Watercress, Pear & Pecan Salad
A sensational winter salad...that's all I have to say...
1-2 bunches watercress, rinsed, left whole
2 ripe pears
3-4 tablespoons mirin
1 cinnamon stick
2/3 cup pecan pieces, lightly toasted
1 cup unsweetened, dried cranberries
2-3 tablespoons brown rice syrup
grated zest of 1 lemon
pinch sea salt
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, warmed over low heat for 2-3 minutes
3 tablespoons umeboshi or red wine vinegar
2 teaspoons stoneground mustard
1 tablespoon brown rice syrup
Bring a pot of water to a boil and quickly blanche watercress, cooking 30 seconds to minute. Drain well and plunge into a bowl of ice water to refresh (this maintains color and stops the cooking process--I use this when cooking delicate greens). Slice thinly and set side. Halve and seed the pears. Arrange the cut halves in a deep skillet with about 1/4-inch water. Add mirin and cinnamon stick, cover and bring to a gentle boil over medium heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer until the pears are tender, not too mushy, 15-20 minutes. Remove pears and set aside to cool.
Prepare the cranberries by placing the them in a small sauce pan. Add rice syrup, lemon zest and salt. Cook over medium heat until the syrup foams. Stir in lemon juice, transfer to a small plate and set aside. Prepare the dressing by warming the oil--this improves digestion. Combine the warmed oil with the balance of ingredients, whisking until smooth.
To serve the salad, arrange equal amounts of watercress on individual salad plates. Take each pear half and create a fan--slice the half thinly, leaving the top half-inch of each pear piece intact. Press gently to fan the pieces. Place on top of the watercress. Surround each pear with toasted pecan pieces and candied cranberries. Just before serving, spoon some dressing over top the salad. Serve immediately.
Makes 4 servings.