We’re continuing a string of riffing off of Ina Garten recipes. This classy little lunch is something we saw her make on TV, but it’s in her book “Back to Basics” as well. We had that moment of looking at each other and simultaneously saying “that looks good,” so we knew we’d have to try it out eventually. Once again, we got into a situation where a book recipe was too much for us. For this one, we scaled down the pears and the cheese (changing out her choice of Stilton for Gorgonzola), but left the poaching liquids at the same level.
- 2 Anjou pears, ripe but firm
- Juice of 2 lemons
- 2 ounces coarsely crumbled Gorgonzola
- 3 tablespoons dried cranberries
- 3 tablespoons walnut halves, toasted and chopped
- ¼ cup apple cider (or juice)
- 3 tablespoons port
- 1/3 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
- ¼ cup good extra virgin olive oil
- 4-6 ounces baby arugula
We peeled the pears and sliced them in half, using a paring knife and melon baller to remove the core and seeds to make a little round well into which we stuffed the filling. We trimmed a little of the rounded side of the pear halves a little so that they’d lay flat in the dish. We tossed the pears in some lemon juice to keep them from getting brown, then put them in a square baking dish.
We made the filling by tossing the gorgonzola, cranberries, and walnuts together in a bowl, then divided that mixture among the four pear halves, mounding it into each of the hollows.
Using the same small bowl, we combined the cider, port, and brown sugar, stirring until the sugar dissolved. We poured that mixture over and around the pears. The reason we kept the measurements for this the same is that the pears need to sit in a certain level of liquid, and we thought more in this case would be better than less. We baked the pears at 375F for 30 minutes, basting them every ten minutes or so. We didn’t think the pears were quite tender enough, so we baked them another six minutes. We set them aside to cool a little while we made the dressing.
We whisked together the olive oil, ¼ cup of lemon juice (which was one full medium-sized lemon), and ¼ cup of the basting liquid. We divided the arugula onto two plates, drizzled some of the dressing onto it, laid the pears on top, and poured the remainder of the dressing on top of the pears. We sprinkled some sea salt on top before serving.
I was initially a little concerned that the bleu cheese would be too aggressive for the salad, but cooking it nicely mellowed the flavor while not robbing it of any of its richness. I also thought that the arugula might be too peppery, but it was perfect, melding well with the texture contrast of the cheese, cranberries, and walnuts. Walnuts were the right nut for this dish. There was already enough sweetness going on that pecans would have been too much, and pine nuts may have been too subtle.
It was a very tasty lunch plate (we each had two pear halves and a large portion of arugula) which we could easily adapt to make as a side dish or starter for a nice meal by serving one pear half each.