Spinach Salad with Bosc Pears, Cranberries, Red Onion, and Toasted Hazelnuts

This is a great salad for fall or early winter that is full of flavor and easy to prepare.  The dressing and nuts can be done up to a day in advance, making for a quick assembly when it is time to eat.  I have already made this salad twice this season; once to go along with Thanksgiving dinner and then again over the weekend served alongside baked sweet potatoes for a meatless meal.

Everyone thought it was nice addition to Thanksgiving dinner.  We had it at the end of the meal, as my family always has salad after the main course (probably because of my Mom’s Italian roots) to help lighten and end the meal.  It helped to settle out all the rich Thanksgiving food and made room for dessert!  It also went really well with the roasted sweet potatoes we had over the weekend, and the bright green and vibrant orange looked really pretty together.

I think this salad would also be really good with a little mild blue cheese or goat cheese, depending on what you are serving this with.


Spinach Salad with Bosc Pears, Cranberries, Red Onion, and Toasted Hazelnuts

Adapted, slightly, from Epicurious  | November 2009
Serves 4
I cut the recipe in half, but it can easily be doubled for 8.  I bought the pre-washed baby spinach, but still washed and spin dried it in a salad spinner; it seems to wake the greens up a bit.  If you don’t feel like measuring the spinach out, 1 cup is about the equivalent of one good handful of greens.    
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoons balsamic vinegar 
1 teaspoon whole-grain mustard
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
Freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup thinly sliced red onion
3 tablespoons sweetened dried cranberries
4 cups lightly packed fresh baby spinach leaves, stemmed if needed
1 firm but ripe Bosc pear (do not peel), quartered lengthwise, cored, and cut into long, thin slices
1/3 cup hazelnuts, toasted and chopped 


For the dressing, combine all ingredients in a jar or container with a tight-fitting lid.  Cover tightly and shake very well to blend.  Taste and adjust the seasoning if needed.  Set aside until ready to use.  Note:  The dressing can be stored in the refrigerator for up to a day, and taken out two hours before you prepare the rest of the salad.

Place the sliced onions in a medium bowl, cover with cold water and let stand for 30 minutes. This will help to crisp the onion and mellow any strong, raw onion flavor.  Drain well and pat dry on paper towels.

In a small bowl, toss the cranberries with 1 tablespoon of the dressing to soften them.  Let the cranberries rest for 20 minutes.

To assemble the salad, place the spinach, onions, and pears in a large bowl; reserve a few onions and pears to place on top for presentation. Give the remaining dressing a last-minute shake and pour over the salad.  Toss to coat evenly.  Scatter the cranberries and hazelnuts over the top, add remaining slices of onions and pears. Serve immediately.


To toast the nuts:
Try to buy shelled hazelnuts without the papery skins.  To toast, spread the hazelnuts in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet and place in a preheated 375°F oven. Toast for about 12 minutes until lightly browned.  If the nuts still have the skins on, transfer them while they’re hot, to a clean kitchen towel and rub the nuts with towel to remove the skins.  Unsalted cashews can be substituted for the hazelnuts, however they only need to toast for 8-10 minutes.  The nuts can be toasted a day in advance and stored in an airtight container until ready to use.  


  1. Mom says

    Salads with fruit are always a favorite, but this was over the top; the specailty vinager from Maine made it even better.

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