About Diane Marie

I've lived in big cities on both coasts of the US and learned how to dive in to "the Great Conversation" with a classical early education. Later I lived in Latin America and Asia and broadened my knowledge base and perspective. I learned myself and taught students with the scientific method and the shared inquiry approach. Today I find myself thinking that if more people had those tools at hand, public discourse could not only be more civil but also more productive.

Midwinter Salads

PEAR AND BLUE CHEESE SALAD

My husband liked things with strong tastes, like anchovies and blue cheese. When I was young I did not, so he tried to find ways to sneak them into our menu. After I went to cooking school, he browsed through my Cordon Bleu magazines and asked me to make a winter pear salad. I didn’t realize Roquefort was a blue cheese, at all, no less one considered the king of blue cheeses. So I said yes.

As soon as I looked at the cheese in the market, I saw the blue veins running through and, I knew they were filled with mold. It is a deliberately cultivated mold, but none the less mold and I knew a few things about mold. In college, trying to replicate Alexander Fleming’s accidental discovery of a wonder drug from mold. I put pieces of left-over food in Petri Dishes to see which grew what kind of mold. The most prolific molds were on bread–a cloud of white strands–and on grapefruit rind, a pile of blue green lumps. But when I opened the containers in my mothers kitchen, the smell was so strong that she appeared in moments to check out what was going on. She told me in no uncertain terms to cover my sample back up, seal them closed and throw them out. So I never found out if I grew penicillin successfully or not. (

Roquefort’s tang comes partly from being sheep’s cheese, but also from its distinctive mold. It is in the penicillin family, though it apparently lacks its curative power. Roquefort’s mold grows in the soil of caves in France where the cheese was traditionally aged. The mold doesn’t grow directly on the cheese, but is cultivated by leaving bread in the cave which picks it up—perhaps originally by happy accident. After a few weeks after the mold had consumed the original bread and its remains are crumbled into a powder that is placed in holes puncturing the rind around the cheese. Perhaps now you understand my hesitation with blue cheeses–there is such a thing as knowing too much about your food. But I had given my word that I would make the salad and I did.

But of course the French knew exactly what they were doing with this salad. The juiciness of the pear contrasts with the pungency of the cheese. Here I have gone for lower fat, but you could make it with candied walnuts and real Roquefort for the full effect Your ideas for other midwinter salads would be most welcome! Just click the thought bubble on the right side, above the post.

Blue Cheese and Pear Salad

Prep Time20 mins
Servings: 1

Ingredients

  • 1/2 Bartlett or Anjou pear cut into chunks
  • 2 cups spinach and arugula mix
  • 1/2 lemon
  • 1 tbsp walnut pieces
  • 1 1/2 tbsp low fat crumbled blue cheese
  • 1/2 Tbs olive or walnut oil
  • 1 tsp lemon juice from lemon above
  • 1/8 tsp powdered mustard
  • salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

  • Wash greens, soak in ice water for a few minutes to crisp.  Drain and spin dry thoroughly
  • Wash pear. Cut in half, remove core and seeds. (If you have a nice ripe pear, you should be able to take out the center with your measuring teaspoon.) Cut the pear into chunks. Sprinkle them with lemon juice.
  • In a small bowl, mix oil, 1 tsp lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste. Add powdered mustard and whisk briskly. Dress the greens. Toss them with the walnut and cheese crumbles. Gently fold in the pear. A large salad for one or a side salad for two. 

Notes