Tuesday, October 26, 2010

a small price to pay for a long weekend at the beach: basil, pear and gorgonzola salad

Upon returning from a perfect long weekend at the beach in Fort Walton, Florida with the entire Rogers clan except for our Kelly (busy with midterms) I found my basil good and lifeless.  It is October 26th and that is a small price to pay for long walks on the beach, paddling a kayak past dolphins and hours in a beach chair reading and drifting off for little naps.  Ahhhhhh......



I planted basil from seed this year and enjoyed an abundant supply for over four months.  If you still have basil to enjoy from your own garden, I have an amazing salad for you to try.  It will pain me a little to buy basil at Meijer (they usually have loose fresh bunches which are superior to the basil in the box), but since it is now pear season (another key ingredient) I will do it.  Forgive me, again for the lack of pictures.  I'm pretty sure you can imagine the emerald green goodness of this dressing and the pretty presentation of this salad.  I adapted this recipe from the Wine Guy's cookbook, "The Grapevine Cottage Cookbook".  

If you're an Indy person, stop by Grapevine Cottage on the red brick Main Street of Zionsville and meet The Wine Guy, buy some new and interesting wine and the cookbook.  They have a lovely assortment of gourmet treats too.  I first discovered Two Cooking Sisters jams and etc. there.  If you go in the afternoon and they've just baked french bread, you will leave with a warm batard and a good part of it will be missing by the time you get home.  Greg and I have enjoyed our membership in the Wine of the Month Club.  Two wines, a gourmet treat (often my favorite part, although only once did I not like the selection) and a little newsletter with a recipe.  Join up!  Keep a little wine journal in your kitchen or bar to help you remember what you liked.  The Wine Guy has little cards with all of the wine so you can just paste those in your journal if you like.  

Today's recipe includes gorgonzola cheese which I personally love.  I usually buy the crumbles at Trader Joe's.  Greg, who loves almost all food puts all blue cheeses on his short list of things he does not like (liver and onions, brussel sprouts, tuna anyway but raw or seared and sea urchin make up the entire list). So I serve this with feta cheese and gorgonzola on the side so he can enjoy it.  Goat cheese crumbles or baked goat cheese rounds are also delicious (cut the log in little rounds, dip them in beaten egg and roll them in bread crumbs and place them on a greased/sprayed or parchment lined baking sheet and lightly brown them in a 350 degree oven for around 10 minutes-addictive).  I usually use comice pears because I like them, but any variety will do.  

Basil, Pear and Gorgonzola Salad

basil, garlic, salt, pepper and sugar ready to process

finished dressing

Dressing
4 cloves of garlic
1/3 C sugar (you can try less if this freaks you out, I have already reduced it here)
1 to 2 cups loosely packed basil leaves (I usually use somewhere around 1 1/2 C to 2 C)
1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
1/2 C good olive oil (add slowly, 1/4 to 1/3 C might be enough for you if this freaks you out too, again I already reduced it)
1/3 C cider vinegar

Salad
big bowl of mixed baby greens, spring mix or baby greens and butter lettuce (your choice)
2 fresh ripe pears, cut in bite-size pieces (no need to peel the skin)
8-oz. crumbled gorgonzola cheese (or other cheese as desired)
3/4 C toasted pecan pieces (toast in a dry heavy pan on the stove over medium heat or on a sheet in the oven at 400 degrees for 8 to 10 minutes, keep an eye on them and stir them so they don't burn)

Process the garlic, sugar, basil and pepper in a food processor or blender until finely chopped.  Add the oil and vinegar and mix until just blended.  Toss the dressing with the greens, pears, cheese and nuts.  Serve immediately.  

If you take this salad away from home (people will love you for it), place the greens in a big bowl and take along the dressing in a jar, the pears tossed with lemon juice in a bag or container, the cheese in a bag or the container you bought it in, and the nuts in a bag or container.  Toss just before serving.  

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