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A simple, tasty pear salad recipe, with arugula, red onion, walnuts and two cheeses —creamy goat and blue cheese. This is a perfect arugula salad for everyday or having friends over.
We all need more simple salads in our lives, and this arugula salad with fruit fits that description to a “T”.
Because I think a pear salad recipe should not only have crisp sweet pears in it, I went ahead and added two different kinds of cheeses (blue and goat).
Because why not? Also, there’s toasted walnuts and a smattering of thinly sliced red onion. This combination of nuts, soft cheese and sweet fruit makes a stunning radicchio salad as well as a delicious salad with shaved Brussels sprouts (another favorite!).
The dressing that ties this whole beauty together is a light and tangy-sweet vinaigrette, blended with lemon, white wine vinegar and a dash of honey.
You won’t have to gather many ingredients or fuss around too much with this salad, and it works for any meal situation.
It’s one of those salads you’d want to put out when friends come over for dinner, which in the spring or summer might be a fresh asparagus salad.
But in my case, it’s also the perfect casual salad to eat while sitting at my desk (I probably shouldn’t admit I actually do that 😉
Pear salad with cheese
Pears and cheese are a classic combination, and for good reason. Italians especially love pairing pears with cheese, and they must know something, right?
“Don’t tell the peasants how good cheese is with pears.”– an Italian saying
Compared to other fruits like apples and peaches (also good with cheese, btw), pears have subtle acidity and a distinctive texture.
Those two qualities help the fruit balance beautifully with all kinds of cheese, especially young, soft goat cheese and creamy blue cheese.
All about arugula
Arugula is one of my absolute favorite greens. Are you with me? I’ve seen arugula described as a “bitter” green, but I’ve always found it way more nutty and peppery tasting. Arugula pairs beautifully with everything from strawberries and feta cheese to hearty roasted cauliflower salad.
Plus, arugula is one of the easiest plants to grow from seed, especially if your thumbs aren’t the greenest. I’ve grown arugula in my garden when nothing else survived, and it always took off like gangbusters.
In hot weather, the leaves get very spicy — almost like horseradish spicy — but to me that fact makes me love it more.
Substitutions for arugula
Surprisingly (to me) not everyone is a fan of arugula. What !!
If that’s you or someone you care about, think about subbing some or all of the arugula in this recipe with:
- Baby mixed greens
Cheeses to use in arugula salad
One cheese was not enough when I first made this salad, obviously. I was torn over using goat cheese or blue cheese and decided a little of both was the best way to go.
TIP: Choose a soft, unripened goat cheese (the kind that comes in a log) and a creamy, cow’s milk blue cheese. Sweet Gorgonzola or Danish-style blue are both good blue cheeses to use.
- Not a fan of goat OR blue cheese? A good Parmesan or sheep’s milk cheese like aged Pecorino would be delicious!
The best pears for salad
- Bartlett: This variety is an all-around good choice for salads, snacking and even desserts. Bartlett pears are tinged with yellow when ripe and ready to eat. These pears are juicy, sweet and have a good amount of acidity to balance the sugar.
- D’Anjou (or Anjou): This pear looks a bit like Bartlett – plump and green. It has a pleasantly crisp texture which makes it a perfect pear for salads and also roasting.
- Comice: My absolute favorite pear to eat raw with cheese, and also what I used for this salad. Comice pears are green, blushed beautifully with red spots. They have soft, creamy flesh and are exquisitely sweet and juicy when ripe.
- Bosc: This pear variety is hard to confuse with the others – it has a bronze-amber colored skin, and an elegant, tall shape. I find their flavor on the spicy side, but sometimes their texture is disappointingly dry. They’re good for poaching in red wine.
How to cut pears for salad:
- Choose a pear that feels firm, but with a slight give at the top near the stem.
- This means the fruit is at a good stage of ripeness, not too soft (and overripe) or too hard.
- Wash the pear under cold water.
- Slice it in half through the stem, lengthwise.
- Remove the core with a small spoon. If you have a melon baller, use it instead and your pear-coring life will change!
- Lay each half cut-side down and slice into half-moons about 1/4-inch thick.
TIP: If you’re not making the salad right away, sprinkle the slices with lemon juice to help stop them from browning. Brown pears will still taste fine, but they don’t look as pretty on your salad.
Arugula salad dressing
The mix of nutty arugula greens, walnuts, salty cheese and sweet pears needs a dressing that mimics those very flavors.
You’ll find the dressing isn’t overwhelmingly sweet or sour, with a good balance of sweetness from honey, lemon juice and vinegar.
Rice wine or white wine vinegar has a milder acidity than other vinegars – around 4 percent – which helps the dressing taste less sharp,
Tip: like to mix this dressing in a mini food processor because it emulsifies into a creamy texture.If you don’t have one (or a blender) whisk the ingredients in a bowl, adding the oil last in a steady stream while you whisk.
Arugula Salad with Pears, Goat Cheese and Walnuts
- 2 tablespoons chopped shallot, about 1
- 1 garlic clove, chopped
- ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons honey or maple syrup
- 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar or rice vinegar
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
- 5 ounces prewashed arugula greens
- ⅓ cup thinly sliced red onion
- 1 green or red pear, cored and sliced into 1/4″ half-moons
- ⅓ cup toasted walnuts*
- 2 ounces soft goat cheese, crumbled
- 2 ounces blue cheese, crumbled
- ½ cup mixed microsprouts, optional
- Freshly ground black pepper to taste
To make the dressing:
- Combine all ingredients in a blender or mini food processor until very smooth. Note: The dressing can be prepared up to 3 days in advance. Keep it refrigerated in a sealed container.
To make the salad
- Put the greens in a large bowl or on a platter. Top with the remaining ingredients.
- Drizzle with 2 or 3 tablespoons of the dressing and toss gently to coat. Serve the salad with additional dressing to taste on the side.
Karen’s Notes and Tips
- Toss the salad just before serving so the greens don’t become soggy.
- To toast walnuts: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lay the nuts on a rimmed baking sheet and place in the oven. Bake 10-12 minutes, until the nuts are light golden brown.
- If you don’t have a small food processor (or a blender) whisk the ingredients in a bowl, adding the oil last in a steady stream while you whisk.