Welcome back, Cotter! Fall season is here, and I have been entirely engulfed in nonsense that does not involve me cooking, which I find completely NOT ok. Thankfully, I'm still around food all the time, so I guess it isn't half that bad! Regardless, I've got a pretty tasty treat for you all. Since it is fall, I decided to go with some nice autumnal flavors (ones that don't involve winter squash....at least yet!). It's not yet too cold, so super hearty, heavy, and warm wasn't what was coming to mind. So? I opted for a nice little salad! This salad has a TON of great flavors that come together beautifully! Easy to make, pretty full proof, and a genuine crowd-pleaser!
Beet & Poached Pear Salad
4 large beets, or 8 small beets - multicolored makes for a good looking dish, but it's not necessary
2 poached pears, cut into wedges - recipe follows
Some shrubbery - pea shoots, arugula, mache, or watercress
BACON - 2 slices, preferably applewood smoked
A nice blue cheese - I used bleu d'auvergne
Sidebar: Both the beets and pears can be made well ahead of time and chilled!
For the beets, remove the greens (if still attached....save and use them for a nice sautéed side!), and wash any dirt that may be remaining. Preheat the oven to 400F. Place all of the beets in aluminum foil, drizzle with a little olive oil, a sprinkle of salt, and a bit of water (a couple tablespoons). Fold the foil over to create a wall package, and place in the oven. Be sure to put the beets on a sheet tray in case any leaks spring up. Allow the beets to cook about 45 minutes, or until knife tender. Obviously, time varies depending on the size of your beets, so be sure to check them every once in a while. When the beets are done, remove from the oven, open up the foil and let cool for a bit. When they are just cool enough to handle, grab some paper towels and start rubbing the skin off. It should come of very easily. Mind you - if you are using regular red beets, you WILL be staining the world. If you have vinyl/latex gloves, I suggest wearing them, unless you don't mind a nice little pink tinge to your fingertips. Cut the beets into bite sized wedges, and set aside.
While the beets are cooking, you can crisp up the bacon as well. Heat a skillet over medium-high heat. When the pan is hot, place the bacon in and let the fat render out. Cook, flipping, until extra crispy. Remove from the pan and break into small pieces.
This dish has plenty of flavors coming together as one - the spices from the poached pears pair beautifully with the deep earthiness of the beets, and the greens add a nice hint of freshness to the whole dish. The bacon and the blue cheese add a strong depth of flavor, as well as good texture to the dish. The final dusting of nutmeg brings it all together. The flavors really are great, and a superb expression of autumn!
4 pears, Bartlett or Anjou
1 c dry white wine
2 t full-bodied red wine or ruby port
3 c water
1 vanilla bean, split in half
1 cinnamon stick
1 piece of ginger (3/4 in), sliced
1/4 c honey
Place all the ingredients except the pears in a saucepan. For the vanilla bean, scrape out the seeds and into the liquid. Stir to combine, and place over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for about 5 minutes to let the flavors come together. While the liquid is simmering, cut the pears in half and remove the core with a melon baller. Place the pears in the liquid and allow to simmer for about 20 minutes until fork tender. Remove from heat and let cool.