Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Pear And Gorgonzola Salad with a Fig Balsamic Vinaigrette

Pears and blue cheese just go together like they're best buddies. When I first started dating my wife, she didn't like pears or blue cheese. I made her try them together and she's been a fan ever since. I'm not sure what makes them pair up (no pun intended) so well, but I'm glad they do.

I like adding them both to a salad as they not only lend their great flavors but also different textures as well. One offers a sweet tasting firmness to it, the other is soft but has a nice bite to it's flavor. There are a lot of different types of blue cheese you can use for this. I usually go with a harder one (Danish Blue or Roquefort) which can be crumbled over top as opposed to the softer ones. I use the softer types when I eat it with pears or crackers.

Salad

- 1 Bartlett or Anjou pear, cored and diced into 1" chunks. Do this last as to avoid oxidation, which turns the pear brown.
- 70 g (2.5 oz) Mixed greens
- 60 g (1/8 C) Danish Blue or Roquefort cheese
- 5 grape or cherry tomatoes, cut in half
- 12-15 walnuts, whole and/or chopped

Fig Balsamic Vinaigrette

- 2 oz (59 ml) EVOO
- 3 Tbsp (45 ml) fig balsamic vinegar. If you have any fresh or dried figs, use those instead with regular balsamic vinegar and mix it all up in a blender with the rest of the vinaigrette.
- 1 clove of garlic, crushed and finely chopped
- 1 tsp (5 ml) Dijon mustard
- 1 tsp (5 ml) honey
- Sea salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste

Directions

1. Add the greens to your serving bowl
2. Find a small container with a lid. Add the oil and then the vinegar. I usually go with 1/3 vinegar to 2/3 oil. You don't have to as it's your dressing, but some oils can overpower the flavor of the vinaigrette. I went with a little more vinegar this time as I wanted the fig flavor to be more pronounced.
3. Add the rest of the ingredients to the container and give it a good shake.


4. Add the tomatoes and the pear to the salad and pour the vinaigrette over top. Give it all a good mix with your hands. You want all the leaves, tomatoes and the pear to be coated with the dressing.


5. Sprinkle walnuts over top, crumble half of the cheese over each salad and serve.
Yield: Serves 2


You can make extra dressing if you like, as I normally do because it will keep in the fridge for 4 or 5 days. Take the vinaigrette out of the fridge 30 minutes before using. This will give it a chance to warm up as it will congeal in the cold.

The fig balsamic along with the honey in the vinaigrette, the blue cheese and the walnuts all naturally partner up with the pear, and add beautiful flavors with a variety of different textures. If you don't want to use fig balsamic vinegar or can't find any, use fresh or organic dried figs and throw them into a blender with some balsamic vinegar, or simply just add them straight into the salad. Regular dried figs sometimes have sulfites added to them to extend their shelf life and prevent oxidation. Otherwise, figs are a good source of fibre, potassium and manganese. make them a part of your diet, especially when they are in season.

Pears are not only a tasty addition to this salad or any snack, but also a good source of dietary fibre, vitamins C and K. They are also a good source of antioxidants which prevent damage from free radicals. You know what happens to a pear, apple or avocado when you cut it open and leave it out exposed to the air for awhile? That is called oxidation and this is more or less a good example of what free radicals do to your body. The brown color you see is not a good thing for the fruit, so it can't be good for your body either, especially over a long period of time.

Walnuts are a great source of omega 3 fatty acids and manganese as well. They are a good ingredient to add to your diet on a regular basis, but are also high in fatty calories. With this in mind, it is a good idea to eat these nuts, but make sure you are adding them to an otherwise healthy diet.

Believe it or not, blue cheese can be a good source of calcium, protein, potassium and other trace minerals and vitamins. If you can find it made with goat cheese (Goatgonzola), try it. I have been very impressed with this type of cheese so far and will always look for it wherever I shop.

Little O's Menu

She is progressing nicely with eating what we are eating. She still likes her oatmeal, toast with peanut or almond butter and jam, fruits and veggies, but as long as our food isn't overly spicy, she will try almost all of it at least once. Children most times have extremely sensitive palates, so we all have to be very understanding about this. We will try to get her to eat whatever she can handle, but not push her too hard. I don't want her to start dreading dinner time. I want her to look forward to this time of day especially, and any other meal. Food does more things for you than give you nourishment. It gives you conversation, love, interest and it lets you travel the world without leaving the table. I hope she embraces this as I have.

Restaurant Review

A couple of weeks ago, we went to Banff. For dinner, we called a babysitting service there who sent us a great girl (who also works for the RCMP as her regular job) who took very good care of little O while we were out. We decided to try the restaurant at The Banff Centre called the Three Ravens Restaurant and Wine Bar. We started by sharing the Prosciutto Wrapped Qualicum Bay Scallops served over a Butternut Squash Risotto. A very good way to start a nice evening. The server then brought us a dish with four different types of butter and some bread. What a great idea! The butter's flavors were lightly salted, gingerbread, olive and herb and honey mustard. We were then treated to a little portion of Steak Tartare compliments of the house. Very tasty and a nice gesture. Then we both ordered the Three Ravens Bouillabaisse. I have to admit, Mrs. Urban Eater pointed it out first as she was going to order it, but then I realized I had never had bouillabaisse before. Done deal. There were a couple of other dishes which caught my eye, but I didn't feel like having any meat, like bison or lamb, so my decision was made. Glad I did as the smell, the flavor and the experience was fantastic. Definitely something I would order again. For dessert, we ordered the Artisan Cheese Plate. This is something I love to end a good meal with, but I have to tell you, order it first so it is room tempurature when you decide to eat it. Cheese is much better like this. Don't get me wrong, it was still good, but I will know better next time.

Overall, it was a great experience, but the service was not the best. She was a super nice person, but she seemed to be distracted by other, not very important things like moving the utensils around on other tables (there was our table and two other tables, not very busy as it was snowing like crazy outside) instead of filling up our empty glasses of water, taking away the empty plates, bringing the bill, etc. Despite those little things we will go again soon, especially for the view. You are surrounded by glass and outside there are great mountain views. In the summer, this would be a spectacular place to enjoy an evening out. I had some pictures of all the food, but as I found out our little camera works nowhere near as good as the big one and the pics didn't turn out very good at all, so lesson learned. From now on, I'm only using the Nikon D80 for food pics.

Quote Of The Day

"The embarrassing thing is that the salad dressing is outgrossing my films."

~ Paul Newman (1925-2008) American actor, film director, entrepreneur, professional race car driver and auto racing enthusiast. Good guy. Too bad hes gone.


Until next time, good eating everyone.

Mark