Kathy Maister's Start Cooking

Pear and Blue Cheese Salad

print recipe card posted in Soups, Salads, Sides and Sauces, Vegetarian by Kathy Maister

In the movie Ratatouille, the little chef Remy rejoiced in discovering the pleasures of combining certain foods to maximize their flavors. He would have certainly done his happy dance after trying this Pear and Blue Cheese Salad!

When brought together on one plate, the five simple ingredients used in this recipe create an explosion of taste and texture that put it in my top five list of the best salads ever!

As true with many salads, you can adjust the amounts according to your tastes. To make enough for two people, I’m using:

  • 3 ounces of salad greens
  • 1 pear
  • 3 ounces of blue cheese
  • 1/4 cup of pecans
  • 2 Tablespoons of salad dressing

You can choose your favorite variety of pears, just make sure that it is really (really!) ripe.

I used Stilton blue cheese. There are many varieties of blue cheese available at the grocery store, all with a slightly different flavor; some much stronger than others. The price of blue cheese can vary dramatically depending on where it is from. If in doubt as to which one to buy, ask the person in charge of the cheese counter to explain them. They may even offer you a taste test!

Whole pecans look nice on the plate, but you can use chopped pecans as well.

A simple vinaigrette salad dressing is all you need for this salad. You can make it yourself or buy your favorite brand.

Slice the pear in half and remove the core. I used a small paring knife and a melon baller to remove the core.

Once the core is removed, you can cut the pear into slices or chunks. To add a bit of a fancy touch to the look, I cut the pear into slices, leaving 1/4 inch at the top uncut. You can then fan the pear out on the plate.

Assemble the salad right on the individual serving plate. Start with the lettuce, then add the pears. Crumble the blue cheese and dot it around the plate, then sprinkle on the pecans. Finally, drizzle on some salad dressing.

You can serve this salad with some crusty bread and a glass of wine.

Lunch is ready!


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Rice Salad Plate

print recipe card posted in Soups, Salads, Sides and Sauces by Kathy Maister

I discovered this wonderful dish when it was served to me on a Finn Air flight. I loved it so much I developed my own interpretation!

This rice salad is garnished with mandarin oranges and pecans, and is served with hard cooked eggs, herring (from a jar) or salmon, and rye crackers or bread with butter. It is a fabulous lunch or a light supper.

This dish requires very little cooking, and it can all be done in advance. For 4-6 servings you will need about 3 cups of cooked rice and 4-6 hard cooked eggs.

(You can make your own rice or you can use any leftover plain white rice you might have from an Indian or Chinese take-out meal that you had the day before.)

Make the dressing for the rice first.


½ cup plain yogurt (I use Greek yogurt)

2 tablespoons of rice vinegar

1 tablespoon of olive oil

1 tablespoon of dried dill

Rice Vinegar has a very mild flavor. You could use plain white vinegar, but I would definitely use less. (Maybe only 2 teaspoons!)

Add the rice to the dressing, then add:

3 tablespoons of chopped parsley

3 tablespoons of chopped green onion

And a sprinkle of salt and pepper

This all can get done in advance.

When you are ready to serve your rice salad, be sure to assemble each plate in the kitchen, and present the plate as a done deal. Don’t put all the separate bits into serving dishes and let everyone help themselves. Each plate should have lots of eye appeal!

Put a spoonful of rice on the plate.

Garnish with some drained, cold, mandarin oranges and some pecans.

Cut the hard cooked egg into wedges and add to the plate.

Drain the herring from the jar and add that too!

Use some of the leftover parsley for extra garnish.

I hope you enjoy this as much as I do!


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Ploughman’s Lunch

print recipe card posted in Lunch, Vegetarian by Kathy Maister

Cold plates from around the world make a great lunch or light supper. Many require little or no cooking. In fact you can put together a delicious Cold Mediterranean Plate with all store bought ingredients like hummus, stuffed grape leaves, feta cheese, olives and some pita bread.

One of my favorite cold plates is the English “Ploughman’s Lunch.” Many years ago, my English husband introduced me to a this delicious meal along with a “Shandy” (1/2 beer and 1/2 lemonade) to wash it all down.

The great thing about a Ploughman’s lunch is that is takes less than 10 minutes to prepare!

It consists of a bit of mixed salad, crusty bread and butter, a wedge of sharp cheddar cheese, and Branston pickle, which is a sort of relish or chutney. Many Americans have never heard of Branston pickle. But if you look in the international section of the grocery store I’ll bet you’ll find it, nestled between the “mushy peas” and PG Tips tea.

Branston Pickle was first introduced in 1922 by Cross and Blackwell, in England of course. The actual recipe is still a secret! It has this really unique spicy, sweet, tangy flavor, that when combined with cheddar cheese and bread, you have yourself a little bit of heaven. You can vary proportions to your taste. Substitutes are allowed but watch out if you have any English people at your meal!

When I serve this at home, the only difference is that I usually stick to just the lemonade to wash it down. Otherwise, a siesta would be on the menu as well!



Be sure to also check out my recipe for Cold Rice Salad Plate. Everyone loves the unique blend of flavors in this recipe!


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