Having been distracted these past few months with projects that have taken my creative energy away from my blog, I’d been feeling a fair amount of anxiety not having posted a new recipe in many weeks. Sitting at my desk, brainstorming recipes ideas for the coming months, I received a group text to my daughter and me from one of her best friends. It was a welcome interruption.
Eleanor’s text to us told the story of how her family used to do Thanksgiving with some of their closest family friends every year (her parents had known them since medical school and they ended up living next door to each other) who always brought the “most amazing” salad (the salad had become a fixture in their dinner tradition and she even explained how one year when their friend didn’t bring it, desperate, they ran out to the local fast food grocery market to attempt to get the ingredients.) The friend had recently moved to Arizona, so Eleanor texted her asking for the vinaigrette recipe because she could remember everything else about the salad.
So here is the cool part of the story.
Her next text to us was a screen shot picture of the recipe. I was speechless. It was a recipe of mine on my original cooking class stationery from over 20 years ago.
As I texted back and forth with Eleanor (and she texted back and forth with her friend in Arizona) we traced the recipe back to one of my very first cooking classes at a kitchen store in Seattle on Lake Union called The Galley Slave. I remembered it like it was yesterday as it was one of my first times leaving my baby son at night with a sitter and the inspiration for the recipes came from when I lived in Paris taking cooking classes at La Varenne. It was printed on the stationery I used for my first business right out of cooking school with a beloved pineapple logo, symbolizing hospitality and graciousness, a heartfelt reminder of how much I loved cooking and developing recipes for people.
All those years I had figuratively been in the kitchen with Eleanor’s family and we had never known it. What got me the most, was her next text “your touch is widespread – our holidays would have been different without this recipe”.
It was exactly the inspiration I needed sitting at my desk that morning.
I hope this recipe inspires you for an upcoming holiday gathering. Its colors are beautiful for this time of year and the soft texture of the lettuce along with the sweet, juicy pears, creamy and mildly pungent Gorgonzola cheese and buttery rich, crunchy pecans are epic. The recipe was originally written to be individually served on plates but I was inspired to do this picture the way Eleanor’s had always served it with the butter lettuce tossed with the vinaigrette in a large bowl and the ingredients arranged in descending circles on top.
The salad is simple and straightforward to make, but here are a few important tips. Wash, spin and refrigerate the butter lettuce at least one hour before serving the salad. It can be done the night before, if you prefer. Doing this makes the leaves crisper (by osmosis any water left on the leaves is absorbed during the refrigeration process). Buy the pears several days ahead to give them time to ripen. To test for ripeness on a pear, gently push on the stem end and it should slightly give. Roasting the pecans brings out their full flavor and is worth the 10 minutes it takes.
- 2 heads butter lettuce, cleaned and torn into bite size pieces
- Balsamic Vinaigrette* (see note below)
- 3 ripe red Bartlett pears, cored and sliced
- 1 cup pecan halves, roasted* (see note below)
- 4 ounces Gorgonzola cheese, crumbled
- In a serving bowl, toss butter lettuce with Balsamic vinaigrette until leaves are evenly coated. Arrange pear slices, pecans and Gorgonzola on top. OR, divide lettuce among six plates. Arrange 3 to 4 pear slices over lettuce and sprinkle pecans and gorgonzola on top.
Makes ½ cup.
*To roast pecans: preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Spread pecans on a baking sheet; roast just until slightly darkened, about 10 minutes. Allow cooling to room temperature.