On the days when I’m not playing in the kitchen, a large part of my work is helping Maine farmers increase their sales and profitability. Connecting farms to additional wholesale markets, developing value-added products that meet consumer demand, designing commercial kitchens and integrating food safety into farm management is all part of the mix.
To have this opportunity to empower the next generation of farmers and ensure that Maine has a safe and secure food system is rewarding work. But for me as a chef, the best part is all about the food.
Learning about new tomato varieties, harvesting perfectly ripe fruit, evaluating the growth of baby spinach in hoop houses and taste-testing bolero, atlas and sugarsnax carrots is both exciting and delicious. After a day of farm visits, I’m energized and ready to cook.
The recipe for Autumn Pear Salad was inspired by a bag of frilly salad greens from Bahner Farms in Belmont and pears grown at Sewall Orchard in Lincolnville. As with many preparations, this recipe is merely a guide. The combination of sweet, ripe fruit, creamy, sharp cheese and toasted nuts is so satisfying that our family often enjoys a salad like this for dessert.
The salad dressing, a combination of olive oil, balsamic vinegar and mustard is sweetened with maple syrup. For a different flavor, try raspberry vinegar, chive blossom or tarragon. Vary your greens with spinach or watercress. No pears? Try apples with smoked Gouda cheese. Nut allergy? Toasted sunflower seeds are the perfect match.
Farmers are amazing people, people we need to cherish and support. Fortunately for us here in Maine, enjoying local food is easy and delicious.
AUTUMN PEAR SALAD
- 2 ripe pears
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 6 cups salad greens
- 1/3 cup dried cranberries
- 2 ounces cheese blue, Gorgonzola, feta, Parmesan, Gouda, crumbled or shredded
- ½ red onion thinly sliced
- 1/3 cup toasted slivered almonds or nut of your choice
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 teaspoons grainy mustard
- 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 1 tablespoon Maine maple syrup
- sea salt and fresh pepper to taste
To prepare the dressing:
- Combine the olive oil, mustard, vinegar and maple syrup in a small jar with a tight-fitting lid. Shake vigorously to blend. Taste and add sea salt and fresh pepper.
To prepare the salad:
- Core the pears and cut into bite-sized chunks. Sprinkle with lemon juice to keep from browning.
- Add the greens to a large salad bowl. Top with the red onion and dried cranberries. Add the pears. Crumble the cheese over the top and sprinkle the nuts. Pour the dressing over the salad and coat evenly.