Gourmet Galley: Pear salad

Corinne Cook

Advocate staff photo by HEATHER MCCLELLAND -- Cream cheese, pecans and cranberries update this version of a traditional pear salad.
Advocate staff photo by HEATHER MCCLELLAND -- Cream cheese, pecans and cranberries update this version of a traditional pear salad.

This is an updated version of your mother’s pear salad. Pear halves are topped with a cream cheese and pecan ball, and over that is a spoonful of cooked fresh cranberries. The pear sits on a leaf or bed of lettuce. This is attractive and so tasty.

The cream cheese has to be thinned with a little milk, juice or a splash of Grand Marnier. I added pear juice and a little Grand Marnier. You can thin it with anything you like or have handy.

I made the cream cheese ball slightly smaller then a walnut. The easiest way is to simply roll it in the palms of your hands, then place it in the center of the pear.

I was in a hurry and made this salad with canned Lite Del Monte pear halves, and that worked fine. I shimmed up each half with wedges of a second pear on each side to hold it upright. The larger pear halves I left singly.

The cranberries are sweetened and cooked with a little cornstarch or flour for thickening. You can cook them ahead of time and have them at room temperature.

I suggest you wait until right before serving to add the cranberries to the salad because the cranberries will discolor the pear if it’s done too far in advance.

There are so many delicious fresh pears in the market. If you have perfectly ripe pears, use a fresh pear half, or fresh pears can be peeled, cored and halved and poached in water with sugar and a strip of fresh lemon or orange rind. The time for poaching will depend on the variety of pear. A firm Anjou takes 15 to 25 minutes.