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Pear Chicory Salad

Although autumn and winter menus bring to mind savory stews and roasted root vegetables, we haven't given up on a great salad just yet. At the Wednesday market here in Beaune, Madame Pechoux had the last of summer's heirloom tomatoes as well as the most lovely salad greens we've ever seen. Delicate, tender frisée, escarole, dandelion greens, endive and radicchio make for the perfect autumn salad. Tossed with a pear, toasted walnuts, a handful of crumbled Roquefort and a simple red wine vinaigrette...heaven.

Pears are one of our favorite fruits and are a cook's dream as you can use them in both savory and sweet dishes. This week, they find their way in one of our all time favorite salads, or should we say, a variation of our favorite, as the ingredients in this salad change depending on what looks good at the market. In this case, the crunch of endive and bitterness of the radicchio are softened by the creamy saltiness of the Roquefort and the sweetness of the pears. Walnuts can be replaced with hazelnuts. Variations are endless.

The most important thing, as usual, is the quality of the ingredients. While shopping at the markets in France, we seek out our local farmers and we always look for purveyors that display the "AB" label as this label ensures that the product is organic. One of our favorite vendors at the market in Beaune is operated by Ghislaine and Alain Pechoux. They have a small farm that specializes in heirloom fruits, vegetables and they grow the most beautiful baby salad greens. We enjoy this salad on its own for a light meal with crusty bread and a nice glass of wine.

Chicory Salad with Pears, Roquefort and Walnuts

Serves 6

1/4 cup walnuts, toasted 

2 Belgian endives, cores removed, separated into spears 

1 head of radicchio, torn into pieces 

2 D'Anjou pears, cored, and cut into eights 

1 bunch watercress, rinsed and leaves removed 

1/4 pound of Roquefort, crumbled 

for the Vinaigrette

1 shallot, diced 

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar 

3 tablespoons olive oil 

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste 

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Toast the walnuts on a baking sheet 8 to 10 minutes, until they smell nutty and are a light golden brown. Remove them from the oven, when they have cooled, chop them coarsely and set aside. In a large bowl, add the shallot to the vinegar and let set aside for 10 minutes. Whisk in the olive oil and add the salt and pepper to taste. Add the endive,radicchio, pears and watercress to the bowl and toss to gently coat in the vinaigrette. Add the Roquefort and walnuts and toss. Season with salt and a few grindings of black pepper. Serve on chilled salad plates.