Chunky homemade blue cheese dressing steals the show in this delicious combination of heirloom lettuces, caramelized pears and toasted pecans.
If you prefer, romaine makes a good substitute for heirloom lettuce because it stands up well to the bold dressing.
Peel the pears and rub them with lemon juice. Cut the pears in half through the stem end and remove the cores with a small spoon. Rub with more lemon juice. Cut each pear half into 4 wedges, so that you have a total of 16 wedges.
Combine the sugar and star anise in a small bowl and stir to blend.
Melt the butter in a skillet that is large enough to hold the pears in a single layer without crowding (alternately, use 2 pans or cook them in batches) over medium heat. Arrange the pears in the skillet and raise the heat to medium-high. Sprinkle the pears with half of the sugar and cook until the bottoms begin to turn golden, 2 to 3 minutes. Carefully flip the pears, sprinkle with the remaining sugar, and cook until the second side is caramelized, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer the wedges to a plate and let them cool.
To make the dressing, place the blue cheese, mayonnaise, lemon juice, pepper, salt, sugar and garlic in a small bowl and stir to blend. Whisk in the buttermilk. Add Tabasco to taste. The dressing can be refrigerated, covered, for up to 2 weeks.
Assemble the salad by placing the lettuce leaves, either whole or broken into pieces, in a large bowl. Add some of the dressing and toss to coat the leaves, adding more as desired.
Divide the greens among 4 plates. Arrange 4 pear wedges on top of each mound of greens and sprinkle with the pecans. Lightly drizzle some of the dressing over the pears and serve immediately.