend most christmas’ in full sun here in australia…in the heated 30C+ weather! must be like cali then! i do always dream of a white christmas tho…was around 20 when i first saw snow in illinois! that was a magical moment and i remember singing ‘let it snow’ while strolling around the campus :P
    that salad would be perfect where i am now too. can’t imagine a roast at all!

  3. The snow really does set the scene for Christmas. I even enjoyed shoveling the driveway yesterday. The salad looks good enough to eat in any weather — very nice

  4. This salad is so good! I just had this for lunch. I think it will be very good for serving on Christmas feast as salad. It looks festive and tastes even better!

  5. remember when my mom took us to the snow? i still have the pictures of us laughing so hard when we were sledding down the hill too fast and my mom tried to stop us so she stood in front of us and we knocked her clear over and then we sledded under a tree. i’m giggling as i type this. cherished memories :)

  6. Cassiepoo, I remember it, I remember it all… but somehow memory has replaced the sled with the lid of a trash can, and somehow I can still feel that sharp twinge of horror I felt more than ten years ago when we smashed into Irene, and I was sure, so sure, that we’d, like, snapped her legs in half, but she was tougher than that.

    And I miss you. And when are you coming over for dinner?

  7. hahah a trash can lid? heh no it was a giant purple plastic sled. that’s too funny. as soon as i get over this blasted cold we should plan a reunion of sorts. merry christmas mela :)

  8. All I can say is Wow! This weblog is wonderful! Do you take all the photographs in this? It’s great to see somebody else who likes things like this. As a online florist I find this sort of issue very interesting. May I backlink back here from my personal blog? Thank you for writing. Samantha Marsh

  9. Thank you, Charlotte. Feel free!

  10. Amelia Trevorton

    Arugula is one of my favorite types of lettuce! I’ve never thought of using Pears! Great recipe. There is a fun, delicious recipe called Arugula Shot Glass Salad that is so yummy! Its in a cookbook called Health On Your Plate! Thanks for sharing! :)

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