Calistoga Ranch, you had us at hello. This award-winning Napa Valley resort is nestled in a secluded canyon, surrounded by woods, vineyards, and the breathtaking Lake Lommel. While we’re suckers for five-star spas and scenic views, the way to our hearts is definitely through our tastebuds. Thankfully, executive chef Aaron Meneghelli seals the deal with his culinary masterpieces over at Calistoga Ranch’s The Lakehouse restaurant: a celebration of Napa Valley’s authentic food and wine culture set alongside Lake Lommel. Chef Meneghelli – whose prior experience runs the gamut from Michelin-celebrated restaurants to the famous Robert Mondavi winery – has spent most of his life in Napa Valley, and makes sure to infuse every dish with a unique take on the farm-fresh fare his beloved region has to offer. It doesn’t hurt that Calistoga Ranch has its own garden and chicken coop at the ready for his springy seasonal concoctions!
Chef Meneghelli’s recipe for springtime in Napa includes farm favorites and some seasonal surprises: colorful baby beets, juicy olive-oil-soaked kumquats, plus an array of wild rabe of radish, mustard greens, and more, picked straight from the garden. While these plants might look like weeds, don’t be fooled into grabbing your gardening gloves! When harvested, they add both a pretty presentation to any dish as well as the flavors of their more mature older siblings. Soak in the spring sun and indulge in this light, bright salad fit for a garden fairy…
Springtime Napa Salad With Sherry Vinaigrette
For The Salad:
6-8 organic red and gold baby beets
2-4 oz goat cheese
2-4 nori sheets
Tarragon, for garnish
Wild Rabe grown from Arugula, Mustard, Radish or other plants that will bloom when grown to maturity, for garnish
Pinch of salt
Pinch of peppercorns (whole)
Fresh thyme, to taste
Extra Virgin Olive Oil, to taste
For The Vinaigrette:
1 part Sherry Vinegar
2 parts Oil Blend (Combine 50% Canola, 50% Olive Oil)
For The Salad:
Keeping different colored beets separate, place each color in a short-sided oven-proof pan and add a pinch of salt, whole peppercorns, olive oil and fresh thyme. Each ingredient is incorporated for an aromatic flavor and you may add liberally for desired flavor. Fill pan with hot water until beets are covered half way. Cover with aluminum and bake at 400 degrees, checking after 40 minutes to see if beets are tender. Allow to cool to room temperature and then peel beets. Once peeled, cut beets into quarters.
Lightly toast nori sheets over flame, then grind in spice grinder until finely ground. Using Redwood Hills Chevre Goat Cheese, fold in ground nori and season lightly with salt.
Slice kumquats into thin rounds, careful of seeds, and cover in Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Let sit in oil overnight to soften. Garnish with fresh tarragon leaves and wild rabe.
For The Dressing:
Slowly whisk oil into vinegar to emulsify. Season with salt.
Arrange all ingredients on plate, adding watercress or other spicy leaves for flavor/garnish.