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Celery, Pear and Toasted Hazelnut Salad

Removing the strings from the celery makes thinly slicing the stalks easier and ensures a tender base for this composed seasonal salad. Walnuts and walnut oil can be substituted for the hazelnuts and hazelnut oil.

Ingredients:

  • 8 to 10 celery stalks
  • 1/2 cup hazelnuts
  • 2 1/2 Tbs. hazelnut oil
  • 1 Tbs. white balsamic vinegar or pear vinegar
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. freshly ground white pepper
  • 4 ripe pears, such as Bosc or Bartlett, peeled

Directions:

Preheat an oven to 350°F.

To remove the strings from the celery, hold each stalk, large end up, and pull the strings downward by trapping them between your fingers and the blade of a paring knife. Using a chef’s knife or a mandoline, cut the celery into slices 1/8 inch thick. Cut the tops into small pieces. Put all the celery in a bowl of ice water and set aside. (The celery can be prepared up to 1 day in advance and refrigerated.)

Spread the hazelnuts in a single layer on a baking sheet. Place in the oven and toast, stirring once or twice, until the skins start to darken and wrinkle, 12 to 15 minutes. Remove from the oven. When the nuts are cool enough to handle, wrap them in a kitchen towel and rub vigorously to remove the skins. Some specks of skin will remain. Coarsely chop the nuts and set aside.

In a large bowl, combine the hazelnut oil, vinegar, salt and pepper and mix well with a fork. Drain the celery and pat dry with paper towels. Add to the bowl and stir to coat with the vinaigrette.

Cut each pear in half lengthwise. Using a spoon, scoop out the seeds and the fibers surrounding them, as well as the fibers that run down the center from the stem. Cut lengthwise into slices 1/2 inch thick. Set aside.

Using a slotted spoon, remove the celery from the vinaigrette and divide among chilled salad plates. Arrange the pear slices on top and drizzle with the vinaigrette. Sprinkle with the chopped hazelnuts and serve immediately. Serves 6 to 8.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Dinner Parties, by Georgeanne Brennan (Free Press, 2006).