I originally made this a few years ago when someone brought me a bottle of Pear Vinegar from a trip to a winery in California. I kept the ingredients to a minimum so the pear could shine. I don't have any more Pear Vinegar, so I had to make my own this time.
Pears (I had never seen them before, so I tried red pears)
1/2 c white wine vinegar
pinch of sugar
1/2 c olive oil
1/8 t salt
1/4 t pepper
1/2 t honey
1/2 t mayonnaise
I did not include quantities for the salad or pecans, because it will vary depending on how many people you're serving.
Cut one pear into pieces (I threw it in skin, seeds, and all) and add it to a small pot with the white wine vinegar. Add a pinch of sugar and bring it up to a boil, then lower to a simmer and let cook until the pear breaks down, 20-30". Pour through a strainer and set aside to cool.
I thought it was interesting that after cooking for so long - accounting for evaporation of the vinegar and juice being released from the pear, I ended up with basically the same 1/2 c of liquid in the end.
Add your nuts to a pan with a little butter. When the butter melts and the nuts are nicely coated, stir in a little brown sugar. You'll know you have a good ratio when a little bit of syrupy goo starts to form. You don't want too much, or it will be candy when you're done. Remove from heat and sprinkle with a little cinnamon, stirring to coat.
Now that the vinegar mixture is cool, go ahead and whisk or process it with the remaining ingredients. I know that such a small amount of mayo seems silly. That just acts as an emulsifier to bind everything together. If you know you'll be using the dressing right away, you can omit it if you want. You could also replace it with a mustard, but again, I wanted the pear to shine through.
Slice a few stalks of celery on the diagonal. I usually de-string the stalks first by bending back the thick end until it snaps and then pulling that piece along the stalk so the strings pull away with it.
For the pears, I like to slice a few into thin slices and use cookie cutters to form different shapes. As an aside, I noticed this time that I was using two plastic cutters (heart / star) and one metal cutter (diamond). The pear pieces cut with the plastic kept their bright color, while the diamond pieces started to brown a little. It was definitely a reaction to the metal, because I didn't cut all of the diamonds first. I did the cut-outs randomly, so I would have expected the first slices to discolor before any others.
Toss the celery with the lettuce and arrange on salad plates, then garnish the top with the pear slices and candied pecans and drizzle with dressing.