I prefer a firmer-when-ripe, less mealy pear for this salad, like a Comice or if you can find them, Warren pears from Frog Hollow Farms; their texture and aroma stand up to the cheese, walnuts and creamy dressing the best. Try the dressing without garlic first and then add it if you think you want it. It gives the dressing a Caesar-y feeling that can compete with the other flavors of the salad.
Make the buttermilk dressing: Place the mayonnaise in a medium bowl and, while whisking, slowly pour in the buttermilk (this helps avoid lumps). Add the lemon juice, mustard, salt, cayenne and season with pepper. If you like, use a microplane grater to grate in the garlic (taste the dressing without it first because the garlic will give it a Caesar-like taste). Stir everything to combine and keep chilled until ready to use.
When ready to serve, arrange the lettuce leaves over a large serving platter or plate. Topple the pears and cheese all over the lettuce then season lightly with salt and pepper. Drizzle the salad with ¼ cup of the dressing, then sprinkle the walnuts and sprouts over the top. Serve with the remaining dressing on the side.
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