Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Pear, Walnut, and Cranberry Goat Cheese Salad

This year I wanted to add a couple of new dishes to my family's usual Christmas dinner line-up, namely a delicious salad full of fresh festive ingredients. I really wanted to make something special and delicious that would hold its own on the table up against the turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy, instead of just a lifeless pile of lettuce that got looked over. I can assure you that this salad is anything but boring; my family and I could not get enough of it! You know it's a good sign when people go back for seconds of "salad" during a big Christmas dinner feast. The combination of mixed greens, sweet pears and cranberries, crunchy walnuts, and creamy goat cheese is perfect, and once it is all drizzled in the tangy cranberry orange vinaigrette it is even better. I am quite positive that I could eat this salad every day and never get tired of it!

Salad Ingredients:
Note: I haven't included measurements for the ingredients so that you can just make as much as you need for however many people you plan to serve.
Spring mix salad greens
1-2 ripe bartlett pears, thinly sliced
Chopped walnuts (toasting optional)
Dried cranberries
Cinnamon cranberry goat cheese - I found this goat cheese at Superstore, but most stores should carry something similar. Feel free to substitute with regular goat cheese if you don't have any on hand though.

Cranberry Orange Vinaigrette Ingredients:

1 cup fresh or frozen cranberries
1/4 cup red wine or apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
1/2 cup fresh orange juice
2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp. salt
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste


Prepare the cranberry orange vinaigrette by combining the cranberries, vinegar, and maple syrup in a small pot over medium heat until the cranberries burst, about 7-10 minutes. Allow the cranberry mixture to cool slightly, then place into a blender or small food processor with the orange juice, olive oil, and salt. Blend until smooth. Taste and add pepper and additional salt if desired. If it is too tart for your tastes then add a little bit more maple syrup until it is to your liking. Place the vinaigrette in the refrigerator to chill while you prepare the salad. Store leftover dressing refrigerated in airtight container for up to one week.

Combine your desired amount of salad greens, pear, walnuts, and dried cranberries into a large serving bowl. Leave the goat cheese out at this point because if you add it before mixing the dressing in then it gets soft and just kind of smears on the lettuce, rather than staying together in large chunks. 

Spoon the prepared cranberry orange vinaigrette dressing over the salad and toss until well coated. Finally, gently crumble the goat cheese into the salad. Serve immediately. 

*Recipe by Brooke McMillan

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