Winter Salad with Pecans, Pears and Gorgonzola

winter salad recipe blog pears pecans gorgonzola

I eat a salad almost every day. I grab a big bowl, make dressing in it, then toss in whatever ingredients I have on hand. It might be a hard-boiled egg, miscellaneous greens, bits of roast chicken, slivered carrots, shredded cabbage, toasted nuts, cherry tomatoes, crumbled cheese, and so forth – whatever I have on hand. (But hold the alfalfa sprouts; does anyone really like those?)

It gets pretty frosty in Paris in the winter, and I always feel sorry for the outdoor market vendors who stand there and shiver while we decide on what to buy. Those of us who descend on the market try to get in and out as fast as possible. When it gets really cold, some vendors huddle near plug-in heaters that don’t seem to do all that much, but I’m sure are better than nothing. (They have them in some of the French train stations as well, and people flock to be close to them, as if they were some mythic totem.)

At home, I’m okay in the heat department, but each year I vow I’m going to get one of those lights that is supposed to make you happy during the gray winter season. I was once a guest on a television show in New York and they had one in the corner of their kitchen. When I asked if it really made a difference, they said, “We’re not sure…but we seem to gravitate toward it, and all of us end up working around it.”

Until I find happiness with a lamp, I’ll have to make do with this salad, which I gravitate toward in the winter as well. Since regular lettuce is in short supply at the market (because the heads tends to freeze solid), I grab a head of sturdy winter salad greens such as frisée, radicchio, Belgian endive, watercress, or escarole, which hold up better.

winter salad recipe

The purple heads of whatever that I got last week look similar to radicchio (or what they call trévise, in France), but the women who sells it at the market (who is a producteur, or grower) told me it’s chicorée, and warned me that it’s not too bitter. Which is odd, because do I look like the kind of guy who doesn’t like bitter greens? And I also like is a mix of them, in various colors, since they’re so beautiful when tossed together. Comice pears are the perfect choice for adding a little sweetness, although Fuyu persimmons – the squat kind, meant to be eaten firm – or orange segments would work in their place.

winter salad recipe

Like juicy-sweet Comice pears, gorgonzola is another winter pleasure. It has the perfect texture and flavor for this salad. A blue cheese, or Roquefort, would work. But I have a particular fondness for gorgonzola, and I always feel like it’s a special occasion when I buy a wedge it. If you get extra, it’s also nice crumbled over warm polenta, which is another way to make yourself happy in the winter. Especially if you don’t have a lamp to snuggle up to.

Winter Salad with Pecans, Pears and Gorgonzola
Two salads

Nut oils can make a world of difference in a salad. Fortunately just a few spoonfuls is all that’s needed to add a lot of flavor. I like hazelnut oil and buy it from a trusted source or brand. (Leblanc is reliably good, which can be found in well-stocked supermarkets or online.)

Buy the smallest bottle you can since it doesn’t get better the longer it sits. Store nut oils in the refrigerator and try to use them within 6 to 8 months. If you don’t have nut oil, substitute the same amount of olive oil. Walnuts make a good substitute for the pecans.

  • Salted pecans
  • 1 cup (140g) pecans
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon flaky sea salt
  • a few grind black pepper

Dressing
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar or sherry vinegar
1/4 teaspoon salt
small dab of Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons hazelnut or walnut oil

Salad
2 ounces (55g) gorgonzola cheese, at room temperature
6 cups (150g) torn or chopped leaves of winter greens; any mixture of escarole, radicchio, watercress, Belgian endive, and frisée
1 ripe pear
flaky sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
minced chives or parsley, for garnish

1. Preheat the oven to 350ºF (180ºC.)

2. Mix the pecans on a baking sheet with the teaspoon of olive oil, the salt, and a few grinds of black pepper. Toss the pecans so they’re well coated and toast the nuts in the oven for 8 to 10 minutes, stirring midway during baking, until lightly toasted. Remove from oven and cool.

3. Make the dressing by mixing together the vinegar, salt, and mustard in a large bowl. Mix in the olive oil and nut oil. Taste, and add a bit more vinegar and salt, if desired. Crumble the gorgonzola into the dressing and stir a few times. Add the torn greens to the bowl.

4. Peel and core the pear. Cut into slices and add them to the salad bowl along with the pecans. Toss the ingredients together thoroughly, adding an additional sprinkle of flaky sea salt, then divide the salad onto two plates. Grind black pepper over the salads and sprinkle with minced chives or parsley.



