Baby Spinach Salad with Cumin Roasted Pear and Maytag Blue Cheese

by Chef Michael Salmon
serves 6

3 Bosc pears

1/3 cup walnut halves

1/3 cup dried cranberries

3 Tablespoons walnut oil

2 Tablespoons port wine

2 Tablespoons brown sugar

1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt

2 Tablespoons cumin spice mix (recipe below)

10 oz baby spinach

1/4 pound Maytag bleu cheese (or other good quality creamy bleu cheese)

Honey and walnut dressing (recipe below)

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Peel the pears and cut in half lengthwise. Remove the core and stem with a melon-baller and cut each half into 3 equal wedges.
  3. In a medium sized bowl, whisk together the walnut oil, port wine, brown sugar, salt and cumin spice mix. Add the pear wedges, walnut halves and dried cranberries and toss to evenly coat.
  4. Place a silpat mat or piece of parchment paper on a baking sheet and spread out the pear mixture on top. Roast in the preheated oven for 10 minutes. Remove and cool to room temperature.
  5. To serve, toss the baby spinach with enough of the honey and walnut dressing to coat. Arrange the roasted pear wedges on the plate and sprinkle with the cranberries, walnuts and crumbled bleu cheese.

Honey and Walnut Dressing

1/2 cup walnut oil

1 Tablespoon crushed walnuts

1 Tablespoon minced shallot

2 Tablespoons sherry vinegar

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

2 Tablespoons honey

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

  1. Heat the walnut oil in a small saucepan over medium heat. When it gets very warm (not hot), add the crushed walnuts and shallots and allow it to steep off the heat until cool.
  2. In a medium-size bowl, whisk together the vinegar, mustard and honey. While whisking, slowly drizzle in the cooled walnut oil until incorporated. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Cumin Spice Mix

1/2 cup light brown sugar

2 Tablespoons chili powder

1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin

2 teaspoons whole cumin

1 teaspoon ground coriander

1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper

2 teaspoons whole anise seeds

Mix the sugar and spices together.

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