Polenta strips make an unusual alternative to croutons in this delicious salad that combines the mellow sweetness of pears with the crunch of toasted pecans. Prepared polenta is available in the produce section of many supermarkets. It is sold in a log-shaped package. A shelf-stable cooked polenta is also available and can be found in the dried pasta section of many supermarkets.
1 (16-ounce) package precooked polenta
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus additional
for brushing the polenta
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 cups fresh mixed baby greens
¼ cup chopped red onion
¼ cup minced celery
2 ripe pears
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed
½ teaspoon light brown sugar
½ cup toasted pecans (page 21)
Preheat the oven to 400°F. Cut the polenta into ¼-inch-thick slices, then cut the slices into ¼-inch-thick strips. Place on a nonstick baking sheet, brush lightly with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and bake, turning once, until slightly crisp, about 15 minutes total. Set aside to cool.
While the polenta is baking, make the salad. Place the greens in a large bowl. Add the red onion and celery. Peel, core, and dice or thinly slice the pears and place in a separate bowl. Add 1 tablespoon of the lemon juice and toss to combine. Add about three-quarters of the pears to the salad, reserving about one quarter of the diced pears.
Puree the reserved diced pears in a food processor. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons lemon juice, the brown sugar, and salt and pepper to taste. With the machine running, add the ¼ cup olive oil until blended. Pour the dressing over the salad and toss gently to combine. Sprinkle the salad with the pecans and top with the polenta strips.