Wednesday, February 2, 2011

A surprising salad

A couple of weekends ago, the husband and I skipped town. We were reeling from the loss of our beloved Frances and hoped a change of scenery might provide a bit of peace.

Not in the mood to do a lot of research--we just wanted to leave--we settled on this ridiculously posh spot for our destination. While a jaw-dropping setting can't mend a broken heart, it certainly doesn't hurt. And 70 degree weather and sunshine wasn't bad either.

Half Moon Bay is less than an hour from the city but feels like a sandy, sleepy little beach town. The hotel itself is perched on the ocean and there are walking paths that lead around the golf course (which, surprisingly, is public), and down to the ocean. Both mornings we walked down to the beach and sat with our feet in the sand and the sun on our faces, admiring countless dogs frolicking in the surf, as healing an activity as anything.

Half Moon Bay's main street ("Main Street") is devoid of any chain stores and manages to feel charming without being cutesy. We spent an afternoon strolling around a bit aimlessly, not a bad thing to do, and about all we could manage. After awhile, we ended up at the locally famous Pasta Moon for lunch.

If there were a place like this in San Francisco, I would eat there once a week. Their homemade pasta was absolutely divine--the husband had a gorgeous lasagne and I had delicate pappardelle with prosciutto, wild mushrooms, porcini cream, and white truffle oil.  It was all I could do not to lick the bowl.

Just as captivating, though, was my salad--a surprisingly delicious blend of roasted brussels sprouts, butternut squash, pancetta, baby cannellini beans, frisee and a vinaigrette with white balsamic vinegar.

I knew I wanted to make my own version of this delightful salad one day soon, and I tried it this week. I swapped watercress for frisee, and bacon for pancetta. And, I couldn't find baby cannellini beans, which I have to say were the perfect miniature addition to the dish. I did, however, cook cannellini beans from scratch, which I have never done before. Usually I open a can. They were good, but I'm not sure worth the effort.

But overall, the dish was a great success. Since we had been eating pretty heavily in the previous days, I served it as sort of a main course alongside creamy polenta. This is what it looked like.

I don't have a recipe, but the idea is: roast some brussels sprouts. Roast some butternut squash, which you've cut into small dice. Fry up some bacon or pancetta and at the end add a little minced garlic and the beans to warm them through. Toss everything with a green of your choice and a simple vinaigrette.

All of the proportions are up to you. At Pasta Moon, the brussels sprouts were the main attraction, with all of the other ingredients acting as careful accents. But you could tweak it any way you like. I do think the white balsamic, which I had never used before, added a lush and sweet flavor to the dish--also, being clear, it did not darken the salad.

So, give it a whirl.

I also wanted to say thank you for all of your kind comments about losing Frannie. It has been a very difficult few weeks but we are adjusting, slowly. We are already looking forward to adopting another dog (or two!) in the near future. But first, a trip. I'll write more about that as our plans take shape.

In any case, thank you. You've softened a rough blow, and I am grateful.


  1. I'm so glad you got to get away for a bit. Half Moon Bay sounds like a wonderful spot. I love the sound of that salad, maybe I'll try my own version soon!

  2. An escape sounded like the best thing, and sounds like you lucked out with the weather. Your salad looks wonderful, lots of nice color, and very hearty for the winter months! I love brussel sprouts but usually eat it by itself. Never thought of mixing it up in a salad like that.

    (Looking forward to hearing more about your travel plans and the new additions to your family!)

  3. What a great looking salad! I've actually been to Half Moon Bay - we just had lunch there at a brewery. It was only ok. Next time, Pasta Moon. Thanks!

  4. Happy you had a good trip and that you brought home the idea for this salad. I love roasted sprouts, and this sounds delish.

  5. Always wanted to check out Half Moon Bay, but somehow we always get sidetracked up to Napa instead. Sounds like a great place to visit. Salad looks great by the way, I love the combination of roasty caramelized veg, smoky pork and fresh greens! And white balsamic is a fabulous vinegar.

  6. Hi HD,
    I am glad your heart is healing.
    I love Half Moon Bay. We rented a car once and went there. So beautiful. Next trip we will try Pasta Moon. But this weekend I'll try your salad.

  7. good idea, taking a break from routine for awhile! it inspired a terrific salad, of which you've taken lovely pictures. :)

  8. These pictures are beautiful. Would you be interest in having them in the San Mateo County Visitors Guide? Please contact 650-348-7600 THANKS!

  9. Jessica: You should!

    Ben: I haven't had brussels sprouts in too many salads either but I think I am a convert!

    camille: yes, nest time try pasta moon, I don't think you will be disappointed!

    oneordinaryday: give it a try!

    Connie: well, you can't go wrong with Napa. But it is missing one thing: the ocean.

    Pam: thanks so much. Hope you are well.

    grace: thanks about the pictures! Not too bad for a little old salad.

  10. Yum! And we have sprouts, greens and beans at the ready. This may be tonight's dinner :) Another great use for your cooked cannellini beans: braised with marjoram, garlic, olive oil and oregano, served on crostini w/shaved parm and arugula (a la A16). Glad the beach gave you some healing time and that you are planning a trip!

  11. What a gorgeous location. Glad to know the healing process has begun. SO glad to see you back on the blog this soon.

    The salad looks fantastic, and I'm with you, not so sure about canellini beans from scratch, although with chickpeas, there's definitely a difference.

    Take care and looking forward to hearing about the trip.

  12. I am so sorry that your Hungry Dog passed away. I had no idea, until I visited your blog today. Sending laughter, positive thoughts and heart your way.

    Good to know that you enjoyed a nice get away, and you found this time to be healing.


  13. Ash: did you try it? Like the idea of you A16 dish.

    shaz: Yes, chickpeas might be worth the effort...canned ones aren't very good in my opinion. But canned cannellini beans are just fine!

    Velva: Thank you so much.

  14. I've been to a couple Ritz Carlton's...they are divine! I hope it made things a little better for you.
    I've never tried white balsamic. Going to look into that ASAP.
    Can't wait to hear about your trip!
    Keep your spirits up, Samantha!

  15. Surprising salad indeed. Pasta Moon is now on my ever growing restaurants to check out list.
    Take care!

  16. Barbara: I am a total covert to white balsamic. It is delicious.

    ALY: You must check it out.

  17. What a beautiful salad you've photographed! And the place sounds amazing. It was built after I left the bay area. Take it easy as you go through this time.

  18. I hear the nagging voice in my head, "Eat your brussel sprouts." I swear, I'm much better about eating my veggies now, and this salad is a great idea, especially since it's still chilly outside. I like mixing roasted veggies in salads, just to mix things up a bit -- great idea!