Fall pear salad transformed into gooey grilled cheese

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Fall makes me think of pears, and pears make me think of that oft-seen salad in which the fruit is paired with walnuts and chunks of blue cheese over lettuce.

It's popular in restaurants for a reason. The sweet and juicy pears play off the salty rich cheese, while the walnuts add texture and their nutty rich flavor.

The combination seemed ripe for tinkering. What if I used radicchio instead of the typical mixed greens. And could the blue cheese be melted on croutons? And — that kind of musing led nowhere. It was merely the same salad with a few swap-outs. But wait? What if the pears and cheese go into a grilled sandwich? And use Asian pears, for their crisp flesh and floral notes. Now I was interested, and it led to this.

Tips: If you cannot find pepper jelly, experiment with another preserve for a bit of sweetness (apricot? fig?) or giardiniera for heat. Or both. If the radicchio makes the slaw too bitter, add a little honey or fresh orange juice to the dressing.

Grilled Pear And Blue Cheese Sandwich With Slaw

Prep: 20 minutes. Cook: 10 minutes. Servings: 2

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

1/2 teaspoon coarse salt

1/2 head radicchio, cored, sliced in thin ribbons

1 small bulb fennel, cored, julienned

1/4 cup walnut pieces, toasted

4 slices rustic bread

2 ounces blue cheese, at room temperature

1 medium Asian pear, cored, thinly sliced

1 to 2 tablespoons jarred pepper jelly

Whisk 2 tablespoons olive oil, lemon juice and zest, and 1/4 teaspoon salt together in a small bowl. Spoon half the vinaigrette over the radicchio and fennel in a bowl; toss. Sprinkle with remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt. Toss again; add more dressing, if needed. Top with the walnut pieces.

Spread the blue cheese over one side of 2 slices of bread, gently mushing into the bread so cheese doesn't fall off while cooking. Layer the pear slices on top. Spread pepper jelly over one side of the other 2 slices of bread. Sandwich the pepper jelly slices over the pear and cheese slices. Spread the tops and bottoms of the sandwiches with a little olive oil.

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a skillet or griddle over medium-high heat. When hot, add the sandwiches; cook, turning once, until golden brown and the cheese melts. Serve with the slaw alongside.

Note: Toast the nuts in a dry skillet over medium heat until fragrant, about 5 minutes.

Per serving: 744 calories, 42 g fat, 11 g saturated fat, 27 mg cholesterol, 79 g carbohydrates, 17 g protein, 1,350 mg sodium, 10 g fiber.