Sunday, 12 February 2012

SmartCooks Celebrates Kim Novak's Birthday with a Nepenthe Restaurant 'Golden and Red Beet Salad'

February 13, 2012

SmartCooks here.  At this time of year most people celebrate Valentine's Day.  We don't.  Instead, every February 13 we recognize actress Kim Novak's birthday.  Why? Dunno, but it's a longstanding tradition and I don't mess with tradition.  So, Happy Birthday Kim Novak!  Hope she is finished treatments for breast cancer and feeling better. 

To honour Kim Novak's birthday (and an early Valentine's Day), I searched for information on her favourite foods. It was not easy. I only found 'fish' in one list.  You'd think that the Hollywood Ministries of Gossip would have sleuthed out these details, but apparently not.  Lots of gossip on her dating life (Frank Sinatra, naturally), engagements (Sammy Davis, Jr.), marriages (current veterinarian husband, Robert Malloy), and llama farming in Oregon and California. 

Food... silence.  Obviously, not a big, public focus of her acting life.  

It took research in two diverse areas of Kim's life but I eventually landed on a salad in her honour called 'Golden and Red Beet Salad with Sherry Vinaigrette'.  The Golden Beets are a tribute to a Golden Girl and the Red Beets a Happy Valentine's Day as well.  Isn't that so sweet it makes your teeth hurt? 

Here's how I arrived at this lovely salad offering.

First, I tried her films to check out culinary favourites.  I looked at one we just 'happen' to have PVR-ed (i.e,. the 1962 racy comedy Boy's Night Out).  I fast forwarded to see if she eats something intriguing in any of the scenes.)  Not.  Picnic features one of the sultriest, sexiest dance scenes on the silver screen between Kim Novak and William Holden. But no real food. 

I also You-Tubed Vertigo and scared myself silly watching an excerpt from the Alfred Hitchcock classic. But I hit pay dirt on food. (It turns out Alfred Hitchcock dished out more than horror... more than 80 dishes 'starred' in his various filmes, from Moroccan Tagine in the 'Man Who Knew Too Much', Quiche Lorraine in 'To Catch a Thief' to 'Pecan Pie' in 'Marnie'.) 

Vertigo, with Kim and James Stewart, features 'Maryland Turkey Supreme', a Hitchcock favourite.  I google-ed and found, to my horror, it contains loads of whipping cream, buttermilk, butter, and some turkey.  Ick.  Doubtless Kim just picked at the turkey portions and ignored the heavy creams.   

So, onward I searched and came across the most intriguing book released in the summer of 2011 called My Nepenthe   It's written by Romney Steele, a writer, cook, and visual artist.  She's the granddaughter of the Fassetts who built Nepenthe Restaurantnestled 1,200 feet above the Pacific Ocean, and with views to gaze at for hours on end.

Nepenthe, which translated from Greek means 'isle of no care' or an elixir that erases grief, sits on land originally owned by Orson Welles and Rita Hayworth.  When the Fassetts bought the site, they had restaurant built by a student of Frank Lloyd Wright.  

Nepenthe Restaurant became a gathering spot for celebrities and the bohemian set of the 1950s and 1960.  Janis Joplin.... Henry Miller .... Jimi Hendrix .... Steve McQueen ... Kim Novak ..... Clint Eastwood.... Elizabeth Taylor .... Richard Burton.   Its dance floor was featured in the filming of The Sandpiper  while guests sipped martinis, ordered from the eclectic menu and sat under the perfect California moonlight.  

Nepenthe, and its restaurant called Cafe Kevah, are still famous today, serving comfort food to the thriving local artistic community and visitors, especially the "Ambrosia Burger" (both a meat and vegetarian version).  Salads of course are a staple.  

For a full dinner with Kim Novak, I would put together a Nepenthe menu, and offer selections in keeping with the Golden Girl's Birthday and Valentine's Day, like 'Roast Chicken with Sage Stuffing', 'Cranberry Sauce', 'Golden and Red Beet Salad with Sherry Vinaigrette' and 'Lemony Lemon Squares'.   

Happy Birthday Kim and Happy Valentine's Day too with Golden and Red Beet Salad with Sherry Vinaigrette!  

Golden and Red Beet Salad with Sherry Vinaigrette



8-12 baby golden and red beets
(2 bunches small or 1 bunch large), 
boiled or roasted, and peeled
8 cups field greens or arugula, rinsed 
(include the beet tops) 
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
8 cherry tomatoes, halved
4 ounces fresh goat cheese, crumbled
1/2 cup candied or toasted pecans

Sherry Vinaigrette

1 small shallot, finely chopped
2 T sherry vinegar
1 tsp Dijon mustard
6 T olive or safflower oil
1 T water
2 tsp finely chopped fresh thyme
Salt and freshly ground black pepper


For the salad, halve or quarter the beets, depending on size. Combine the beets, greens, onion, and tomatoes in a large bowl. Toss with the vinaigrette and season lightly with a little salt if needed. Sprinkle the goat cheese and pecans over the salad and serve.

To make the vinaigrette, combine the shallot, vinegar, and mustard in a small bowl. Whisk in the oil and water. Whisk in the thyme, salt, and pepper.

Note:  To roast beets, throw them scrubbed but unpeeled into a baking pan and drizzle with a little olive oil.  Season with salt and pepper and add a splash of water and sherry vinegar. Cover tightly and roast at 400°F until fork tender, about 30 minutes for small ones. Peel the beets when still warm by rubbing between two paper towels.

And don't forget the beet greens, which can be used as well once they are thoroughly washed and dried.  

To candy pecans, toss nuts in a sugar syrup (equal parts water and sugar/honey); add a pinch of salt and spread them onto a lightly buttered parchment-covered pan. Bake at 300°F for about 25 minutes, until nicely toasted and caramelized.

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