This salad has it all: the peppery flavor of arugula, the saltiness of prosciutto and feta, the crunchiness of pecans, and the sweetness of grilled pears. Perfect as a light meal or as a fancy starter at your next party. The honey mustard vinaigrette is like a cherry on top!
When we’ve said goodbye to the last of summer produce, pears and apples are always there to reward us in fall. I love biting into a juicy pear, that still has just that little bit of firm crispiness to it! It’s fun how even the fruits and vegetables go crisp and crunchy in fall to match the leaves. And while pies, cakes, and strudels are amazing, these sweet autumn fruits are also amazing in savory dishes!
The sweetness of the pear balances the salty prosciutto and spicy arugula perfectly. It still has that lingering sense of fresh summer flavors, but still embraces fall. This salad is perfect with a glass of wine for those warm evenings that still pop up in early fall. You can serve it as a light meal (my choice) or as starter at your next party. It is amazingly complex and elegant for something that takes just 30 minutes to put together.
Grilling to concentrate flavor
Grilling slightly caramelizes fruits and vegetables, bringing out their natural sweetness and adding a whole new dimension of flavor. What happens is very similar to making caramel from scratch, giving the sugars a richer quality.
In juicy fruits like pears, grilling also reduces the amount of water in the fruit, making it sweeter. It’s kind of like a cross between a fresh and dried pear (with all the flavor concentrated in one small piece) but with some extra caramel notes. Plus, if you cook it on an outdoor grill or barbeque, you’ll get a slightly smoky flavor too! Add some sweet to your savory dishes
Roasting has a similar caramelizing effect, especially on root vegetables like beets or carrots. That is why roasted beets are so great in salads, because they bring a little sweetness to balance everything out.
You might notice a lot of homemade tomato sauces and spicy Asian recipes call for just a little bit of sugar. Even a small amount can change the other flavors – not so that the final dish is sweet, but such the other flavors stand out more. It almost tones down the spiciness or acidity, so the savory qualities are not overwhelmed
In this salad, the sweet pears highlight the slightly spicy, bitter arugula and the salty, savory prosciutto – things which can be a little over the top when you eat those components on their own. But combine that with a little sweetness (and creamy cheese) and it hits the tongue just right.
The honey mustard vinaigrette that dresses this quick but easy salad exemplifies this also, with the sweet honey balancing and enhancing the spicy mustard and tart vinegar. There are so many complex flavors in this salad, it is amazing how smoothly they all blend together.
A new classic
I feel like the pear, prosciutto, and arugula needs to be a new classic if it’s not already. There is so much to love, and it works in lots of different dishes. If you are feeling a little more indulgent, I also love this combination of flavors on pizza. You can just say you are serving this salad on some flatbread!
Arugula, Prosciutto and Grilled Pear Salad
For the salad:
- 3 cups ( loosely packed) baby arugula , more or less, as desired
- 8 slices prosciutto , torn into pieces
- 2 firm pear , sliced 1/8 inch thick
- 2/3 cup feta cheese , crumbled
- 1/2 cup toasted pecans , chopped
- 1 small red onion , thinly sliced
For the dressing:
- 6 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 4 tablespoons lemon juice
- 2 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
- 2-4 tablespoons honey , to taste
- salt and freshly ground black pepper , to taste
- Heat a grill pan over medium-high heat. Spray with nonstick spray. Lightly brush both sides of the pear slices with the olive oil and sprinkle with a little salt. Grill until they have visible grill marks, 1 to 2 minutes per side. Remove from pan and let cool.
- In a small jar with a lid, combine the olive oil, Dijon mustard, lemon juice, balsamic vinegar and honey. Cover and shake until mixed well. Taste, and add salt and pepper as needed.
- Scatter arugula onto a large serving dish or platter. Arrange prosciutto across the top, then add grilled pears, red onion, pecans, and feta cheese evenly around the platter. Drizzle with the prepared dressing and enjoy!