Salad Tulipe is named for the plate presentation of Bibb lettuce/Boston Butter Leaf. Using the whole leaves, overlapping one another, is reminiscent of fresh tulip petals. The flavor profile of poached pears, quality blue cheese and toasted walnuts is one of those made in heaven. Layering the Bibb lettuce with the walnuts, Point Reyes Original Blue Cheese and dressing makes for a beautiful presentation and is super easy to do.
In this case, for a formal dinner, the salad is cut with a knife and fork, then mixed to bring all of the elements together. The object is to make a beautiful presentation without getting super complicated, which is something I think every home cook can pull off. Since there are so few ingredients to this salad, using quality blue cheese like Point Reyes Original Blue Cheese is important. There are several brands of quality creamy blue cheese out there. Just pick your favorite.
While I’m not a fan of deconstructed dishes, this one is just on the edge of that genre by using whole leaves. Still another way to eat this luscious salad is by utilizing the whole lettuce leaves as a wrap. Add a few dots of blue cheese, toasted walnuts, and walnut dressing with a bit of poached pear in the center and you have a savory vegetarian taco. This makes an excellent wine party appetizer.
Salad Tulipe with Poached Bartlett Pears and Point Reyes Original Blue Cheese
For best results, use just-ripe pears. Bartlett, Bosc or Anjou work best when poaching. You can use hard pears if you increase the time they cook in the wine to soften them. The idea is to end up with a pear, just soft enough that it can still be cut and still holds together. In this recipe I'm using red wine since I like the color contrast with the green lettuce, but if you prefer you can use white wine instead.
Salad Tulipe Assembly for each salad
- 5-6 leaves butter leaf lettuce, aka bibb lettuce, cleaned and leaves separated
- 2 tbsp walnuts, toasted, slightly crushed
- 2-3 oz. blue cheese like Point Reyes
- 1/2 whole pear, poached, sliced
- 3 tbsp walnut dressing
Poaching Pears in red wine
Combine the wine, sugar, star anise, cinnamon and vanilla bean in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Cook, stirring, for 2 minutes or until sugar dissolves. Add the pears and bring to the boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer, turning occasionally, for 1 hour or until pears are tender. Use a slotted spoon to transfer pears to a heatproof bowl.
Increase heat to high and bring the syrup up to a boil. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes or until the syrup thickens slightly. Pour over the pears and set aside for 10 minutes to cool. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the fridge for 4 hours or overnight to chill.
Add all of the dressing ingredients to a shaker with a tight fitting lid. Shake vigorously until mixed. Reserve till needed. Shake before using.
Preheat an oven to 375 degrees.
Add 2/3 cup of raw shelled walnuts to a baking sheet and insert into oven for 6 minutes to 8 minutes maximum. When the walnuts are slightly toasted and fragrant, remove them from the baking sheet and allow to cool. Just before service, crush the walnuts with your hands as you add them to the salad.
Salad Tulipe Assembly
Wash and prepare Bibb lettuce leaves. Carefully disconnect each leaf at the root and trim the excess at the bottom. Each individual Bibb lettuce should provide 2 or 3 servings, so keep this in mind when working up how much you will need.
Place a lettuce leaf in the center of a chilled salad plate. Top with a few crushed, toasted walnuts, dabs of the Point Reyes Original Blue Cheese and a little bit of the Walnut Dressing.
Repeat the process above until you have stacked 5 or 6 layers of the lettuce leaves/walnut/cheese/dressing.
Add the sliced poached pears around the bottom of the salad and drizzle with a little bit of the reduced wine mixture. Dot the plate with more of the Point Reyes Blue Cheese Original, crushed walnuts and drizzle the whole thing with a little more of the walnut dressing.
Be sure to always use fresh walnuts. Fresh walnuts only have a shelf life of 6 months in the pantry or 1-2 years if kept tightly sealed and frozen.
Make sure the pears are cooked until soft, if you are using unripe ones. If you suspect they are a little hard or under cooked, slice a small sliver off and taste it.