Fall produce makes for some of the tastiest salads and this shaved brussels sprout and pear salad is no exception! The brussels sprouts are shaved very thinly to make a fluffy base for the salad, which is topped with juicy pears, funky gorgonzola cheese, and candied pecans seasoned with five spice. A simple dressing made with apple cider vinegar, olive oil, and maple syrup brings all the bold flavors together in perfect harmony.
Shaving brussels sprouts is one of my favorite tricks. It transforms the dense heads into a light, slaw-like base perfect for so many salad combinations. The best way to get the sprouts so thinly sliced is to use a mandoline slicer. Just watch your fingers! In this salad, the sprouts are shaved ultra thin on the smallest setting on the mandoline. This makes them so airy and fluffy. If you do not have a mandoline slicer, you can try slicing them by hand, as thinly as possible. With either method, be sure to start slicing at the top, working your way down to the tough base. Always discard the very bottom of the sprout where the leaves are joined, which is too tough to eat.
The candied pecans are the most labor intensive part of this recipe but they are well worth the effort! Making candied nuts is actually very easy – you just need to ensure they have enough time to cook and cool completely before using them. The key to a super crisp costing on candied nuts is whipped egg whites. They make for a crunchy coating that stays crisp even after being stored (at room temp. in a covered container). This recipe uses coconut sugar which gives the candied pecans a lovely caramel flavor. Five spice seasons them with the flavors of star anise, cloves, cinnamon, fennel, and pepper, giving the candied nuts lots of fall flavor. I find the five spice candied pecans so addicting! They are both sweet and savory adding so much dimension to this salad.
Five spice does have a licorice flavor from the star anise – which I love this time of year. If you are not a fan, try subbing more cinnamon or a mix of cinnamon and ground cardamom and cloves. You can also add some paprika or other hot spice to make sweet and spicy nuts, which would also be so delicious here!
What is better than gorgonzola and pear? Such a satisfying flavor combo. Gorgonzola tends to be a milder form of blue cheese, so I love using it when preparing salads like this for guests since you never know their tolerance for the funky stuff. That said, you can sub any blue cheese you like for the gorgonzola.
The ripeness of the pear is critical for making this salad as tasty as can be. The pear should give slightly to pressure when you squeeze it, hinting that it is juicy and soft inside. Hard pears will have less flavor so try to avoid using them here. I used Danjou pears, which have a smooth flesh and a bright flavor. Any green pear that is ripe and ready to eat will work beautifully. Brown pears are more sweet and less tart – they will work but will add a different flavor profile than the green varieties.
Shaved Brussels Sprout and Pear Salad with Spiced Candied Pecans and Gorgonzola
Time: 20 minutes
- 3/4 lb. brussels sprouts
- 2 large, ripe green pears
- 4 ounces crumbled gorgonzola cheese
- 1 cup five spice candied pecans (recipe follows)
- 4 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
- 4 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
- 1 tbsp. maple syrup (use the real stuff)
- pinch of salt and pepper
- Rinse and dry the brussels sprouts. On a mandolin slicer, shave the brussels sprouts on the smallest setting, about 1.5 mm or 1/16 of an inch. Alternatively, if you do not have a mandoline slicer, you can slice the brussels sprouts by hand, aiming for the thinnest slices possible to make a fluffy, slaw-like texture.
- Slice the pears in half and remove the core. Slice them in half again and, and, using the mandoline slicer, slice them into thin wedges. I used the 4.5mm size to slice the pears but you can make them as thick or thin as you like.
- To make the dressing, combine the EVOO, vinegar, maple syrup, salt, and pepper and whisk or shake in a small jar until emulsified.
- Toss shaved brussels sprouts in the vinaigrette. Taste and adjust seasoning.
- Pile sprouts onto a serving dish or individual plates. Top with sliced pears, gorgonzola cheese, and candied pecans and serve.
- This salad is lightly dressed, but if you would like more dressing or to serve more on the side simply combine ingredients at the same ratio.
- For presentation, you can drizzle some lemon juice over the pear slices to keep them from oxidizing.
Five Spiced Candied Pecans
Servings: makes 1.5 cups, about 6 servings
Time: 30 minutes cook time plus an hour to cool
- 1.5 cups of raw pecans
- half of an egg white from one large egg (see note)
- 1 tsp. of water
- 1/3 cup plus 1 tbsp. coconut sugar
- 1 tsp. ground five spice
- 1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp. sea salt
- Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.
- Using a hand mixer, beat the egg white and water together until stiff peaks form. Since this is such a small amount of liquid, I like to use a bowl and tip it towards me so the liquid pools at the bottom. Then insert your mixer in the pooled liquid and start on a medium-low speed and work up to medium-high. Stiff peaks should form in about 3-5 minutes. You will know you have them when you remove the mixer and the peaks stay stiff rather than folding over.
- Add the sugar, spices, and salt to the whipped egg whites and gently fold until incorporated.
- Pour the sugar and egg white mixture over the pecans and stir until evenly coated.
- Pour the pecans onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and spread them out evenly. *You must use parchment paper or a non-stick mat in order to avoid nuts gluing to the pan.*
- Bake nuts in the preheated oven for 30 minutes, stirring half way through.
- Let nuts cool completely on the baking sheet, about 1 hour. Then break up any chunks with your hands and store in a sealed container at room temperature where they will keep for a week or more.
- Half an egg white is an odd amount but it is all you need for a cup and a half of nuts. You can eyeball it, scooping it with a spoon to halve it. Save the yolk and remaining egg white in a sealed container in the fridge for up to 3 days. Makes great omelettes and scrambles!
- When cooking, the candied nuts are sticky and hence a bit hard to stir. Just do your best to flip and shift them around. They will dry out (and become crispy) as they cool.