This salad is a combination of ingredients which compliment each other and in the same time hold their integrity. Crispy Arugula, crunchy fennel and walnuts, juicy pears and creamy dressing, all come together in perfect harmony. —Kukla
What You'll Need
• 4 firm Bartlett pears (about 2 pounds)
• 1/3 cup pure olive oil
• 1 large Navel orange, zested, peeled and segmented
• 2 tablespoons pear brandy (Poire eau-de-vie), other brandy, or dark rum
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• Ground black pepper to taste
• 4 ounces Gorgonzola cheese, crumbled
• 1small fennel bulb (about 1 1/4 cups), stems, fronds, and base trimmed; bulb halved, cored and sliced as thinly as possible
• 8oz Arugula, stemmed, rinsed, and dried
• Candied or toasted walnuts, for garnish and crunch
For the poaching liquid:
• 1bottle (750 ml.) dry white wine, I used Sauvignon Blanc
• 1 cup brown sugar
• 2-3 thin strips lemon peel, white pith removed completely
• 2 star anise
• 2 cinnamon sticks
• 1 vanilla bean split lengthwise or 3-4 cardamom pods
In a 5- to 6-quart pan over medium heat, combine all ingredients for the poaching liquid. Bring to a simmer.
Meanwhile, peel pears, cut in half lengthwise, and core. Place pears in wine mixture. Cover and simmer, turning occasionally, until pears are barely tender when pierced, about 15 minutes.
Remove from heat and let pears cool in liquid, turning occasionally, at least 30 minutes, or cover and chill up to 3 days.
Zest, peel and segment the orange. Put the segments into a strainer over a small bowl.
With a slotted spoon, lift pears from poaching liquid; transfer to a large colander and drain; reserve liquid. Slice 2 of the pears into about 1/4-nch slices.
To make the dressing: Puree remaining 2 pears and Gorgonzola in food processor and transfer to a mixing bowl.
Whisk in olive oil, orange zest, salt and pepper, 2 tablespoons of the poaching liquid and the brandy.
Toss arugula and fennel with some of the dressing. Arrange orange segments, pears and walnuts over greens, add a generous grind of pepper. Serve with additional dressing on the side.