home cooked dinners by the season

Butter Lettuce Salad with Red Pears, Roast Pecans and Gorgonzola

Butter Lettuce Salad with Red Pears, Roast Pecans and Gorgonzola

IMG_1612I have a little story to tell about the power of a good recipe, friendship and six degrees of separation.

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.

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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.

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Butter Lettuce Salad with Red Pears, Roast Pecans and Gorgonzola
 
Serves: 6 servings
Ingredients
  • 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
Instructions
  1. 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.
Notes
*Balsamic Vinaigrette: Whisk together in a bowl or in a food processor fitted with a steel blade, 1-1/2 tablespoons Balsamic vinegar, 1 tablespoon chopped parsley, 2 teaspoon Dijon mustard, ¼ teaspoon sugar (honey or agave may be used) and 1 clove of garlic. Slowly drizzle in ½ cup extra virgin olive oil until smooth. Season with kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper.
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.

 


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22 thoughts on “Butter Lettuce Salad with Red Pears, Roast Pecans and Gorgonzola”

  • Thanks so much for sharing the recipe and the amazing story. The world is sometimes a truly wondrous place. Merry Christmas!

    • It really is a wondrous world and I love how recipes and good food are an important part of it. Merry Christmas and thank you for your comment.

  • Lovely story Linda, reminder of what this season is all about. Kind of twist of fate to be reading this post while I am in the middle of making a huge batch of candied pecans for gifts & just happen to have several ripe Christmas pears on my counter just waiting for a great recipe
    Have the happiest of holidays!!!!

    • It really is what this season is all about. And for me, what creating recipes is about, no matter what time of year. How perfect you were making a batch of candied pecans, I am glad the recipe came at the right time for you. Thank you for your comment, I always appreciate them. Happy Holidays to you!

  • What a beautiful story- it truly shows that sharing one’s gifts and talents enriches so many people. Your recipes and your blog nourish all of us in so many ways- thank you.

  • I love this story and I’ll be adding it to our ChristmAs dinner for sure ! I love all the ingredients and can’t wait to taste the dressing ! I want to add my sincere thanks to you Linda for your delicious , healthy recipes . They have changed and enhanced our life and my family’s life . Many grateful thanks and Merry Christmas Linda !

    • You are welcome, Karen. Enhancing and changing people’s live with good recipes makes me so happy. It is why I do what I do.
      Thank YOU for your positive feedback, it is so helpful and inspiring to me. Merry Christmas!

  • This story makes me teary! How wonderful to know that your work has really touched so many and been an important part of their family traditions!

  • Unbeknownst to me, my sister made your salad for a holiday lunch yesterday. After I got home, I emailed her for the dressing recipe. She told me it was on your front page! I had to laugh as this salad is what I planned to bring on Christmas Eve and asked my daughter to make at Christmas. Definitely a keeper!

    • I just love this! This salad sure has been a good one for stories. Thank you so much for letting me know. And I am glad you will be enjoying the salad at your Christmas table. Cheers!

  • Thanks so much for your blog, Linda! My mom forwarded it to me last year and I’ve used it religiously since. I love sharing it with friends too!

    • I loved hearing from you – it made my day. Especially that you are using my recipes and that you have passed them on to your friends. It makes me really happy to know your generation is cooking when I hear so often that take out and restaurant food have trumped cooking at home. Thank you for taking the time to comment!

  • Linda, Sue Taylor here! That’s my recipe from your class. Eleanor is the wonderful young woman who is the daughter of my dear friends. I am just astonished to read of this exchange and see this posted. Wow!
    I found this because I am in New Jersey with my son and his family–cooking for them as they adjust to a newborn–from the best source I know. You.
    I took your amazing and life changing class at the Galley Slave in the 1990s and have literally made every recipe. But it’s this salad–especially the balsamic vinaigrette that has–thanks to you–been my legacy. Each time I serve it, someone asks for the recipe. I was once even asked to make a bottle as a wedding gift!
    If I have learned anything from years of being a doctor, it is that food is truly the medicine of the soul. Mindful cooking is the healing that makes the biggest difference in the long run.
    I am grateful for the lessons you taught me early on, to use care and compassion with each step and when you find a good teacher, stay with them.
    You have, without knowing it, been guiding us for decades.

    Seeing that beloved recipe on your website has left me with a heart of gratitude and eyes filled with tears.
    It is laminated for safekeeping now in a notebook that I believe will be long cherished.

    Many blessings to you and yours.

    • Dear Sue:
      I am beyond sorry that your lovely comment went unanswered for nearly 10 months. My deepest apology for this. When you take the time to write something like you did, it should be answered promptly.
      I have been so busy with other projects all of 2023 – top of the list was the arrival of two new grand babies! Unfortunately my blog here has been at the bottom of my list. But in checking my blog dashboard I came across your comment about the Butter Lettuce Salad with Red Pears, Vinaigrette and Gorgonzola. It stopped me in my tracks and brought tears to my eyes. I was astonished that the recipe that Eleanor had was the one that you had brought to their Thanksgiving table so many years. WHAT A STORY. And what beautiful intertwining of lives. It was amazing for me to read that you had attended that cooking class at the Galley Slave all those years ago and that you were reaching out on my blog. Reading your comment brought me so much JOY. Every word you wrote was so poignant and touching. What you wrote is exactly why I love developing recipes and sharing them. And with each passing year, I have also strived to do recipes that are healthy (I subscribe to the philosophy that “food is medicine”) as well as that are not intimidating and easy to cook.

      Thank you so much for taking the time to comment about this recipe that is definitely a “six degrees of separation” story. It truly made my day and has inspired me. My 2024 is freeing up with other obligations and posting new recipes will be moving to the top of my list. As well as working on a cookbook.

      Happy and Healthy 2024 to you!

      Linda

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