Related Recipes

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48 comments

  • i LOVE alfalfa sprouts. love, love, love – and have since i was a little kid.

    i prefer them to lettuce on sandwiches, but you can’t really find alfalfa sprouts much anymore in the states… most stores sell some type of pea shoot instead, b/c they’re a bit more microbe resistant, since salmonella is a constant problem w/r/t alfalfa sprouts. (anecdotally, i’ve never gotten sick from any type of sprout. *knocks wood*)

  • Tonight, MN again bottoms out with wind chills going to minus 50 degrees. We sit around the dining room table moaning that this weather is not conducive to salad-eating. But this hearty and tasty salad just may lure us back to healthier eating.(Slightly) bitter greens, nuts and cheese – who could ask for anything more?

  • Sounds like a delicious recipe, especially with the comice pears! Like you David I too gravitate towards a little sweet in my salad so I would definitely add a bunch of fresh pomegranate.

  • I need one of those daylight-lamps. We’re having the warmest christmas in 50 years, and no sign it’s about to change over the next week(s). Comes with accompanying grey-ness. Even those without tendencies for winter depression is begging for sun. God knows I am.

    All my best to you and yours for the new year!

  • Happy Holidays Daveed! We went to friend’s for Christmas dinner and she made a wonderful radicchio salad with walnut oil, white balsamic and bleu cheese. Also for dessert she whipped up your ginger cake, poached pears and ginger ice cream. I loved the cake but she said although it was supposed to be a moist cake, because we live at 6000 feet, it was too moist. Do you have any words of wisdom on this? An adjustment for high altitude? She wondered about baking it in a tube pan instead? We also had other food. Not just salad and dessert.

    Love the blog! Can’t wait for the new cookbook. Regina

    • There are adjustments that should be made for baking at high altitudes (specifically, with the leavening), and high-altitude baking is a specialty (which isn’t one of mine, since I’ve never lived at high-altitudes.) Folks who are experts who write about high-altitude baking at Susan Purdy and Letty Flatt and you might want to check their websites for adjustments for high-altitude baking. Happy baking & hope you enjoy the new book!

  • Thank you!

  • I had something like this, with mixed leaves, in California in the autumn but I am sure that there were also small pieces of orange in it as well. Not sure what the dressing was but I could not stop eating the salad. Pretty sure the pecans were candied as well.

  • That’s certainly a favorite salad of mine too, but my husband is opposed to cheese in salad so I don’t partake as often as I’d like. I’m slowly warming to the bitter greens as I’ve learned how good they are for the body. I do believe that California breeds salad lovers.

  • Just for the record, I love alfalfa sprouts too…on a sandwich, usually including avocado and good tomatoes. There’s a freshness to them, nothing else has the same flavor and texture and every once in a while I crave it. Takes me right back to college in the seventies.

    I made a pear and blue cheese salad a couple of weeks ago but will be sure to try again this weekend using your recipe…looks great.

  • The variety of lettuces here in red, green and white is mind boggling.
    As are the low prices. i’m in heaven.
    As for sprouts on anything..Forgetabout it!
    Learning how to live in a non-heated studio here is another subject altogether.
    Thank you North Face for opening a shop in Paris.

  • When I lived further north like MN I put grow lights in all my reading lamps and they seemed to help and once I replaced all the fluorescent lights in my office with full spectrum tubes. Now in Charleston, SC it doesn’t seem to be as much of a problem. Looking over some snapshots of a pre-digital camera trip to Paris in the winter, it is grey! But the photos are wonderful like film noire.

  • I’ve made various versions of this salad for years – I love it! I usually add dried cranberries and often use Granny Smith apples instead of pears. I always use Gorgonzola, which I think really makes the difference. Oh, and I also candy my pecans. Initially, I made my own dressing, but I later found a marvelous champagne dressing (Girard’s) that I now keep on hand just for this salad.

    As for the sun lamp, I can attest that it works…at least it did for me when I lived in upstate NY. I needed several hours in front of that lamp each day to stave off the winter blues! Give it a try, David!

  • Perfect for winter. I adore these salad greens and the delicious simplicity of this salad, but lovely complexity and intrigue in flavor. Ok, I’m hungry now.

  • Forgot to mention that I am looking forward to trying this with your dressing recipe. Sounds delicious!

  • You should try sprouting your own garbanzo beans. Harvest when they are about 4 inches high. They taste great and have a good earthy flavor. Put them on salmon burgers with some garlic aioli. Nom nom nom.

  • Judy and kayce: I ate so, so many alfalfa sprouts back in the 80s. Then I was watching a Pee-Wee Herman show, where he said “they looks and smell like hair” – and I realized that I didn’t really like them, so I stopped. I love spicy radish sprouts and so forth, but gave up on alfalfa sprouts from then on. More for you! : )

    Parisbreakfast: I lived in an unheated apt for years, and was saved when I bought one of those Delonghi heaters at BHV that has the circulating oil in them. It takes a day or two to warm up, but does the trick. I did buy an LL Bean Arctic parka as well, which helped, too.

