3 Years ago today I ran off and got hitched. Man, time goes by fast.
Our wedding day was the longest, most exciting, nerve wracking, emotionally draining, completely overwhelming, yet FUN day ever. It’s probably the only time in your life when all of your closest friends and family will gather together to celebrate YOU. And that’s pretty cool.
We decided to plan a spontaneous honeymoon the week after our wedding. After checking out a few different cities (and airfare rates) we decided to fly out to San Francisco the following week. We spent a few days in the city, then we rented a car and set out for wine country and the Pacific Coast Highway. It was an awesome trip.
Before hitting the road, we stopped in to the famous Amoeba record shop in the Haight and picked up a few random albums to become the soundtrack to our trip. One of which was Carole King’s “Her Greatest Hits: Songs From Long Ago”. I popped that baby into our rental car’s cd player as we started our drive into Napa.
If you’ve ever been to San Francisco, you know how bizarre the weather can be. For the few days we spent there, it was chilly and damp. But as soon as we drove over the bridge past Sausalito, the sun came out, the sky was bright blue, and the weather was perfect for driving with the windows down. That album played as we embarked on our trip down Highway 29 into one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been. It brought tears to my eyes (because I’m super corny like that).
We had some time to kill before checking into our B&B, and the inn keeper had recommended a few places to grab a bite to eat. We stopped at a quaint little bistro right off 29 that we would have driven right by had we not been looking. Not really being in wine mode yet, I ordered a bloody Mary, and Chaser a local beer. We sat out back in the garden, sipped our drinks and relaxed. We had arrived in Napa, and I was overwhelmed with excitement. This town had a vibe that made me feel very much at home.
We ordered a fairly simple lunch: an order of carpaccio, a margherita pizza, and a salad, and it was probably my favorite meal of our whole trip. Fancy complicated food can be fun, but when simple food is prepared with love and integrity there is nothing better.
I’ve always loved how smells, sounds, and taste can trigger such intense memories. So in an attempt to remember our honeymoon, this past weekend I recreated the salad we ate that day, as best as I could remember. Roasted beets, green beans, toasted hazelnuts, and blue cheese. Simple, seasonal, and delicious.
Its a really easy salad to throw together, and uses up lots of vegetables that are abundant this time of year.
Just roast some beets.
Blanch some green beans.
Shave some fennel.
Toast a hand full of hazelnuts.
Chop a few chives.
Throw in a few more ingredients and toss together.
Crank up the Carole King, and eat.
Tonight we will be celebrating at one of our favorite byob’s and cracking open a bottle of wine that we bought on that trip (from a small vineyard called, appropriately, Chase Cellars). As much as I love cooking, I love nice dinners out even more. Happy 3 years to us.
Roasted Beet and Green Bean Salad with Fennel, Toasted Hazelnuts and Blue Cheese
I prefer the taste of yellow beets over their red counterparts, even though the red ones are more nutritious. (Hey, you’re still eating beets, right?). I just find they have a milder, less earthy flavor. And if you have green beans growing in your garden, pick them young and use them here. You can even skip the blanching if they are very tender.
½ lb haricot verts, or thin baby green beans, ends snapped off
3 medium sized beets, scrubbed clean
½ fennel bulb, thinly sliced or shaved
½ cup hazelnuts, toasted and roughly chopped
2 cups baby arugula
2 oz good quality blue cheese, such as Maytag or Roquefort
2 tbsp chives, chopped
Olive oil for drizzling
Salt and pepper
½ small shallot, minced
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper
Preheat the oven to 375. Place beets on a piece of parchment or foil, drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper, and wrap tightly. Roast for about an hour until beets can be easily pierced with a paring knife. Set aside to cool, then peel the skins and cut into large pieces.
Place a large pot of water on the stove and bring to a boil. Pour in a generous hand full of salt. Drop in the green beans for about 45 seconds, and then remove to a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking. Beans should be tender but retain a nice snap. Drain, then pat dry and add to a bowl with the beets, shaved fennel, hazelnuts, arugula, and chives.
Whisk together the shallots, Dijon mustard, white wine vinegar, and salt and pepper to taste. Slowly stream in olive oil while whisking to emulsify. Toss salad with dressing and serve immediately.