Green salad with pears, pecans and blue cheese. (Deb Lindsey for The Washington Post)

Green salad with pears, pecans and blue cheese. (Deb Lindsey for The Washington Post)

This simple salad will see you through a long, cold winter

By Ellie Krieger, Special to The Washington Post

This, to me, is the ideal winter salad.

It offers a light, crisp counterpoint to just about anything you might be stewing or roasting, but also the depth of flavor to stand up to those hearty dishes, and seasonal notes that feel right on a chilly night.

It’s simple to make, which is why it is a weeknight staple in my home this time of year.

It is also festive and enticing enough to serve as a starter for a holiday dinner, where it will set the right tone and rev your guests’ appetites without spoiling them for the main course.

The salad itself has just four ingredients, and each can be varied based on your preferences or what you have at home. I use red leaf for its autumnal hue and yielding crispness, but green leaf, kale, spinach or escarole would also work well.

Then there’s the fruit, cheese and nut trio of tastes and textures that make the salad so lip-smackingly good.

In this recipe, the combo is juicy slices of ripe pear, pungent blue cheese crumbles and buttery toasted pecans. But feel free to swap in another seasonal fruit, such as sliced apple, grapes or pomegranate; another cheese, such as feta or chevre; or a different nut, such as almonds or walnuts.

The dressing, with its tang of Dijon mustard balanced by an earthy sweetness from maple syrup, is universal enough to work with any of those substitutions.

And the salad itself will pair beautifully with most dishes you make throughout the holiday season.

Green salad with pears, pecans and blue cheese

4 to 6 servings

For the dressing

1 1/2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

2 teaspoons pure maple syrup

1 tablespoon finely chopped shallot

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

For the salad

Leaves from 1 large head of red leaf lettuce, torn

1 large, ripe pear, peeled, cored and sliced

2 ounces blue cheese, crumbled

1/3 cup pecan pieces, toasted (see note)

For the dressing: Whisk together the vinegar, mustard, maple syrup, shallot, salt, pepper and oil a medium bowl until emulsified.

For the salad: Place the lettuce in a large mixing bowl and toss with the dressing until coated.

Divide the dressed lettuce among individual plates. Top each portion with slices of pear, some blue cheese crumbles and pecan pieces. Serve right away.

Note: Toast the pecan pieces in a small, dry skillet over medium heat, stirring, until fragrant, 3 to 5 minutes. Cool completely before using.

Nutrition per serving (based on 6): 170 calories, 3 g protein, 10 g carbohydrates, 14 g fat, 3 g saturated fat, 5 mg cholesterol, 230 mg sodium, 2 g dietary fiber, 6 g sugar

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