With Mother’s Day coming up, #SundaySupper is paying tribute to our favorite ladies with a menu of Mom’s Favorite Recipes. Topped with poached pears, glazed walnuts, blue cheese, and a simple sherry dressing, my mom loves this simple, fresh, and delicious (and lightened-up) Italian Country Salad.
Italian Country Salad
I love my husband, and we had some pretty fun dates back in the day. Trips to New York City to go to museums or shows or concerts or baseball games. Dinner at fancy restaurants. Days at the beach followed by evenings on the boardwalk. Or even just going to the movies and getting ice cream. And even now, though we have to get a babysitter and, you know, basically go through all of the same preparation and coordination as they need for a visit by the Pope to the White House, we still try to enjoy some kid-free nights out together.
But I cannot tell a lie, there’s someone else with whom I used to go out for date nights pretty regularly, and we always had a blast. And this person is actually still a huge part of my life.
It’s my mom!
After I graduated from college, I moved back home since my job was nearby and rent for apartments in New Jersey is ridiculous. In the years I was living at home, my sister was in the teenage stage of being too cool for school and little miss social butterfly, so whether it was hanging out with friends, cheerleading, or whatever teenagers did back in the early 2000’s, she didn’t want to be with her mom and much older sister on Friday nights. My stepfather was working nights at that time. And, well, I was 21 going on 40, and working a job that at times was exhausting. So after a long, hard week, mom and I often had a date night on Fridays. We would go to lots of different places, but we had two staples. One was a place that we considered a Mexican restaurant, though they really had a little of everything, and we would split a small pitcher of sangria and a Mexican pizza.
When we were feeling really tired and lazy, we went to our favorite restaurant down the road, ordered a glass of Riesling, and this…
Well, I always ordered this. And she sometimes ordered this. But this is something she enjoys, and it’s actually my favorite salad ever. It’s the Italian Country Salad from Old Man Rafferty’s. I did give it a few little twists though. First, I poached the pears in White Zinfandel, which is her favorite, with just a bit of honey for some sweetness, as opposed to the mountain of sugar I noticed in most poached pear recipes I found – this is a salad, not a dessert. In the Rafferty’s salad, the thick coating on the walnuts is super delicious, and super sweet – I again went with just some honey and a touch of cinnamon, and it still adds plenty of sweetness and crunch, plus the toasty walnut flavor. Blue cheese, well, no changes needed there – use your fave, whether it’s a classic Wisconsin blue or a Gorgonzola for the true Italian country touch. Then I drizzled it with a light Creamy Sherry Greek Yogurt Dressing versus the sherry vinaigrette on the original salad because I just love using Greek yogurt to make my salad dressing creamy and smooth.
You guys, I feel like I am back home in New Jersey, sitting on the patio of my favorite restaurant, glass of Riesling in hand, eating my favorite salad, with one of my favorite people – my mom!
One quick note – from this recipe you can make eight side salads or four meatless mains, but it’s also a fabulous base if you want to add grilled chicken, steak, or shrimp. I’ve done all of the above!
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Then check out all of the #SundaySupper culinary tributes to mom at the bottom of this post!
And then go make this Italian Country Salad. Trust me!
What is or was your favorite way to spend time with your mom?
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- 1 cup sweet white wine or white zinfandel
- 2 Tablespoons honey
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 2 pears, peeled, halved, remove stems and core
- 1 cup walnut halves or large pieces
- 2 tablespoons honey
- ⅛ teaspoon cinnamon
- ½ cup plain Greek yogurt
- ¼ cup sherry vinegar
- 2 Tablespoons olive oil
- 1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard
- salt & pepper, to taste
- Mixed greens
- About 4 oz. crumbled blue or Gorgonzola cheese (about 1 cup)
- Stir together the white wine, honey, and lemon juice in a large saucepan.
- Bring the mixture to a simmer over medium-high heat and add the pear halves.
- Poach the pears, uncovered, for about 10-12 minutes, until they turn tender, but not mushy.
- Remove from the heat and cool completely while still in the poaching liquid. Can be made ahead and stored in the refrigerator overnight.
- Line a baking sheet with wax paper or a silicone baking sheet. Set aside.
- Heat a small skillet over medium heat, then add the walnuts and toast for 2 or 3 minutes.
- Add the honey and cinnamon and stir to coat evenly.
- Cook over medium heat for 5 minutes, stirring often until coated and toasted.
- Pour the nuts onto the prepared baking sheet and quickly separate the nuts. Let cool completely.
