It’s Monday! Hopefully you drank all the cider and pumpkin spice lattes and are ready to join with me in a giant bowl of salad. Let’s do this.
I had a salad very similar to this one at a favorite little restaurant in Charlottesville several years ago and I have wanted to recreate it ever since.
I just love how all the various textures work together.
We begin by infusing balsamic with cinnamon. It’s fancy, but simple - my favorite combination.
Arugula is our base. I LOVE arugula in the fall and winter months. Its heavy, bitter green flavor feels so hearty.
I dress my arugula with a generous drizzle of olive oil before tossing in the actual dressing. This softens the greens a bit and makes it a whole lot easier to eat.
Pears for crunch. I used both asian and bartlett pears for a contrast of textures.
Candied walnuts. Sugared nuts will be making an appearance in nearly all my salads from now until January. They are basically candy, but are totally allowed in salads. IT’S SALAD CANDY!
Now it is time for that spiced balsamic we whisked together!
Be generous with your drizzling. Reducing the balsamic takes away much of that pungent bite, and turns the vinegar into more of a syrup.
To finish, take your vegetable peeler to a block of Manchego. I am not a huge fan of Manchego on its own, but the acerbic funk brought on by the sheep’s milk adds an expected, but subtle note to this salad. I also love that it is creamy and flakey all at one - like a Havarti-Parmesan hybrid.
Tossed together and ready to serve!
Arugula Salad with Pears, Walnuts, and Manchego
for the dressing
1/2 cup high-quality balsamic vinegar*
1, 6-inch cinnamon stick, broken in half
*Good quality balsamic will be thick and syrupy, and less pungent than the budget brands.
Combine balsamic and cinnamon stick halves in small saucepan and set over medium heat. Do not take your eyes off the pan! The vinegar can burn quickly.
Bring to a slow simmer, and simmer for one minute. Then, remove from heat and allow to cool. The vinegar should have thickened slightly and taken on a bit of the cinnamon flavor.
After the vinegar has cooled, remove the cinnamon stick from the pan.
Pour the vinegar into a small bottle and set aside while you assemble the salad.
for the salad
5 ounces wild baby arugula
1/4 cup olive oil
salt and pepper
1 asian pear, sliced very thin
1 bartlett pear, sliced very thin
1 cup candied walnuts
1/4 lb manchego, sliced into curls using a vegetable peeler
Pour the arugula into a large serving bowl and drizzle with olive oil. Massage the oil into the greens, coating them evenly, and allowing the greens to soften a bit.
Sprinkle with salt and pepper, and drizzle with balsamic reduction. Toss until all the greens are evenly coated.
Layer the pear slices evenly over the greens, sprinkle the walnuts over the salad, and toss again. Top with manchego curls and serve immediately.