You can poach the pears up to 3 days ahead; leave in liquid, cover, and chill. The leftover poaching liquid is great in other dishes: Boil it, uncovered, over high heat until reduced by about half, about 25 minutes. Pour through a wire strainer. Cool, cover, and chill up to 1 month. Add a spoonful to glasses of sparkling wine for an aperitif or spoon over vanilla ice cream and berries for dessert.
Poached pears (recipe follows)
6 quarts baby spinach leaves (18 oz.), rinsed and crisped
1 jar (6 oz.; 1 1/4 cups) plain roasted, roasted and salted, or honey-roasted macadamia nuts
4 ounces fresh chèvre (goat cheese)
1/3 cup mild olive oil
3 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 tablespoon whole-grain mustard
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon dried thyme
Salt and pepper
3/4 cup pomegranate seeds (optional)
How to Make It
With a slotted spoon, lift pears from poaching liquid; reserve liquid. Slice pears lengthwise or cut them into about 1/2-inch chunks.
In a large bowl, combine pears with spinach and macadamia nuts. Coarsely crumble half the cheese over salad.
In a small bowl, whisk together olive oil, rice vinegar, 3 tablespoons reserved pear-poaching liquid (save remaining for another use; see notes), mustard, honey, and thyme. Pour over salad and gently mix to coat, adding salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle with pomegranate seeds and crumble remaining cheese over salad.
Poached pears: In a 5- to 6-quart pan over medium heat, combine 1 bottle (750 ml.) dry red wine, 3/4 cup sugar, 1 thin strip (3 in. by 1/2 in.) lemon peel (yellow part only), 2 star anise (or 1 teaspoon anise seeds and 1 cinnamon stick, 3 in.), and 1 vanilla bean (6 in.), split lengthwise. Bring to a simmer.
Meanwhile, peel 3 firm-ripe Anjou pears (1 1/2 lb. total), cut in half lengthwise, and core. Place pears in wine mixture. Cover and simmer, turning occasionally, until pears are barely tender when pierced, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat and let pears cool in liquid, turning occasionally, at least 30 minutes, or cover and chill up to 3 days.
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