Pear and Blue Cheese Salad with Pancetta

Ever since I was two years old I have LOVED blue cheese like no other. As a kid, I would order bowls of it for dinner (so weird but true) and I even received a blue cheese and honey sampler box for my birthday one year (BEST. GIFT. EVER.)! Even though I don’t eat much dairy anymore, I always make an exception for blue cheese.

If you don’t like blue cheese I completely get it – it is the black licorice of the cheese world. it often comes down to the way its produced or the way it tastes. For those who are freaked out by the thought of eating moldy cheese, I don’t blame you. Typically, I prefer not to think about the way it’s produced. However, I recently learned that blue cheese is made with mold Penicillium, which is the same bacterial strain used to make Pencilin! Penicillium also used in the production of many other kinds of cheeses and meats you’ve probably eaten. However, for others, I know that the flavor is a point of contention. But having eaten my fair share of blue cheese, I am convinced there is a blue for everyone!

I’ve also realized that not all blues go well in a salad. For instance, Italy’s tangier and creamier variety of blue cheese – gorgonzola – does not belong in a salad in my book. Pear and gorgonzola tarts on the other hand? Absolutely. But salad? No. England’s renowned blue, Stilton, on the other hand, is a great blue cheese….but not for salads. It’s much better on a multigrain cracker with honey drizzled on top (a delicious charcuterie pairing!).

So, what type of blue cheese is best for a salad? Although there is no right answer, I am a firm believer in Point Reyes and Danish blue cheese – both have the bite of blue cheese but more importantly, they have the right texture, semi-soft but crumbly. As such, either is the perfect complement to crisp pear and pancetta with a tart balsamic vinaigrette.

This salad is perfect for winter and is great as a lighter dinner option! No matter the occasion, this salad is easy to make and is sure to be a crowd-pleaser!

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Salad serves: 4 as an entree, 8 as a starter

Ingredients:

  • 16 oz mixed greens
  • 1 green Anjou pear
  • 1/3 cup crumbled blue cheese
  • 1 package cubed pancetta (I always buy it at Trader Joes but Whole Foods typically carries it as well!)
  • 1/3 cup candied walnuts
  • 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tbsp dijon mustard
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • juice of one lemon
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 tsp dried oregano
  • 2 cloves garlic

Preparation:

    1. In a mason jar or blender, combine the balsamic, olive oil, dijon mustard, oregano, honey, and lemon juice. Emulsify the ingredients until you have a smooth consistency and set aside.
    2. Next, cook the pancetta over medium heat until all fat has rendered and it begins to crisp up. Transfer to a plate lined with a paper towel and allow it to cool completely.
    3. Measure 1/3 cup of crumbled blue cheese and a 1/3 cup of candied walnuts and set both aside.
    4. Take the pear and cut it in half. Then, thinly slice each of the halves, cutting from top to bottom.
    5. Add the mixed greens to a large mixing bowl and add the dressing in thirds. I like to add the dressing in portions this way to avoid overdressing the salad. For a salad like this, I like to dress it first and add the toppings at the end so that the ingredients do not fall to the bottom.
    6. Add the salad greens to a serving dish or individual plates depending on how you are serving it.
    7. Add the nuts and pancetta first, then top it off with the pear and blue cheese, and enjoy!

I hope you love this recipe! Thank you for reading!

xo,

Grace

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