Eat Your Vegetables: Pear salad pairs blue cheese, balsamic vinegar _lowres

Advocate staff photo by HEATHER MCCLELLAND -- For a boldly flavored salad, offer Blue Cheese, Pear and Spinach Salad With Warm Balsamic Vinaigrette.

I’ve made this pear salad several times. The recipe called for canned pears, but I have been buying delicious fresh pears instead. Try some of the different varieties you see in the store or markets.

These interesting tips and techniques are from Pears do not ripen on the tree, they’re harvested when mature but not yet ripe. If they’re left at room temperature, they slowly reach a sweet and succulent maturity as they ripen from the inside out.

So how do you know when a pear has ripened to sweet and juicy perfection? The Bartlett pear’s skin color brightens as it ripens; but the other varieties show little color changes. The best way to judge ripeness for non-Bartlett varieties is to apply gentle pressure to the neck (top of the pear next to the stem) with your thumb. If it yields to pressure, it’s ripe.

If not, leave unripe pears at room temperature so they can ripen. Check the necks daily to see if the stem end yields to pressure. Once the pears are ripe, they can be refrigerated to slow the ripening process and saved for use up to five days later.

If you like blue cheese and the boldness of balsamic vinegar, you will like this salad. I like the way the warm balsamic enhances the flavors by barely wilting the spinach.