We set out to make a cobb salad but got distracted by some of our favorite nibbles -- slices of pear, toasted walnuts, pickled onions. The result is a salad that's so much fun you barely notice it's a well-balanced meal. For a dramatic presentation, arrange the ingredients in strips over the lettuce, cobb-salad style, then toss the salad at the table.
- 1 cup walnut pieces
- 1 baking potato (about 1/2 pound), peeled and cut into 3/4-inch pieces
- 1/2 pound Roquefort or other blue cheese, crumbled
- 1/4 cup wine vinegar
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper
- 1/2 cup mild oil, such as canola
- 1 head romaine lettuce (about 1 1/4 pounds), cut crosswise into 1/2-inch strips (about 3 quarts)
- 2 bunches watercress (about 10 ounces in all), tough stems removed, leaves chopped (about 1 quart)
- 1 cup drained cocktail onions
- 1 avocado, preferably Hass, cut into 1/2-inch dice
- 1 pear, peeled, cored, and sliced
- 1. In a small frying pan, toast the nuts over moderately low heat, stirring frequently, until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Or toast them in a 350° oven for 5 to 10 minutes.
- 2. Put the potato in a medium pot of salted water. Bring to a boil and simmer until tender, about 10 minutes. Drain and set aside.
- 3. Meanwhile, in a large glass or stainless-steel bowl, combine one third of the blue cheese with the vinegar, salt, and pepper. Mix thoroughly and then gradually whisk in the oil. Reserve 2 tablespoons of the dressing. Add the romaine to the rest of the dressing and toss. Transfer to a platter or salad bowl.
- 4. Toss the watercress with the reserved dressing. Arrange the remaining blue cheese, the watercress, walnuts, potato, onions, avocado, and pear slices on top of the lettuce.
- Wine Recommendation: There's only one grape we can think of that can handle blue cheese, walnuts, avocado, and vinegar. Riesling it is, and an off-dry kabinett from Germany's Mosel is the one you want.
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