Saturday, August 29, 2009

fruits of labor: fennel, orange and beet salad

a little break from the france posts for a minute - i served this salad with delicate fillets of sole and fresh ears of corn for a nice bright summers dinner -
i love this salad its so light and refreshing but still has intense flavor combinations - the bright citrus from the orange the snappy licorice flavor from the fennel and the deep earthy flavor of the beets.
i prefer to roast my own beets, its easy and i think it intensifies and caramelizes the sugars in the beets exposing the rustic flavors of this root vegetable that makes it so wonderful -

serves 6
for this recipe you will need:

12-14 medium sized beets (if you don't want to roast the beets you can use 3 cans of whole baby beets drained)

4 medium or fist sized oranges plus the zest of one orange

1 large fennel bulb

3 tbsp of orange muscat champagne vinegar (trader joes has a great one)

1/2 tsp of red wine vinegar

3/4 of a small red onion

olive oil
salt and pepper

preheat oven to 400.
begin by roasting the beets - remove beets from greens and scrub the outsides. then cut each beet in half and place cut side down on a foil lined baking sheet. i like to leave a bit of the stems and a bit of the tip on - it makes removing the skin after roasting a bit easier - see photo below - drizzle the beets with olive oil and a bit of salt and pepper - toss to make sure beets are well coated and that the cut side of each is against the foil - place in the oven and roast approx. 40 minutes or until you can insert a fork all the way through the beet.

while the beets are roasting - add the zest of one orange into the bottom of a larger bowl - then cut and section each of the four oranges - the easiest way to do this is to straight cut off the top and bottom of each orange, then in a curved motion cut from top to bottom of the orange with a knife to just remove skin and pith. then over the bowl - insert knife on the inside of each section and cut toward the center when you reach the center pivot the knife to cut back out toward you on the inside of the opposite section. if you are not sure what i mean there are some videos on youtube that can help. once you have removed all of the sections squeeze the juice from the discarded part over the bowl. do this for each of the four oranges. when you have finished slice the fennel bulb into approx. half inch slices then quarter each of those slices so that you have more manageable pieces and add them to the orange sections and juice. then mince 3/4 or a small red onion and add it to the bowl - after doing this add the 3 tbsp of orange champagne vinegar and and a good pinch of salt, stir and let macerate together while the beets continue to roast.

when the beets are tender remove from the oven and let stand until they are just cool enough to handle (if they cool for too long you will have a hard time removing the skin) - here is why i leave the tip and a bit of the tops on the beet - with a knife cut slice off the tip and the top you should be able to slide your knife tip or finger under the skin and peel it back - repeat this for all of the beets - then cut into large chunks and add to the bowl with the orange, fennel and onion. when you have finished peeling and cutting the beets add the remaining 1/2 tsp of red vine vinegar, and approx 1/2 a tsp of salt and pepper to the bowl - stir together. At the very end drizzle the whole salad with 1 tbsp of good olive oil and stir to combine - chill for approx. 1 hour or up to a day ahead and serve. it is also excellent served with a round of fried goat cheese on top!

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