I was reviewing my Thanksgiving menu and thought, hey, that's all a lot of heavy food. Maybe a salad would be good here?
Thing is, to stand up next to all that goodness on the table, it can't just be any salad. Fortunately, this one can be made ahead and just assembled day of.
The first step is the brittle. You can eat this plain, too. And you can make it several days ahead — just hide it so you have some for the salads.
Pecan-Pumpkin Seed Brittle
8 oz. raw pumpkin seeds, pepitas
8 oz. pecan pieces
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1 1/2 cups organic cane sugar
2 tbs. molasses
1 tsp. Chinese 5-spice powder or pumpkin pie spice
You'll need a silicon mat positioned on a baking sheet. Spread the pecans and pumpkin seeds out in a thin layer over the silicon mat. Thin is best for the brittle to harden well. Sprinkle the pecans and seeds with the salt.
Put the sugar and molasses in a saucepan over medium heat. Only stir enough to prevent burning, otherwise, as the Beatles sing, let it be. When it becomes a deep brown liquid, stir in the spice powder. Then, pour it in a thin layer over the top of the pecans and pumpkin seeds. It should cool rapidly and harden. Carefully break it into pieces (sharp edges!) when it is hard.
For the rest of the salad, you'll need:
6 cups of peppery greens, some arugula in the mix is good, toss this with:
2 tbs. olive oil
couple grinds of black pepper
For the garnish:
4 oz. Gorgonzola crumbles
4-6 pears peeled, prepared for poaching, see below
1/2 bottle muscadet wine
1 cinnamon stick
1 star anise
1 white cardamom pod
4 whole cloves
After poaching, you will need 1/4 cup honey.
Poach the pears in the wine for about 20 minutes, or until soft. Remove from the liquid and cool. Halve, core when cooled, then slice each half into four lengthwise. Strain the poaching liquid back into the a saucepan. Add 1/4 cup honey. Return to heat and then reduce this liquid to a syrup consistency.
If you are making ahead, store the pear slices in the wine and honey syrup in the refrigerator.
Before service, divide the greens among plates, top each with equal amounts of pear slices. Drizzle the syrup on each plate. Top with the gorgonzola and brittle pieces.