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Spiced Pecan and Pear Salad

The risotto that I posted last week is very dense. Along side of it, I added a salad that combines some of the typical flavors that are sometimes paired with pungent blues served at the end of dinner to round out a meal. It is a light counterpoint to the richness of the gorgonzola dish and uses in-season pears with crunchy pecans that have been given a sweet-spicy kick. It must have been a hit, because not only have I been craving it, but my sister called me for the recipe as well for a dinner she was hosting for friends last week.

Spiced Pecan and Pear Salad*

Prep Time: 10-15 minutes
Serving Size: 2 portions

Ingredients:
1 Bosc pear, not overripe
1/4 tsp. olive oil
1/2 cup pecan halves
1/2 tsp. good-quality maple syrup
2 pinches ground cumin
1-2 pinches ground cayenne pepper (depending upon how hot you like it)
2 pinches salt
3 cups lettuce washed and rinsed (bibb, lolla rosso, romaine)
1 tsp. highest quality extra virgin olive oil (pref. unfiltered)
Assembly:
Cut pear into quarters and then into quarters again. Toss with the olive oil to coat. Place pears in a single layer on pre-heated griddle pan. Pears should cook for about 3-4 minutes per side, until they have grill marks and have started to release their sugars. Once cooked, set aside.
While the pears are cooking, you can begin to toast the pecans in a skillet without any oil or butter, placing them in a single layer in the pan over low heat. After 4 to 5 minutes, the aroma of toasting pecans will start to come through. Drizzle the maple syrup evenly over the pecans. It will start to bubble.
Sprinkle the pecans with the cumin, cayenne pepper, and 1 pinch of salt. Let cook for about 4 minutes more and remove from the heat. Set aside to cool briefly.
Assemble the salad greens on two plates. Drizzle with the unfiltered olive oil and sprinkle the remaining pinch of salt on the salads. Decorate them with the pears and the pecans. Serve at the same time as or after the risotto.
*If serving salad on its own and/or with a different main than the risotto, crumble 1/4 cup Gorgonzola dolce or aged blue cheese over the salads as the last step.
Buon appetito!