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)
1 avocado, preferably Hass, cut into 1/2-inch dice
1 pear, peeled, cored, and sliced
How to Make It
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.
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.
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.
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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