I rely on Gorgonzola dolce often, partly because it is so versatile, but primarily because I absolutely love the mild, sweet, creamy blue cheese. Anyone with a fondness for blue cheese will gravitate to this lovely cheese, and even those who are not major fans of blues may fall for it in a big way! Dolce is made in Lombardy, near the town of Gorgonzola, and aged according to DOC regulations. I pair it here with pears and spiced walnuts, reminiscent of the classic pear, walnut, and Gorgonzola cheese salad—just deconstructed so the cheese is the focus. If you have a perfectly ripe pear, no need to roast it.–Rick Tramanto
How to Pick a Perfectly Ripe Pear
How exactly do you define a perfectly ripe pear? Soft? Firm? Green? Brown? It depends. Give the pear a gentle squeeze on its shoulder, the fleshy portion of the pear along the stem. It ought to give slightly but not a lot. Pass over any pear that bears blemishes. And if the pears are piled up at room temperature, take a whiff; you ought to catch the scent of that subtle, intoxicating, sweet pear perfume.
In a mixing bowl, stir the sugar, oil, cayenne, and cumin until well mixed. Add the walnuts and toss until thoroughly coated.
Spread the walnuts on a baking sheet in a single layer and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until fragrant and slightly darker in color. Stir them at least once to promote even cooking, and take care they do not burn. Let the walnuts cool and then chop them coarsely.
The spiced nuts can be stored in an airtight container for up to 2 days.
Make the pears
Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C).
In a shallow baking dish that will hold the pear halves in one layer, combine the wine, orange juice, honey, butter, vanilla bean, cinnamon stick, and pepper. Mix thoroughly.
Rub each pear half with lemon juice to prevent browning and put them, cut sides down, in the baking dish. Spoon some of the wine-orange mixture over each pear and cover the dish with parchment paper.
Bake for 20 to 30 minutes, until the pears are tender when pierced with a small, sharp knife. Do not overcook or they will fall apart. Carefully transfer the pears to a plate or cutting board and let them cool to room temperature.
Meanwhile, pour the baking juices into a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Cook until reduced to 1/4 cup or the consistency of a light syrup. Discard the vanilla bean and cinnamon stick.
Slice each pear half lengthwise into 6 slices. Place each pear half on a plate, fanning the slices slightly. Spoon 1 tablespoon of the warm syrup over each pear half and set a piece of Gorgonzola next to each one. Sprinkle the walnuts over the pears and serve.