Three years ago we welcomed in the New Year by treating ourselves to an extravagant night at the St. Orres Inn in Gualala, a tiny town on the Mendocino coast of northern California. The rustic Inn itself was built reflecting the significant early Russian influence along that segment of California’s Pacific coast. It’s onion shaped domes beckon the curious traveler meandering the winding curves of Highway 1 to stop and explore this little bit of paradise perched on the edge of the Pacific Ocean. Enjoying the myriad of twinkling stars of the great Milky Way filling the coal black night sky that December 31st we knew we were in for an exceptional treat as we slowly strolled from our bungalow tucked away in the woods to the welcoming warmth of the Inn’s cheery fire merrily crackling in the fieldstone fireplace as we opened the rustic front door. The air was filled with the fragrance of freshly cut boughs of evergreen… and dancing candlelight cast joyful shadows all around the cozy little room. We were escorted into the intimate dining room just around the corner and spent the next several hours soaking up the glorious atmosphere as we lingered over each magnificent course brought to our table. Each course was stunning to both the eye and the palate. We could not have welcomed in the New Year in a more glorious fashion! This salad, serving four, is inspired by the one we had that evening… and we plan on welcoming 2010 into our home with the same culinary fanfare as we did that night when the Pacific’s mighty waves pounded the rocky shores far up the rugged northern California coast.
Field Greens with Watermelon, Strawberries and Baked Goat Cheese
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place a small heavy skillet over moderately high heat. Coarsely chop:
Place chopped prosciutto in heated skillet and quickly crisp, 2 – 2 1/2 minutes
Transfer to a plate lined with a paper towel and set aside:
Slice a seedless watermelon into 3/4-inch X 3/4-inch X 5-inch pieces:
For each salad place on a chilled service plate two slices of watermelon in parallel a couple of inches apart in the center of the plate, then two more perpendicular on top:
Cut 2 ripe strawberries in half. Place three berry halves, stems attached, onto a bamboo skewer:
When the oven is heated, slice into 4 equal pieces and coat with extra virgin olive oil:
5-oz goat cheese
Roll each slice in panko crumbs, to coat:
Transfer to a baking sheet or pan:
Bake for 10 minutes. Watch closely at the end of the baking time lest the cheese become too soft and start to run!
While the cheese is baking, in a salad bowl place the greens:
wild arugula leaves, whole
red and green baby romaine, whole, or romaine hearts, coarsely chopped
3 parts fruity extra virgin olive oil
1 part Moscatel vinegar
Kosher salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Toss the greens. Place the skewered strawberry halves into one corner of the stacked watermelon slices:
Arrange the tossed greens on top of the watermelon slices. Garnish with crisped prosciutto and top with a slice of baked goat cheese… then celebrate “out with the old, in with the new” in the grandest way possible… Bon Appetit!
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