Saturday, January 9, 2010

A Salad You Can Make Friends With

In the Simpsons, when Lisa decides to go vegetarian, Homer and Bart taunt her by chanting
"You don't make friends with salad! You don't make friends with salad!"
Clearly, Homer and Bart had never tried this salad. This is a salad, dear readers, that you can proudly present to friends and family as they ooh and aah at your culinary prowess. It is a salad worthy of any high end bistro, and it couldn't be simpler.

Not only is this a simple salad, but it is nutritious and pretty Canadian too: Walnut Pear Salad with Maple Balsamic Vinaigrette.

What could be more Canadian than maple syrup? Nothing,
obviously. The sweet nectar of our national tree (the Sugar Maple, Acer saccharum) was being made into maple syrup by Native Canadians long before the Europeans came along. It was an important source of energy for early settlers as other forms of sugar were hard to come by. Although it's mostly sugar, it is not devoid of nutrition like its white, powdery counterparts. In every tablespoon of maple syrup you can find 35mg of potassium, 21mg of calcium and small amounts of iron, B vitamins (1) and a host of other goodies (2). I'm not trying to say it's a health food or anything, but among sugars it has a leg up on the others. Not to mention it's DELICIOUS!

Factoid: In 2009, Canada produced 9.1 million gallons of maple syrup, 90% of which was produced in Quebec (3).

The Black Walnut tree grows throughout eastern North America, and it's range peeks into Southern Ontario, with populations extending just into the Ottawa Valley, where I once again call home. Unfortunately, the vast majority of our walnuts are harvested in California, making it unlikely that I'll ever find Canadian walnuts in the local grocery store. Truly the King of Nuts, walnuts are exceptionally good for you. Just 1/4 cup provides nearly all the omega-3 fatty acids you need for the day, as well as a healthy dose of antioxidants, and about 4g of protein. Eating walnuts are good for your heart, lowering cholesterol and preventing high blood pressure, and lowering your risk of heart disease. In fact, there are so many health benefits I don't have the time to talk about them all, or do them justice. Instead, you can go read about them on the World's Healthiest Foods.

Factoid: California produces 99% of the national supply of walnuts and supplies 2/3 of the world walnut trade.

Pears are not native to North America, but like the apple, it has become such a prominent member of our locally grown produce, I like to think of it as an official Canadian citizen. A member of the rose family, this fruit was designed for seduction. Soft and juicy, with its buttery, delicate sweetness, fresh Ontario pears are something I look forward to at the end of every summer. It is a seduction of not only short term pleasures but also long term rewards. Pears are a good source of dietary fiber, as well as vitamin C and K. Fruit fiber, in addition to keeping us regular, has been shown to significantly reduce the risk of breast cancer (4).

Factoid: A pear tree can produce fruit for over 100 years.

Now that I've gotten you excited about all the wonderful health benefits, lets make a salad!

Walnut Pear Salad with Maple Balsamic Vinaigrette
Makes 2 large salads, 1 for you and 1 for a friend

2 tbsp olive oil
1 1/2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp real maple syrup
2 tsp dijon mustard

Greenery of choice - opt for dark greens like baby spinach that give you an extra nutrient boost
1 ripe pear
1/2 cup walnut halves

Wisk together dressing ingredients (or put them in a jar and shake).
Thinly slice pears. Divvy up the greenery, pears and walnuts onto 2 plates, drizzle dressing, and serve. I told you it was easy!
You might have a little left-over dressing, depending on how large your salad is, and how much dressing you like. Just pop it in the fridge for another day.


  1. Dear Ashley,

    Can you recommend an alternative to the walnuts if you have a nut allergy? :-)

  2. Dear Laura,
    The walnuts add 2 components to this salad - a woodsy earthy flavour, and crunch. My recommendation would be to add something like rye or pumpernickel croutons. Sunflower seeds also make an excellent nut alternative that are super tasty in salads.