Growing up it was this salad that my mom served to guests at dinner. Even after the main course was done and the dessert, too, it was this salad that guests talked about. Nearly two decades later when I serve it to my own group of friends — at sit-down dinners and potlucks alike — it is still subject to the same “oohs” and “aahs.” In a time when entire salads come in a bag — fruits, nuts, dressing and cheese included — this salad seems simultaneously ordinary and luxurious. But, in fact, it’s neither. Yes, fruit has become rather ubiquitous in mass-market salads — proved by a quick trip to the supermarket or a ride through the drive-thru — and yes, this salad requires a wee bit more effort, but with tender leaf lettuces, homemade candied walnuts, pungent blue cheese and juicy pieces of ripe, fresh pear gently tossed in sweet poppy seed dressing, it is certainly more than the sum of its parts.
I like to think of this salad as a reflection of the seasons. In winter it brims with pear and also citrus segments, but in summer I’ll glaze slivered almonds and toss in sliced strawberries and feta. In fall, I serve it with tart apple slivers and spiced pecans. No matter what you use, there’s no wrong combination — this salad is timeless.