In what feels like an instant, summer has passed and we find ourselves squarely in the midst of fall. The onset of overnight frost will soon compromise the summer’s bounty, thus making way for heartier, cold-weather crops. Before long, farmers market tables will be brimming with cabbages, winter squash, and root crops. Goodbye salad bowl, hello roasting pan—the transition to fall is in bloom.
In Japan, the first pear harvest signals the dawn of fall—it’s basically the Japanese version of pumpkin spice and yoga pants. This year, I plan to borrow from the Japanese tradition and celebrate our locally grown Asian pears.
The name “Asian pear” refers to not one specific fruit, but a variety of genetically similar cultivars native to East Asia. Marked by their applelike appearance (they’re sometimes referred to as apple pears), Asian pears are sweet with notes of butterscotch and cinnamon. The pear’s brownish-green skin and grainy flesh is best eaten raw, as its structure cannot withstand long periods of dry heat.
I considered pureeing the pear for a bulgogi marinade or julienning for slaw, but settled on a different approach altogether. Instead, I used the pear to highlight some classic fall flavors in an arugula salad with bresaola and manchego. In this dish, I worked to offset the candylike sweetness of the pears with salty and/or smoky components—enter salty meat and toasted squash seeds. For those who haven’t encountered bresaola, it’s an Italian-style salt-cured beef that pairs beautifully with peppery arugula and ripe fruit. The manchego (Spanish sheep’s milk cheese) adds a nutty element and jives beautifully with the sherry vinaigrette.
Arugula Salad with Bresaola and Manchego Ingredients
1.5 cups arugula (loosely packed)
1.5 cups frisee (loosely packed)
1-2 ripe Asian pears
2 ounces thinly sliced bresaola
1.5-2 ounces shaved manchego
4 tablespoons butternut-squash seeds (rinsed and cleaned)
Drizzle of olive oil (or favorite vegetable oil)
For Sherry Vinaigrette:
6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1.5 tablespoons sherry vinegar
1 teaspoon grainy mustard
1 slice of lemon
Salt and pepper
Preheat oven to 300 F. Make sure squash seeds are bone dry and arrange them on a baking dish.
Drizzle with your favorite vegetable oil and salt and toast for 15 minutes. The seeds will begin to pop when done.
Add vinegar, mustard, and a squeeze of lemon to a bowl or food processor. Slowly whisk in olive oil. Add salt and pepper to taste. Before serving the dressing, add an additional squeeze of lemon.
Plate the lettuce. Top the greens with bresaola, manchego, and sliced pears. Sprinkle with the cooled toasted seeds.
Dress the salad immediately before serving.