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Pear Arugula Salad with Dates and Parmesan

Last week was Restaurant Week in Boston, and you can rest assured that John and I took full advantage of the 3 course prix fixe menus offered throughout the city and surrounding suburbs. The first on our list was Rialto, a regional Italian-themed restaurant nestled into the Charles Hotel in Harvard Square.

The meal overall was pretty good – but my first course selection was stellar! The salad consisted of tender fresh greens, sweet chewy dates, salty parmesan cheese, and a rich maple dressing. After relishing in the delicious combination of flavors and textures, I chastised myself for not coming up with something similar on my own. Clearly, I had to recreate this masterpiece at home.

As I was gathering together the necessary ingredients, a bowlful of beautiful ripe pears on the counter caught my eye, and inspiration struck; I knew they would make the salad not only even tastier, but more filling as well.

Medjool dates, how I love thee! Plump, chewy, and unbelievably naturally sweet – medjool dates are one of my favorite foods. Why have I not been adding them to salads? I will be from now on.

After slicing the pears and chopping the dates, I whipped up a simple vinaigrette consisting of olive oil, lemon juice, maple syrup, and mustard. This is one of my go-to homemade salad dressings, but I play around with the ratios depending on what type of salad I’m making. I went a bit heavy on the maple syrup for this particular dressing, as this salad is meant to be a sweet one.

The shavings of parmesan cheese provide the perfect salty flavor counterpoint to the sweet maple syrup, dates, and pears; and I love the aesthetic value they give to the salad.

Oh! I almost forgot to mention the base of the salad, which is my newest edible obsession: arugula. The peppery bite adds so much flavor to salads. If you’re not a fan, you can sub in baby spinach or romaine lettuce; but I urge you to give arugula a try.

Pear Arugula Salad with Dates and Parmesan

Printer-Friendly Recipe

serves 2

  • 1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tsp pure maple syrup, preferably Grade B
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced
  • 1 tsp coarse ground mustard (or Dijon)
  • 4 cups arugula, washed and dried, preferably organic
  • 4 large soft Medjool dates, pitted and chopped
  • 1 ripe but firm pear (I used Anjou), cored and thinly sliced
  • a few shavings of fresh parmesan cheese

Directions:

  1. In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, maple syrup, lemon juice, and mustard until emulsified. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  2. Toss the arugula with the dressing. Gently toss in the chopped dates and sliced pears. Garnish with parmesan shavings.

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