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Pear & Arugula Salad with Sweet Almonds

Outstanding! Delicious! Elegant! These are the responses I received from friends at a dinner party during the salad course. Maybe it's because of the salad's perfect combination of sweet and salty with crunchy and tender. It could also be the care of a homemade dressing featuring roasted garlic. Or, it's the oven baked caramelized nuts and fresh pomegranate seeds that top off the salad. Whatever the reason, it is a crowd pleaser!

Assembling the salad is a breeze when the sweet almonds and roasted garlic are made in advance. If desired, the almonds can be substituted with walnuts, pecans or hazelnuts. Enjoy!

Pear and Arugula Salad with Sweet Almonds (serves 6)

1 cup raw almonds

4 teaspoons water

2 tablespoons brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 head garlic

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons white wine vinegar

2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

1/4 teaspoon each: salt and freshly ground pepper

6 cups baby arugula

2 firm, ripe pears (green or red), sliced

1/4 red onion, sliced thin

1/4 cup pomegranate seeds or dried cranberries

Prepare garlic for roasting: Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut off pointed end of garlic bulb, leaving cloves partially revealed but do not disturb rest of bulb. Place head in center of small foil square. Drizzle a slight amount of olive oil (1/2 teaspoon) over bulb and wrap. Place in oven for 45 minutes. Cool 10 minutes. Squeeze bulb to extract pulp, save. Discard skin.

Prepare sweet almonds: Line small baking sheet with parchment and coat with cooking spray. In a small bowl, toss nuts in water. Sprinkle with brown sugar, cinnamon and salt, toss to coat. Transfer to prepared baking sheet. Bake at 400 degrees until sugar is melted and nuts begin to brown, 6-8 minutes. Cool in the pan until the sugar hardens, 10 minutes.

Mash 2 teaspoons roasted garlic with mustard and salt in large bowl with the back of a spoon. Wisk in vinegar, oil, and pepper. Add arugula and red onion; toss to coat.

Distribute dressed greens across 6 plates. Arrange sliced pears and sprinkle with pomegranate seeds (or dried cranberries) and nuts. Enjoy!

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