This salad is easy to do in a few steps, and has a wonderful balance of flavors and textures, and looks beautiful:
1 small bag baby spinach
1 D' Anjou pear (or firm pear of your choice)
1/3 to 1/2 cup creamy blue cheese, cut into bite sized pieces, and chilled until ready to use.
1/2 cup dried cranberries
Grated zest and juice of 1/2 medium-sized orange
1 cup candied walnuts (recipe to follow) (You can substitute plain roasted pecans, or candied pecans instead if you are not fond of walnuts)
Freshly ground black pepper and salt to taste
Remove zest from 1/2 of an orange, and then juice the half orange. Put cranberries into a bowl, add orange zest and juice, add a few grinds of coarsely ground black pepper, cover to just the top of cranberries with balsamic vinegar, add a couple pinches of salt and let sit for an hour or longer.
Cut rind off blue cheese, and cut into bite-sized pieces.
For walnuts, in a heavy non-stick pan, melt 1/3 cup raw or white sugar, add 1 cup walnut halves and peices and stir to coat. Pour onto a well oiled plate, and when cool enough to handle separate walnuts into individual pieces. The sugar will be sticky at first but dries into a clear hard sugar coating.
When ready to serve salad, add bag of baby spinach to a large mixing bowl. Slice washed and cored pear into thin slices and add to spinach. Top with chilled blue cheese.
Add 2 tablespoons olive oil to cranberry mixture, stir well, taste for salt (should have enough salt to be quite savory), and then add to spinach mixture. Stir well. The spinach will wilt down considerably.
Add 3/4 cup walnuts, stir again, transfer to serving bowl, top with remaining walnuts for garnish, and enjoy!
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