    Kelly: I keep saying I will buy one, but they’re a lot more expensive here than they are in the US (which is odd, because many of them are made in Europe!) And it’s hard when you live in a place with limited storage area. Someone opened a café in Paris that has them (called Yello’s, at 58 rue Lafayette), but I think I should bite the bullet and get my own. Someday…

  • I eat a lot, and I mean A LOT of salad. This is definitely one of my favourite combinations, I love doing it with endive. Sounds like lunch!

  • Hi David,
    I made this salad as part of my Christmas Day dinner. I used a Bosc pear I had on hand and threw in some dried cranberries and toasted walnuts. VERY YUMMY! I thought I’d try some dried cherries and toasted pecans, which I have on hand, in my next salad.

    I also wanted to thank you for the spiced pecan recipe you posted about a month or so ago. I’ve made several batches for when I’ve been entertaining over the holidays and they have been a big hit! A bonus for me is, I harvested the rosemary from my rosemary bush and now the rosemary bush is in full bloom! The pruning must have forced an early bloom! Have a happy new year!

  • David. Get the full spectrum lamp. It works. Really well. Just don’t have it on past 4pm. You’ll never be able to fall asleep that night it works that well.

  • I love comice pears. But I also love Nigella Lawson’s quote:

    “When they’re good, they’re wonderful, but I am beginning to think Ralph Waldo Emerson was being optimistic when he wrote, ‘There are only ten minutes in the life of a pear when it is perfect to eat.’ ”

    I had a salad at Buvette in the West Village that was roasted beets, créme fraîche, and chopped toasted unblanched salted almonds. The dressing had shallots in it. It was delicious. You might like that combination too. Happy New Year.

  • I love alfalfa sprouts but I’ve never tried having them in a salad, usually just sandwiches. I make a similar salad with goat cheese but I bet gorgonzola adds a really nice depth to the salad, and of course it’s very nice paired with pecans. I’ve been thinking about getting one of those lamps for myself as it’s very dark here in the winter.

  • I eat a salad every day too and I just don’t feel right if I haven’t had at least a small bowl. I hadn’t thought to make the dressing in the bowl first and then add the salad ingredients, so I must try that! Anything that cuts down on the washing up is a bonus for me. This salad looks simply delicious and beautifully presented.

  • Hello David,
    I love salads this looks delicious. I enjoyed your interview on The Splendid Table.
    BarbaraG

  • I have a lot of Gorgonzola on hand, and this looks great. I also like your idea of starting with the dressing in the bowl first, instead of the other way around. Makes sense.

    And I’ll put in my two pesos’ worth — I LOVE alfalfa sprouts. Here in Mexico, you can buy a small plastic carton of alfalfa sprouts only, with a little plastic fork and a little pouch of salad dressing for a quick snack or lunch on the go. That takes eating alfalfa sprouts to a whole new dimension!

  • Love this winter salad! With a little extra time, some roasted beets would be perfect with it.

  • Seasonal affective disorder (or SAD, appropriately) would certainly be alleviated by this gorgeous sounding salad. Anything (almost) with greens, pears and a rich tasting cheese is wonderful. Interesting info about the nut oils, I haven’t tried walnut oil, but use a lot of sesame oil (which is I suppose strictly a seed oil).

  • I actually appreciate that you didn’t use sweetened nuts or add cranberries, oranges, pomegranite’s etc…and kept it purely savory. Such a nice, clean break from all the overly decorated salads of the season. The others are nice sometimes too, but it’s refreshing to have a break. Thanks!

  • You have inspired me to grab a bowl, make a vinaigrette and clean out the veggie drawer.

  • In NYC I used full spectrum bulbs made by Vita-lite for painting and as a sideline they made me impossibly cheery all winter long.
    There has to be something comparable here – I’ll check the art stores and get back.
    Thanks for the radiator tip David. I do have something similar here, a Calor and I receive heat from the other apartments as promised by my ‘landlady’.
    CuddlySocks by Taubert of Austria help on icy tile floors FYI.

  • I have a hard time wanting to eat greens, except for arugula, radicchio and endive. We have a very bitter green here called ‘radicheta’, which looks like baby spinach. I wonder now if other countries have it. The dictionary translates it as belgian endive, but I always thought that was the white and light yellow/green tightly closed spears. Or maybe that’s just endive.
    I need to hunt down good nut oils. I made pistachio oil once, but it’s never the same.
    Gorgonzola with polenta, probably one of the best twists on my childhood favorite!

