[Beautiful and delicious, this Pan-Glazed Pear & Arugula Salad with Cashew Goat Cheese and Walnuts is vegan, sugar-free, gluten-free, grain-free, dairy-free, egg free, soy-free, yeast-free, and low glycemic. Suitable for Stage 2 and beyond on an anti-candida diet.]
My dad, now well into his ninth decade on this planet, is ridiculously proud of his salads. If you met him and the subject of food came up (because really, when doesn’t it?), he’d boast that he eats “a salad every day.”
However, given his age (95+) and his lack of culinary prowess (he can make a mean soup, but that’s about it), his interpretation of “salad” goes like this:
- one chunk (unwashed) iceberg lettuce
- one quarter (unripe, potato-y) supermarket tomato
- four slices cucumber
- a few shreds plain yellow onion [on a particularly festive day, it’s replaced with green onion]
- bottled Italian dressing
So you see my conundrum. I mean, how do you try to correct the impresson of a 95 year-old? It’s disrespectful. In fact, it’s just rude. (Besides, he can’t hear you, anyway).
Over the years, I realized that the concept of “salad” in our house wasn’t quite what it is today. The standard definition of “salad” to mean a mix of bite-sized leafy and/or raw vegetables seems to have morphed in recent decades to include anything in a dressing of any kind (including mayonnaise, tahini, mashed avocado, etc); fruits along with vegetables; bread and veggies; beans and legumes; warm beans and legumes; grains; pasta; and even a sickly-sweet combination of canned fruit and marshmallows.
Once I moved to Toronto to pursue my PhD, however, the world of “unconventional” salads really opened up to me.
During those 20-something years, my best bud Sterlin and I would spend part of almost every weekend driving downtown to the base of the city at Adelaide and Jarvis, where we’d pass a lineup already snaking down the street even as we drove around looking for a parking spot. Our venue of choice was the wildly popular Mr Greenjeans restaurant that attracted crowds of young, hip college students and packs of yuppies (oh, and the two of us, too).
Mr. Greenjeans was known for its avant-garde salads, served (way back in the 80s!) in gigantic mason jars. It was up to the patron to either tip the salad onto a plate and eat, or pick delicately from the top of the jar downwards. In the case of my favorite Spinach Salad, that meant navigating through layers of warm, slightly wilted spinach, crisp, greasy bacon crumbles, springy mushroom slices and massive toasted croutons all nestled in the thickest, richest, creamiest tart-and-sweet dressing I’d ever encountered.
All in all, it was the perfect “slow food” experience, allowing Sterlin and me up to three hours for animated chit-chat. We dissected every conceivable topic, bouncing from what would happen to Nikki and Viktor on The Young and the Restless, to how many hours we spent studying in Robart’s, to what kitchen accessories we nabbed at Honest Ed’s that week, to our latest dating fiasco and why didn’t he call me back even though he said he had a great time?! (okay, so truth be told, most of the conversation focused on that last one).
By the time the coffee and dessert arrived, we’d caught up on our soap, figured out how to organize our kitchen and, when it came to dating, resolved that it was “time to move on.” Then we’d drive back home and start the whole week’s activities again.
Over the years, I attempted to reproduce that unique Mr. Greenjeans combination of wilty, crunchy, salty, smoky, creamy and sweet–to no avail. So, I decided it was time to move on in that realm, too.
I’m so glad I did.
Giving up the quest for that Mr. Greenjeans ideal allowed me to embrace this new glazed pear and arugula salad with goat cheese and walnuts. It’s like a more mature version of that earlier salad: easier to predict, more sophisticated yet lighter, and just healthier all around.
Come to think of it, it’s sort of like the contrast between those old dating fiascoes** and my current sweetie of (almost!) 20 years.
And, just like the HH, this salad is a keeper.
Pan-Glazed Pear & Arugula Salad with Cashew Goat Cheese and Walnuts
It’s not only beautiful to look at, this salad is also bursting with complementary flavors and textures–and loaded with good-for-you nutritional value. You’ll want to serve this to guests for an impressive first course, but save some for an easy weeknight treat, too.
For the Salad:
2 medium pears, cored and cut in eighths
2 Tbsp (30 ml) xylitol or Lakanto
2 tsp (10 ml) apple cider vinegar
About 8 cups (2 L) baby arugula
1 recipe Cashew Goat Cheese (see below)
1/2 cup (120 ml) lightly toasted walnut halves
For the Dressing:
Juice of one medium lemon (about 1/4 cup or 60 ml)
6 Tbsp (90 ml) extra virgin olive oil, preferably organic
Pure plain liquid stevia, to taste (I used about 15 drops)
Pinch fine sea salt, to taste
Prepare the salad: Heat the coconut sugar and vinegar over medium heat in a non-stick pan until bubbling and the sugar has melted. Add pears and quickly flip them over so both sides are coated. Cook for about a minute, turn and cook other side, just until outside begins to brown but slices are still firm enough to hold together. Turn off heat.
Prepare the dressing: Whisk all ingredients in a small bowl.
Assemble the salad: Toss the arugula with the dressing. To serve, place about 1.5 cups (360 ml) arugula on a plate and top with a few dollops of goat cheese, 2-3 pear slices and a sprinkling of walnuts (most plates will have 3 pear slices, but two will have only 2). Serve immediately. Makes 6 servings.
Cashew Goat Cheese
1 cup (240 ml) raw cashews
2 Tbsp (30 ml) extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp (30 ml) freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tsp (5 ml) white miso
1/2 tsp (2.5 ml) fine sea salt
Up to 1/4 cup (60 ml) water, if necessary
Cover cashews with boiling water and allow to soak for 10 minutes; drain. Place all ingredients in a high powered blender or food processor and blend until perfectly smooth and creamy, adding fresh water if necessary for mixture to blend (avoid adding too much water or your cheese will be too thin!). Use immediately, or refrigerate overnight (it will firm up in the fridge overnight). Makes about 2/3 cup (160 ml).
Suitable for: ACD Stage 2 and beyond; refined sugar-free, gluten-free, grain-free, dairy-free, egg free, soy-free, yeast-free, vegan, low glycemic.
** Did I hear someone say, “Rocker Guy (He of the Black Leather Pants”)?
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