My assignment for Thanksgiving is a salad. Growing up, my family never had a salad on Thanksgiving. What's your advice?

Keep it simple. The salad is a preface to the feast, not a feast in itself. What that means is to resist the temptation to load it down with carrots, cukes, fruits, nuts and cheese. Pick one. Save the creamy dressing for another occasion and go with a vinaigrette.

Mixed Greens With Pears and Balsamic Vinaigrette

8 servings

For some families, salad is as much a part of the Thanksgiving feast as stuffing and cranberries. In this simple salad, pears bestow an autumnal touch and the balsamic dressing is so good you'll want to make it year-round.

MAKE AHEAD: The vinaigrette can be made 2 to 3 days in advance and refrigerated. Salad greens can be washed on Thanksgiving morning, loosely wrapped in paper towels and refrigerated in resealable plastic bags until ready to use. Concorde pears, unlike other varieties, are very slow to oxidize, or turn brown, so they can be sliced and refrigerated with the salad greens several hours in advance. If using another type of pear, slice and add to the salad just before dressing it.

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1/4 cup walnut oil

3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

1 to 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar (may substitute 1 tablespoon sherry and 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar)

Salt

Freshly ground black pepper

8 cups mesclun greens

3 pears, preferably Concorde*

In a small bowl, add the oils and the vinegars and whisk to combine. Add salt and pepper to taste. If serving immediately, set aside; otherwise, transfer the vinaigrette to an airtight container and refrigerate. Bring to room temperature when ready to serve.

Place the mesclun greens in a large bowl. Halve the pears lengthwise and core. Thinly slice each pear half lengthwise at full length to retain the pear shape. Add to the greens and toss. Shake the vinaigrette and add just enough to moisten the greens and pears (there will be some vinaigrette left over). Toss gently to coat. Serve immediately.

*NOTE: Concorde pears are available at Safeway and Whole Foods stores.

Per serving: 187 calories, 1 g protein, 13 g carbohydrates, 16 g fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 2 g saturated fat, 41 mg sodium, 3 g dietary fiber

Recipe tested by Marcia Kramer; e-mail questions to food@washpost.com