2 cups water
1 cup dry white wine
½ cup distilled white vinegar
3 tablespoons kosher salt
2 cinnamon sticks
5 whole star anise
2 dried bay leaves
2 Anjou pears, halved and cored
¼ cup whole pistachios
2 bunches watercress
¼ cup scallions, ends trimmed and thinly sliced lengthwise
2 tablespoons fresh goat's-milk cheese (chèvre), crumbled
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
3 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil, divided
½ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1½ cups cooked baby beets or 3 medium cooked beets, quartered
Flaky sea salt, for serving
1. Poach the pears: In a medium saucepan set over medium-high heat, add the water, wine, white vinegar, salt, cinnamon sticks, star anise and bay leaves and bring to a boil. Add the pear halves cut side down, reduce the heat to medium and simmer until a knife easily slips into a pear half, 20 to 25 minutes. Turn off the heat and let the pears cool in the poaching liquid.
2. While the pears poach, make the salad: Preheat the oven to 350°. To a rimmed baking sheet, add the pistachios and bake until toasted, 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer to a cutting board to cool, then roughly chop.
3. In a large bowl, add the watercress, scallions, goat cheese and chopped pistachios. In a small bowl, whisk together the red wine vinegar, 3 tablespoons of the olive oil and the salt and pepper. Pour the vinaigrette over the watercress mixture and toss to combine, then add the beets, toss once, and divide among 4 plates.
4. Heat a medium heavy-bottomed skillet (preferably cast iron) over medium-high heat for 1 minute. Add the remaining 1 teaspoon of olive oil and set the pears in the skillet cut side down, cooking until they are browned and caramelized, 1½ to 2 minutes. Set each pear half on top of each salad, sprinkle with flaky salt and serve.