This isn’t so much about a recipe, a salad or a vinaigrette. This is about saving our best for another time. A time in the future when we are not so busy, not caught up in the day-to-day grind. A time when life is calm and we can concentrate on “living”. Or maybe we save our best for a special occasion. Just not now. Not when it matters most. Not with those who matter most to us.
Do you know what I am talking about? The special soaps and scented candles, we’ve received as gifts…the beautiful china, crystal, silver and linens that, years after the wedding, are either un-touched or rarely used?
For me, it was the way-more-than-I-would-spend-on-a-bottle-of-balsamic vinegar, (olive oil, exotic salts or truffle oil). Then I hit 50, and realized that this was the ‘best time” of my life. In fact, a lot of the “best times” had already passed. I’d missed many opportunities to cook delicious meals for my family and friends using those “special” things. I’d avoided washing my hands with, the way-too-expensive-for-every-day, lavender soap. I hadn’t lit the sultry candles just for the heck of it.
My mom treats me to luxurious and expensive oils, vinegars and exotic condiments a couple of times a year. The latest was, D’Anjou Pear White Balsamic Vinegar, from her local farmer’s market. “You’ve got to blog something with this!” she told me many times, “It’s delicious!” “I can’t ma!” I kept telling her. “How can I write about a product that can’t be found outside Southern California, let alone, Indonesia, Hong Kong, Israel or Oman?”
But that’s when it occurred to me. It’s not about that balsamic. It’s about using the ones you’ve been saving for a special occasion. As long as you know the basic principles of a vinaigrette, you can use your favorite vinegar or olive oil. I know I’ve said this before, but a real, homemade vinaigrette takes only minutes to whip up and tastes infinitely better than a store bought dressing. You really have everything you need to make it tonight…light a candle, use the china, drink some wine.
Pear and Gorgonzola Salad with Candied Pecans
It doesn’t matter so much if you use arugula, field greens or romaine, walnuts or pecans, blue cheese or feta, pears, apples or nectarines…experiment, create, discover.
A basic vinaigrette is 3 parts oil to 1 part acid, (vinegar, citrus)
a bit of something sweet, (sugar, honey, maple syrup or agave)
a bit of mustard
garlic and herbs
a pop of citrus if you haven’t already added some
For my dressing, since the pear vinegar was a bit sweet, I omitted the sugar went for a 2 parts oil to 1 part vinegar. Taste…taste…taste! Citrus will cut the sweetness and make the flavors pop. I skipped the garlic, since I didn’t want the flavors of the salad to be overwhelmed by the garlic.
6 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons pear balsamic vinegar
1/4 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon fresh chopped thyme
pinch of salt and pepper to taste
1/4 teaspoon sugar or honey
Squeeze of citrus, (I used 2 teaspoons fresh lime juice)
Whisk all ingredients together and season to taste with salt and pepper
I used a combination of arugula and field greens. 1/2 pear, sliced and a few tablespoons Gorgonzola for each salad. Top with candied pecans. Drizzle with dressing just before serving.
1/2 cup raw pecans
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
pinch of cayenne (optional)
Heat the sugar and pecans over a medium heat until sugar begins to melt. Shake pan and stir pecans so that they are lightly coated with sugar, add pinch of cayenne if desired. When sugar begins to turn caramel colored. Turn off heat and dump nuts on a cookie sheet to cool. Break up nuts when cool.