This salad makes my heart sing. You know when you start to assemble a jig-saw puzzle and finally all the pieces fit together? – Same feeling! The star of this salad is a lovely Danish Blue which when paired with Pomegranate, is a cracker of a combination. A lot of people can’t stomach Blue Cheese, but I just adore the pungent, salted butter and yeasty flavor.
Blue Cheese was first presented to me as a dare, almost a decade ago. The general consensus was that it was moldy, tasted vile and smelt like old socks. I was mentally prepared to gag when I hesitantly put the crumbly blue-veined cheese in my mouth, but I surprised myself and my tormentors by absolutely digging the taste. Sharp, salty, buttery and pungent – but honestly, no sign of old socks anywhere!
I think what scares people is that mold is an integral part of Blue cheese. The visibly distinguishing blue mold, comes from a strain of penicillin called “roqueforti”. The ancient French Blue Cheese – Roquefort, made from sheep’s milk is supposed to have sprung into existence when the cheese was curing in ancient limestone caves. The moisture laden air, pregnant with some sprightly bacteria, gave rise to the characteristic blue-veined mold that is loved for its strong-spicy-caramel flavor. Though Roquefort is the oldest variety, many other cheeses when introduced with a specific bacteria culture come under the Blue Cheese umbrella. The Stilton, a semi-hard variety has a soft interior and a thick crust while the popular Gorgonzola is creamy and earthy. The one that I use most, is the easily available Danish Blue. Made from cow’s milk, this cheese is creamy with a distinct navy blue vein and is milder and saltier compared to the other blues.
Blue Cheese, Pear and Arugula is a classic combination and you will find this across restaurants and cafes in during season. In my version, I like to use a variety of dark green salad leaves like baby spinach, arugula, romaine and leaf lettuce. I refrain from using watery varieties like Iceberg or Gem Lettuce, as they tend to weigh down this salad. For the crunch factor, I find that toasted walnuts are a match made in heaven with Blue Cheese – so that’s a no brainer. Since quality Pears are not that easily available during the monsoon in India, I tend to substitute it with apples or in this case some wonderful sliced Persian cucumbers for a savory rendition.