- Combine the ingredients in a bowl or jar and whisk or shake vigorously until combined and smooth.
- You will probably have more than you need. Save it for another use. It will keep in the refrigerator for several days.
- Thinly slice the pears.
- Divide the mixed greens between eight side salad plates or four entree plates. Then top with pear slices, honey glazed walnuts, and blue cheese, and drizzle with the dressing.
Enjoy this Italian Country Salad recipe!
Here are some more recipes in honor of my mom…
- Lightened-Up Penne and Tomato Cream Sauce with Peas and Prosciutto
- Browned Butter Pecan Fudge Ripple No-Churn Ice Cream
Plus the entire #SundaySupper collection of Mom’s Favorite Recipes…
Starters (Appetizers, Beverages, Breakfast):
- Banana Bread Baked Oatmeal by Cooking With Carlee
- Frozen Pina Colada by The Redhead Baker
- Goats Cheese Rolls with Honey and Thyme by Manu’s Menu
- Mom’s Banana Bread by Family Around the Table
- Mom’s Famous Poppy Seed Bread With A Citrus Glaze by And She Cooks
- Mom’s Wine Spritzer by Momma’s Meals
Salads, Side Dishes, and Sauces:
- Asiago Bruschetta Roasted Asparagus by Flavor Mosaic
- Italian Country Salad by Cupcakes & Kale Chips
- Mom’s Cucumbers in Vinegar by Simple And Savory
- Mom’s Homemade Perogies by A Kitchen Hoor’s Adventures
- Mom’s Potato Salad by Palatable Pastime
- Polish Haluski (Pan Fried Noodles & Sauerkraut) by The Crumby Cupcake
- Spinach Salad with Simple Vinaigrette by Cooking Chat
- Zippy Barbecue Sauce by Amee’s Savory Dish
- Chicken and Egg Salad Sandwich by The Freshman Cook
- Grilled Chicken with Poblano Cream Sauce by Casa de Crews
- Fried Smelt by A Day in the Life on the Farm
- Granny Smith’s Meatloaf by Get the Good Stuff!
- Jean’s Best Vegetable Soup by Food Lust People Love
- Lemon & Garlic Herbed Roasted Chicken by Cosmopolitan Cornbread
- Mama’s Favorite Southern Fried Chicken by The Chef Next Door
- Mom’s Cheese & Onion Enchiladas by The TipToe Fairy
- Mom’s Lentil Toastadas by Grumpy’s Honeybunch
- Mom’s Moussaka by My Life Cookbook
- Shirley’s Potato Soup by Our Good Life
- Mom’s Spare Ribs To Go by An Italian in my Kitchen
- Mom’s Sukiyaki: Japanese Beef and Vegetables Hot Pot by Asian In America
- Myra’s Super Supper by Tramplingrose
- Pizza Meatloaf by A Mind Full Mom
- Slow Cooker Cabbage Rolls by Cookin’ Mimi
- Apple Bread Pudding with Butterscotch Sauce by Hezzi-D’s Books and Cooks
- Apple Crisp by Cindy’s Recipes and Writings
- Baklava by That Skinny Chick Can Bake
- Brown Sugar Pudding by Un Assaggio of Food, Wine & Marriage
- Butter Balls by Feeding and More
- Carrot Cream Cheese Coffee Cake by Pies and Plots
- Chocolate Cherry Truffle Cheesecake by What Smells So Good?
- Crustless Pecan Pie Rice Pudding by Desserts Required
- Double Layer Chocolate Cake with Red Wine Chocolate Buttercream by Fantastical Sharing of Recipes
- Easy Classic Date Squares by She Loves Biscotti
- Gluten Free Strawberry Rhubarb Cake by What The Fork Food Blog
- Homemade Chocolate Cherry Candies by Gluten Free Crumbley
- Hungarian Crepes: Palacsinta by My Gourmet Connection
- Lemon Cookies with White Chocolate and Mint by The Finer Cookie
- Lemon Pound Cake with Lemon Glaze and Roasted Strawberries by Turnips 2 Tangerines
- Mom’s Apple Pie by Wholistic Woman
- Mom’s Famous White Icing by Monica’s Table
- Moms Mayonnaise Cake by My World Simplified
- Pavlova with Raspberries and Cream by Caroline’s Cooking
- Rocky Road Brownie Sundae for Mom by The Weekend Gourmet
- Rose Shortbread Cookies by Baking Sense
- Sour Cream Cheesecake by Magnolia Days
Plus What Mom Really Wants for Mother’s Day plus Mom’s Favorite from Sunday Supper Movement