Living the Fantasy
I love pear salad and lately I have been seeing local pears everywhere! After enjoying pears prepared many different ways in restaurants and at a potluck dinner, I began fantasizing about creating a Thai pear salad. Then I had dinner two months ago at the Typhoon Thai Restaurant in Redmond and ordered their sumptuous pear salad—a well-balanced combination of palm sugar, lime juice and fish sauce dressing with fried dry shrimp and cashew nuts for texture. I loved the crisper textured pear that was used. After seeing the creation designed by Chef Bo, the executive chef and owner of Typhoon, I was determined to come up with my own.
I started with the theme of a pear and walnut salad, but added some interesting flavors. First I decided to use a Comice pear. It is buttery-sweet and has a soft texture that allows the pear juice to mix in well with the salad dressing. Then I thought about the nut part of the salad. Walnuts are a traditional addition to American pear salads, and what came to my mind was coconut milk-palm sugar candied walnuts with a hint of Asian spice. They turned out great, with even greater potential for future cooking. I added these ingredients to my shopping list, but it was only when I was at the market that my salad really took shape. I picked up a 5-ounce box of herb salad mix and one bunch of fresh cilantro to provide the base for a mixed salad with a nice Asian touch. Then I chose an orange bell pepper for color. I would julienne it so thin that it would lace around the pear and no longer taste like bell pepper, but when mixed in with the salad dressing it would provide contrasting color as well as a gentle crunch. Finally I chose some shallots, something which my Thai family and I always put in salads.
Palm Sugar Candied Walnuts2 tablespoons coconut nut milk 2 tablespoons palm sugar 2 pinches cardamom powder 1 cup walnuts
Preheat oven to 350F. Lay parchment paper over baking sheet.
To make quick and easy caramel, combine coconut milk, palm sugar and cardamom powder in a small saucepan and stir well. Place on a burner over high heat. When the mixture has thickened, about 3 minutes, remove from the heat and stir in walnuts until they are well covered with caramel. Pour the walnuts onto the parchment paper and spread them out. Put in the oven and bake until golden, about 8 minutes. Remove and let cool.
In the U.S. you can grow calamansi, a citrus fruit, as an ornamental house plant. In Seattle, I purchased frozen Golden Calamansi juice from the Philippines in a package of twelve .5-ounce packets. I was so delighted to learn that calamasi is related to both of my favorite citrus families: kumquats and mandarins, and I thought it would make an excellent emergency substitute for lime juice. And then I discovered by chance that the calamansi juice in my freezer provided the perfect zing for my pear salad. The aromatic, gentle, sweet and sour calamansi citrus juice was my choice for the sour agent for this salad. I don’t want to disappoint anyone, however, so on my second attempt at this pear salad I created a substitute for calamansi juice that will turn out quite divine, though not so heavenly as with calamansi juice. I used 1½ tablespoons lemon juice and 1½ tablespoons of freshly squeezed orange juice, then I decided to zest the orange peel to get ¼ teaspoon orange zest to add citrus aromatics to the juice.
Now that my fantasy of a pear salad is laid out with all its mouth-watering components, let’s get cooking and living the fantasy! Happy Thanksgiving to you all!
Pear Salad with Calamansi Salad Dressing and Palm Sugar Candied Walnut
I love pear salad. It is the sweet and fragrance of the pear that makes it so appealing and it is easy to blend in any citrus sour-sweet dressing. I love to add a little bit of fish sauce in my Thai salad dressing for the depth of the flavor. Combining lemon and orange juice makes a good substitute for calamasi juice and brown sugar is a good substitute for palm sugar in this recipe. Therefore, I hope you can make this recipe work without an extra trip to an Asian market. I hope you have a chance to create this dish anytime and especially to share with family and friends as a Thanksgiving salad. Cheers!Serves: 6 1 (5-ounce) package fresh herb salad mix ½ cup cilantro leaves 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided ¼ teaspoon sea salt ¼ teaspoon freshly crushed black pepper ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes 1 teaspoon brown or palm sugar 1 tablespoon fish sauce 3 tablespoons calamansi juice (or 1½ tablespoons lemon juice plus 1½ tablespoons orange juice and ¼ teaspoon orange zest) 1 orange bell pepper, thinly sliced 1 large shallot, peeled and thinly sliced 3 comice pears, peeled, halved, cored and sliced 1 cup palm sugar candied walnuts, from recipe above
Combine fresh herb salad mix and cilantro leaves together in a salad bowl, then pour 1 tablespoon olive oil over the greens, gently combining them by hand until they are well-coasted with olive oil. Place on 6 salad plates.
To make Calamansi salad dressing, whisk together remaining olive oil, sea salt, black pepper, red pepper flakes, brown sugar, fish sauce and calamansi juice in a large bowl until well-blended. Gently fold in bell pepper, shallots and pears, then place pear salad equally over the greens. Garnish with the candied walnuts.© 2011 Pranee Khruasanit Halvorsen I Love Thai cooking Pranee teaches Thai Cooking classes in the Seattle area. Her website is: I Love Thai cooking.com .