Tender greens topped with roast pears, spiced nuts, and a sultry vanilla vinaigrette would make a gorgeous addition to your holiday table.
There’s an ice cream stand not too far from our house that has the most amazing selection. My standard order is one scoop of cajun strawberry and one scoop of horchata on a chocolate cookie cone. It’s so good – but what else would you expect from an ice cream place that literally serves six different varieties of vanilla? They definitely understand the nuances of flavor.
We usually associate vanilla with sweet recipes, but it’s warm, musky flavor is just as suitable for savory dishes. When Nielsen-Massey challenged me to create a side dish featuring vanilla, it didn’t take me very long to brainstorm a whole page of ideas. I finally settled on this simple salad topped with vanilla vinaigrette. It would be lovely on your Thanksgiving table or as part of your holiday meal, or you can add prosciutto and serve it as a light lunch.
Vanilla is featured throughout this recipe – it’s in the butter that I used to roast the pears, on the spiced nuts, and in the vinaigrette. Although bourbon vanilla (what you probably have in your baking cabinet) would be fine for this salad, it’s a great reason to try out a different variety. I chose to use Nielsen-Massey’s Mexican vanilla, which has a deep, earthy flavor and a slightly spicy undertone similar to cloves. It’s delicious in sweet recipes, but it really shines in savory recipes (try adding a splash to your favorite tomato soup!)
The pears and spiced pecans in this salad contribute a sweetness that makes the vanilla seem warm and familiar, but spicy greens, creamy cheese, and plenty of freshly cracked black pepper keep thing firmly on the savory side of the flavor spectrum. I like to serve it on mâche (also known as lamb’s lettuce), a tender green with a mildly spicy, nutty flavor. You could also use a mild lettuce, like butter lettuce, mixed with endive.
I created this recipe for my client, Nielsen-Massey. Thank you for supporting the brands that keep me inspired in the kitchen and help bring you creative new recipes.