Endive and Warm Pear Salad with Stilton

I've recently been cooking and photographing recipes from Mark Bittman's extensive archive for his website. This week I took on the bold flavors of Bittman's Endive and Warm Pear Salad with Stilton.

Bitter meets sweet in this perfectly balanced end-of-summer dish. Fresh endive and watercress lay a crisp foundation for sweet cooked pears and crumbled blue cheese. The pears are browned with shallots and perfumed with maple syrup, yielding a result sweet enough to be served a la mode. Atop a bed of greens the pears steer toward savory, but add the right amount of sweetness to mellow the bitter greens.

Blue cheese hasn’t particularly agreed with my palate in the past, though I must admit, the use of Stilton in this dish has reformed me. Both firmer and milder than some of its substitutes, English Stilton contributes a pungent flavor without being too distracting. It simultaneously acts as the salty foil to the sweet pears while cutting the bitterness of the greens.

Though a cast of strong personalities, each element in the salad is balanced beautifully by its counterpart. Recipe from Mark Bittman’s Kitchen Express; see it here.

[From Mark Bittman's Kitchen Express]

Cut three or four pears into eights; toss them with a couple of tablespoons of olive oil, along with some salt and pepper. Thinly slice a shallot. Cook the pears and shallot in a skillet over medium-high heat until the pears are browning and the shallot slices are wilted; add a tablespoon of maple syrup during the last 30 seconds or so of cooking. Toss the warm pan mixture, and any remaining juices, in a bowl with endive and watercress (or any other greens you like), along with more olive oil and a bit of sherry vinegar. Garnish with crumbled Stilton and serve.

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