Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Mixed greens and pear salad with blackberry dressing, walnuts, and stinky cheese toasts with grilled sausages

I was lying in bed a couple of nights ago catching up on my DVR'd cooking shows (what, doesn't everyone watch cooking shows in bed before going to sleep?) and as soon as I saw Emeril making this salad, I had to have it. And soon. I added the pears, because they're awesome. Also, I just so happen to own a bottle of local blackberry infused white balsamic vinegar from Texas Olive Ranch that I was dying to use. If you don't have blackberry vinegar, I'm sure you could substitute any other fruit vinegar (mmm, fig?) or just balsamic.

I'm a big fan of fruit in salads, particularly if there is cheese involved. Fruit and cheese are one blissfully happy couple, so who am I to deny they be together? I'm a cheese person, though. Some people spend money on clothes, some people on fancy cars, me? You can find me and my wallet in the cheese section of Central Market. I will be the person smelling everything and happily forking over $35 for three tiny moist lumps of clotted milk.

This was an as-yet untried Italian variety called "La Tur", made from a mixture of goat, cow, and sheep's milk. It was marvelously creamy and smelly. It shall be purchased again.

I was going to get kebabs to round this meal out, but the sausages just looked so much better and were on sale to boot. I got all kinds - one jalapeno and cheddar, one blue cheese and cashew, one spinach and feta, etc. This is my idea of a perfect dinner: a big interesting salad, warm cheesy toasts, a little bubbly wine and a variety of grilled meat to sample. Heaven!

2 containers fresh blackberries, rinsed
2 tsp shallots, minced
1 small garlic clove, minced
1 tbsp honey
1 tsp Dijon mustard
3 tbsp blackberry vinegar
few tbsps olive oil
several cups mixed greens (I used one of those big plastic containers), washed and spun dry
2 pears, quartered and sliced thin
1/4 cup walnuts, chopped and toasted
1 baguette, sliced on the bias
8 oz cheese, a nice creamy melty one - Brie would have been nice, as would my all time favorite, Humboldt Fog

an assortment of sausages or kebabs

Preheat your grill on high. Go ahead and pop your sausages or kebabs on as soon as it's nice and hot. Also set your oven on low broil.

This is a pretty quick one. Slice the baguette and arrange on a baking sheet. Top each slice with a wedge of your beautiful cheese and broil until the cheese has melted and is just starting to brown. Turn off the broiler, but let the toasts stay in the warm oven (do check on them in a minute to make sure the oven isn't so hot they keep toasting - you just want them to stay warm).

Toast your walnuts in a dry pan for a few minutes, then give them a rough chop. Combine one container of the blackberries along with the shallot, garlic, honey, Dijon, and blackberry or balsamic vinegar in your food processor and blend until everything looks pretty fine. Strain through a fine mesh sieve into a mixing bowl, then whisk the oil into the dressing in a steady stream to form an emulsion. [I almost never use as much oil as "they" say, by the way. I just whisk until it feels and looks right, thickened and glossy.] Give it a good pinch of kosher salt and grind of fresh black pepper. Slice the pears and fill your salad bowls with the rinsed mixed greens. Divide the pear slices and other container of blackberries among the bowls and sprinkle with the walnuts. 

Once the sausages are ready, lightly dress your salads with a spoonful or two of blackberry vinaigrette and a couple of pieces of cheesy toast. Arrange the sausage on a plate in the center of the table and encourage everyone to slice off a few bites of each.

Serves 4, takes about half an hour. Be nice and share your pears with the dogs.

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