Yesterday I had the good fortune to get together with old friends. We ate a lot, laughed a lot and caught up on each other’s lives. Juliet got a lot of attention, too. It was a very good day all around.
Today Juliet is sleeping off the ecstasy of four glorious hours of being passed around, petted and sweet-talked. Look at that peaceful little face. Not even the miscreant squirrel who taunts her from the back fence could ruin her day today. (I’m having a pretty good day, too.)
This salad was on my lunch menu. The recipe first appeared in Bon Appetit Magazine in 2005, so I have been serving it to guests for a very long time. When I want to serve something really special to treasured friends, this is my go-to recipe. The honey and thyme-roasted Bosc pears add a sweet-savory flavor to the salad and the fan of beautiful roasted pears on the salad plate makes the dish pop visually. Bathe the butter lettuce in the shallot-verjus dressing and you have a tart foil to the flavor of the honeyed pears. Then there are the hazelnuts… What’s not to love?
And, as a side benefit, your kitchen will smell wonderful as your roast the pears on a generous bed of fresh thyme.
Although you can substitute white grape juice in this recipe, the original recipe calls for verjus. Verjus?
Verjus is French for “green juice.” It is the unfermented juice of unripened wine grapes. Typically, verjus is made using the unripe grapes that are thinned from the vines prior to the main harvest. Waste not. Want not.
I bought my verjus from Amazon. Here is a link: Amazon Source for Verjus .
Verjus has a long history. The gourmets among the Roman elite used it in their cooking and it was widely used during the Middle Ages and Renaissance. Here is an intriguing quote from Platina’s De honesta Voluptate, the first printed cookbook, written in 1465. The following is a translation of article 26 of that volume:
“26. ON VERJUICE
What they commonly call acresta, I would call omphacium, on the authority of Pliny, and acor [verjuice], on the authority of Macrobius, for omphax, as I have said, means a still-bitter grape; therefore, I would rather call oil from an unripe berry omphacium than acresta, which I do not quite see as being from omphax. [Macrobius] thus defines verjuice: vinegar is sharper than verjuice, whose force it is agreed is greater than acresta, which soothes I>, which soothes the burning of the stomach more mildly and does not emaciate or weaken the body as vinegar is apt to do. Verjuice is wonderfully good for an unsettled or upset stomach or thirsty liver, if you use it raw, for it is less helpful cooked. We use it easily and healthfully against poison and in seasoning foods.”
Me thinks Platina could have used a good copy editor (and maybe a gastroenterologist and a food taster for that part about the poison. Just sayin…)
Try this salad. Your guests will thank you and ask for the recipe.
Honey-Roasted Pear Salad with Thyme Verjus Dressing
- 1/3 C. verjus or 3 T. white grape juice and 2 T. apple cider vinegar
- 1/3 C. grapeseed oil
- 1 large shallot (finely chopped)
- 2 t fresh thyme leaves
- Pears and Salad:
- 3 bunches (or more) fresh thyme sprigs
- 4 ripe but firm Bosc pears (about 2 1/2 pounds-halved and cored)
- 1/4 C. (or more) honey
- 1 head butter lettuce (coarsely torn)
- 4 oz. baby arugula
- 6 oz. blue cheese (sliced)
- 1/2 C. hazelnuts (toasted and coarsely chopped)
- Step 1 To make the dressing, measure all dressing ingredients into a bowl and whisk to blend. Season with salt and pepper.
- Step 2 To make the pears, preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Use a large shallow pan like a cookie pan and scatter the pan generously with fresh thyme. Cut pears in half and core. Place pear halves with the cut side down on top of a solid surface and slice the pear halves into a fan. (Starting about 1/2 inch from the stem and being careful to leave the pear intact so that you can present it as a fan on your salad plates), slice each pear half lengthwise into 1/3 inch wide slices. Then, using the ball of your hand, gently press the sliced pear halves down so that they spread into a fan shape. Place sliced pear fans on the bed of thyme, sprinkle with salt and pepper, drizzle generously with honey and bake until the pears are tender when pierced with a fork (about 15 minutes). Remove the pears from the oven and let them cool for at least 30 minutes and up to 3 hours.
- Step 3 To assemble the salad: Toss the butter lettuce and arugula in a large bowl. Add shallot-verjus dressing and toss. Arrange a few dressed butter lettuce leaves on a plate. Place a roasted pear fan beside the lettuce leaves and garnish with a slice of good quality blue cheese. (I used Point Reyes Farmstead Blue.) Sprinkle with hazelnuts.
- Step 4 Enjoy.
Here is the link of the original recipe: Bon Appetit’s Honey-roasted pear and hazelnut salad