It’s cold outside and I’m sure the last thing you are thinking of is “salad”. Who the heck wants to pull on mittens, the fur-lined hat with ear flaps and eat something cold this time of year? (There I go again giving you visuals of what winter looks like for me!) Definitely an oxymoron to even mention salad and winter in the same sentence – just doesn’t seem to work.
Since hunkering down in the midst of winter, you would think I would be craving comfort food but all I have been thinking about and craving is something fresh but haven’t been able to cross the threshold of eating something cold being that’s it’s been snowy and cold outside. I got to a point in December where I was opening my frig every day and just politely staring in at all the fresh fruits and vegetables but quickly averting any eye contact saying to myself, nah, that’s not what I want, I want comfort, I want warmth, and then in the next thought, I would be thinking, man I really am craving something fresh. My thoughts were colliding and not quite meshing and then it hit me, why not “winterize” a salad and bring all the comforts of winter right into a piping hot salad. I know what you are thinking – “hot salad” – not happening, never going to work but I’m here to tell you that you are going to fall in love with this concept and be pleasantly surprised at how delicious it is and how it hits the “comfort” spot in the depths of winter. It’s quick, easy and one of those dishes that you can get on the table in just a few minutes.
So, let me set the scene for you. Take off the mittens, fur-lined hat and boots, no traipsing out through the snow to get to an outdoor grill; instead, put on the fleece pajamas, slip those tootsies into some cozy slippers, get into the kitchen and pull out the indoor grill pan. Here is a super easy recipe for “winterizing” a salad. Literally just a few minutes of chopping and then just a few minutes on the stove and you are done!
Pear, Gorgonzola and Walnut Salad – Serves 4-6 people
- 1 Large Bunch of Mixed Greens, cut into bite size pieces (I like to use a combination of green and red curly leaf lettuce that you can get at Sprouts)
- 2-3 tsp. Olive Oil
- 1/3 cup Red Onion, finely chopped
- 2 Whole Pears, cored and either thinly sliced or cubed into even chunks
- Optional Add-In: Any cooked protein you have on hand such as ham, steak, chicken
- 1 cup Toasted Walnuts (Spread walnuts onto a baking sheet and bake in oven for 7 minutes at 350 or until lightly browned)
- 6 oz. Gorgonzola or Blue Cheese, crumbled
- 2-3 Sprigs of Thyme
- Fresh Thyme Leaves for sprinkling across salad, about a tablespoon
- Juice of 2-3 Lemons (approx. 1/3 cup)
- 1/2 tsp. Kosher Salt
- 1/2 tsp. Freshly Cracked Pepper
- 1/4 cup Orange Blossom Honey (you can have fun experimenting with different flavors of honey – lavender honey is excellent as well.)
- 1/2 cup Olive Oil
- 2-3 Fresh Thyme Sprigs
After cleaning, drying and chopping up lettuce into bite size pieces, layer it in a large shallow bowl.
To prepare dressing, combine 1/3 cup of Fresh Lemon Juice along with salt and pepper and stir until dissolved. Using whisk, add in honey along with olive oil until combined. Place into lidded dressing dispenser and/or glass jar, add in the Fresh Thyme Sprigs and let marinate at room temperature for at least 10 minutes.
Preheat a griddle or flat grill pan over medium high heat for approximately 3-5 minutes. Place walnuts in preheated 350 degree oven to toast for 7 minutes. Drizzle grill pan with olive oil and then evenly spread onion, pears, optional protein of your choice (I used chunks of cooked ham leftover from the holidays) and sprigs of thyme onto grill pan and saute for approximately 7 minutes or until pears and/or onions begin to soften and turn golden (onions may take a little longer to cook than pears). Remove from heat and place cooked pears, onions and protein (chunks of ham, steak or chicken) out onto the bed of lettuce. Sprinkle with chunks of Gorgonzola or blue cheese and layer with toasted walnuts straight from the oven and then sprinkle with Fresh Thyme Leaves. Cheese will begin to soften from the heat of the toasted walnuts.
Warm dressing in microwave for approximately 1 minute. Place lid on dressing dispenser or jar and shake vigorously, pour desired amount of warmed dressing atop salad and toss. Serve immediately for best results in warm salad bowls.
I’m telling you that I’m hooked to this whole concept and have made so many salads this winter – Citrus Salad, Spinach Salad with Bacon and Hot Honey Mustard Dressing, Steak Salad with warmed Poppy Seed Dressing – the combinations are endless and really up to your imagination. I hope you like the concept as much as I do and learn to make salad one of your winter time comfort foods!
As always, you can find more at Sharing Our Life, Love and Food.