Blue Cheese-Cherry Salad with Raspberry Vinaigrette

July 1, 2007

Blue Cheese-Cherry Salad with Raspberry Vinaigrette
Varietal: Merlot

Serves 6

Many people think it is difficult to pair wine with salads. But “bridge” ingredients, such as walnut oil, grated cheese, toasted nuts, or minced herbs, can help link the greens with the wine. In this recipe, which comes from Washington winemaker Kay Simon of Chinook Wines in the Yakima Valley, the “bridge” ingredients include cherries (marinated in red wine) and blue cheese. Try the salad with Chinook Merlot, which displays aromas and flavors of black fruits (blackberry, black cherry, black plum) along with a bit of earth and herbs (mint!). Chinook’s Cabernet Franc or Cabernet Franc Rosé also form intriguing pairing possibilities.

4 ounces unsweetened dried cherries or 4 ounces fresh Bing or sweet cherries, rinsed, patted dry, pitted, and cut in half
4 to 6 tablespoons fruity red wine, such as Merlot or Cabernet Franc
2 tablespoons raspberry white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons honey or granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Pinch of kosher salt, plus extra for seasoning
1/3 cup fruity extra-virgin olive oil, such as a Spanish or Italian oil
2 heads butter lettuce, rinsed, spun dry, and torn into bite-sized pieces (about 9 cups)
1/2 head radicchio, rinsed, spun dry, and torn into bite-sized pieces (about 3 cups)
1/2 small red onion, sliced 1/8-inch thick, and separated into rings
1/2 cup crumbled Oregon or Maytag blue cheese, Roquefort, or Gorgonzola

1. Place the cherries in a small bowl, cover with wine, and marinate 10 to 15 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, in a large mixing bowl, whisk together the raspberry vinegar, lemon juice, mustard, honey, pepper, and salt until thoroughly combined. Whisk in the oil a few drops at a time, incorporating well after each addition, until the sauce becomes smooth and shiny (emulsifies). Taste and add more salt if necessary.
3. Place the lettuce, radicchio, and onions in the mixing bowl. Drain the cherries, discard the wine, and add the cherries to the bowl. Toss gently until the vinaigrette lightly coats the greens.
4. To serve, divide the salad among individual plates and sprinkle with the cheese.

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