Mâche is unforgettable. I call it the princess of all leafy greens.
The tiny lettuce, when picked young, looks like a rosette, no bigger than a small daisy. Also known as corn salad, field salad, or lamb's lettuce, mâche thrives in cool weather and, contrary to its delicate features, is a pretty hardy little plant. It's also packed with many nutrients.
But I will confess that’s not the reason I love mâche. What truly enchants me is its subtle and succulent flavor, which makes for the most elegant salads and garnishes.
In this recipe, I serve the mâche with super-thin slices of Asian pear, and toss the tender greens with a shallot and truffle vinaigrette. The sweetness of the petite lettuces harmonizes beautifully with the aromatic pears and the more pungent vinaigrette.
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*Note: Store any leftover nuts in an airtight container for up to 1 month.
In a small bowl, combine the shallots, vinegar, oil, and salt. Season with pepper, to taste, and whisk until well blended. Set aside.
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
Place the hazelnuts on a baking sheet and bake until the skins are dark and split and the nuts are golden, for 25-30 minutes. Shake the pan once or twice during baking to ensure even roasting. (Do not brown the nuts or they will lose their flavor.) Remove from the oven and let cool to room temperature.*
Once cooled, rub the nuts between your fingers or with a lint-free, clean kitchen towel to remove the skin. Then, use a mortar and pestle to crush coarsely.
Place 5 pear slices in the center of each of 4 plates, overlapping them and arranging them in a long row. Place the greens in a large mixing bowl. Drizzle with two-thirds of the vinaigrette and toss until all the leaves are well coated, being careful not to break them.
Arrange the greens on top of the pear slices. Sprinkle with the hazelnuts and drizzle with the remaining vinaigrette. Season with pepper, to taste, and serve.