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.
Here 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.
Food & wine pairing: Rhône, Viognier with mâche and Asian pear salad
A fragrant Viognier from the Rhône in southern France or from the New World is gorgeous with this salad. The classic Viognier aromas of summer stone fruits and blossoms, reminiscent of honeysuckle, as well as the wine’s lush texture will harmonize beautifully with both the Asian pears and the truffle oil.
Mâche and Asian pear salad with hazelnuts and truffle vinaigrette
active time: 20 min
For the vinaigrette
- 1 tablespoon minced shallots
- 1 tablespoon white balsamic vinegar
- 3 tablespoons white truffle oil
- 1/8 teaspoon sea salt
- freshly ground black pepper to taste
For the salad
- 1 1/2 Asian pears
- 5 oz (140 g) baby mâche – rinsed and spin-dried
- 1/4 cup roasted hazelnuts – coarsely crushed (use a mortar and pestle)
- Step 1: In a small bowl, whisk shallots, vinegar, oil, salt and pepper to taste until well blended and set aside.
- Step 2: Cut Asian pears in half crosswise and core. Using a mandoline, cut each half crosswise in 20, 1/16″ (1.6mm) slices. Place five pear slices in the center of each plate, 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 balance of the vinaigrette. Finish with ground pepper to taste and serve.
- Cook’s note: To toast the hazelnuts, preheat oven to 350°F (180°C). Place nuts on a baking sheet and bake for 18 to 20 minutes until the skins are dark brown and split open and the nuts are golden. Cool to room temperature, then rub off the skins between two clean kitchen towels. Use in this recipe right away or store in an airtight container for up to 1 month.