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Make This Salad

Fun fact: Unlike European varieties of pears, the Asian pear remains firm to the touch when ripe. (Julia Ewan -- The Washington Post)

Georgetown's 1789 Restaurant has a tempting, apple-y tasting menu on offer this month, but it's hard to top what exec chef Daniel Giusti does with fruit in the Pear Salad on the regular menu. Spiced port vinaigrette, Asian and Bartlett pears, the slightly bitter complements of frisee and endive, prosciutto and a wonderful domestic blue cheese hit all the right notes together.

Recipe Included

Refinements such as the spiced wine reduction, Surryano ham and that cheese, which is smoked over hazelnut shells, put the salad "over the top," the chef says. "It all tastes like fall." The salad will be on the menu for about three more weeks.

The dish is just sweet enough to satisfy those who take their salads at the end of a meal. It's a good way to introduce Asian pears in your household, if you're not already acquainted; farmers markets were full of them this weekend and they're available in grocery stores as well. Giusti's salad would make a lovely first course at Thanksgiving.

-- Bonnie Benwick

1789 Pear Salad
4 servings

The blue cheese used here is available at Calvert Woodley (202-966-4400) and Cowgirl Creamery (202-393-6880) in Northwest Washington and Cheesetique (703-706-5300) in Alexandria.

MAKE AHEAD: You’ll make more vinaigrette than you need for this salad. It can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 1 week.

From Daniel Giusti, executive chef at 1789 Restaurant in Northwest Washington.

For the vinaigrette
1 cup port
3 whole cloves
1 cinnamon stick
1 whole star anise
5 whole black peppercorns
1 sprig thyme
1 bay leaf
I teaspoon Dijon-style mustard
1 cup olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper

For the salad
2 small heads of frisee lettuce, washed, dried and torn into large pieces
Leaves from 2 heads of endive, washed and dried (use red endive as well, if available)
1 ripe Bartlett pear, cored and cut lengthwise into quarters and then into 1/4-inch slices
1 Asian pear, cored, cut into quarters and then into 1/4-inch slices
4 thin slices prosciutto (may substitute high-quality country ham)
4 ounces blue cheese, preferably Smokey Blue from Rogue Creamery (see headnote)

For the vinaigrette: Combine the port, cloves, cinnamon stick, peppercorns, star anise, thyme and bay leaf in a small saucepan over medium to medium-high heat. Cook for 10 to 15 minutes, until it the mixture is fragrant and has reduced by two–thirds. Strain into a large liquid measuring cup, discarding the solids, and cool to room temperature.

Whisk in the mustard, then the oil, in a slow, steady stream to form an emulsion. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

For the salad: Combine the endive and frisee in a mixing bowl. Add half of the vinaigrette and toss to coat evenly. Season lightly with salt and pepper; add vinaigrette as needed.

Lay one long slice of prosciutto on each salad plate. Arrange the pear slices on top of the prosciutto in an alternating, overlapping pattern. Distribute equal portions of the dressed greens over the pears, then crumble equal amounts of blue cheese over the greens. Drizzle with more vinaigrette, if desired. Serve immediately.

By The Food Section  |  October 12, 2009; 12:30 PM ET
Categories:  Chefs , Recipes  | Tags: Bonnie Benwick, Daniel Giusti, recipes  
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