  • I once made something very similar, mine was pears, blue cheese, walnuts and pomegranate!! Making it I thought the blue cheese would overpower the delicate pears.. but I was completely wrong.. the pears stood up to the blue cheese delightfully!!

  • David Lebovitz, you just revolutionized salad-making for me. I can’t believe I never thought of making a dressing in the salad bowl first, then adding the salad. This post has made me very happy! Thank you!

  • This salad looks fantastic! So refreshing. If every salad looked like this, I’d be inclined to make more of them!

  • Quite a nice combination…love the nut oils and olive oil combo…and who doesn’t love a new salad!

  • I’ve been making a version of this for years, it is my go to salad, but the addition of the walnut oil and toasting the pecans in the oven with some salt kicked my old standby up a notch.

  • Agree on the alfalfa sprouts, soggy and tasteless. Love a winter salad like this one. If you’re feeling in need of sunshine, why not hop on a train to Provence, you’ll be there in less than 3 hours and sncf doing some great deals in January! There’s plenty of sunshine and clear blue skies and lots of markets to visit!

  • I adore gorgonzola with pears. We often have it for dessert – just slices of pear with yummy chunks of cheese. But I love the idea of mixing them in to a salad too. Gorgeous and filling.

  • My favorite salad ever! And I rarely give into superlatives to any particular food because I love most food.

  • My sister made this salad almost exactly this past week. Hands down one of the best salads I’ve ever had. Thanks for sharing, it was perfect.

  • Tried this recipe last night and loved it! Thanks.

  • This is the most wonderful salad I have ever eaten–and to think I made it myself! Thank you! I followed your directions to the letter (other than a slight reduction in salt). I used one third escarole, one third watercress, and one third a tender red-leaf lettuce. I just happened to have a perfectly ripe Bartlett pear, so the timing was perfect for my New Year’s Eve bash for two! Oh yes, and Rogue Creamery (Oregon) Gorgonzola–marvelous!

  • Dear David,

    I hope you both have a lovely New Year’s. Lovely winter salad. I also love putting some very finely-julienned red cabbage in salads this time of year, as well as carrots done with a Zyliss “carrot tool” or the cheaper Asian equivalents. I had also read about kale in salads and it seemed like a terrible workout for the poor innards, and then happened on those tiny “baby” kale, shipped all the way to Montréal from California alas, though we could grow them closer by. I like bitter greens; something we ate a lot in Italy.

    I also want to point out that I was happy to see your potimarron prep tips from 2010, as I have one that had a nasty soft spot underneath and had to be cleaned and sliced up immediately. I do remove the rind, with a very sharp German vegetable peeler – which has of course also divested me of tiny bits of my own skin. I can’t digest it – not daintiness, just gut getting a bit older. I’m glad to see a recipe for simply roasting it with olive oil and a few additions – I have good organic tamari so I’ll brush that on – didn’t feel like making another gratin. The squash here at Jean-Talon Market were very good indeed.

    Buon anno – bonne année,
    Petite-Italie Montréal

  • David, Bonne année et bonne santé.

    Question: The pears must be added at the end of the salad preparation and served and eaten right away or they will turn brown?

    Merci bien,

    Barknot

  • wow this looks divine. thank you for reminding me about gorgonzola in salad. yum!

  • Hi David, as I’m originary from the region of Venice I can say that the rradicchio I see in the photo is a “Chioggia” though it’s most sold as ‘Treviso’ which is completely different in shape, taste and even the way of growing it: Treviso is cultivated first on the soil and then put in batches in a dark tunnel with spring water running trhough the roots, this water is constantly at 13° Celsius all the year long and has a very special composition so that it can be cultivated in a very small area. They tried to make it elsewhere but with no results In Veneto we have lots of different Radicchio and all belongs to the botanical family of Chicorée: some looks like flowers as the “Castelfranco” or “Rosa di Gorizia”. I live in Provence now so this is something I really miss and I’m happy when my son comes for Xmas with full batches of different Radicchios that are good not only for salads but also to cook and even on desserts. Hope I’ve been a little bit useful.. Your posts always are. XXX

  • Sorry, I’m looking better at the photo: it’s a Verona, not Chioggia ( they are rather similar but Verona is smaller and the leaves are a little bit more pointed.

  • Hi David…I really enjoy your writing . It is so refreshing and there is always so much happening in the markets, shops, streets of France with you – I really wish I had so much to do and experience especially in terms of food markets and produce. Sadly Singapore , where I currently reside , does not have such interesting foods and markets. Nonetheless, atleast I can read all about it on your website. Hopefully will experience it some day. Thanks for the brilliant posts and please keep writing.