Sunday, March 8, 2009

Recipe: Roasted Beet, Fennel, Pear, Orange, and Walnut Salad

Delicious, hearty, and healthy. A burst of color on the winter table. You can roast the beets and fennel several days ahead for this delicious salad. The beets turn everything a freakish shade of pink so I find it best to dress them separately from the rest of the salad, lay them on top, and only stir them into the salad when serving.

Prep Time: 25 minutes
Cook time: 1 hour or more to roast the beets; roast fennel while roasting beets
Total time: 1 hour, 25 minutes
Serves: 4 as a main course for lunch; more with other things

3 large beets
2 bulbs fennel, fronds removed and chopped roughly
2 pears (any kind)
2 oranges or clementines, sectioned, pith removed if desired
2-3 handfuls walnut halves, toasted if desired
1 handful mint, chopped roughly
2 lemons, juiced + zest of 1 lemon
1/2-1 C olive oil
1 clove garlic, peeled
additional olive oil
salt and black pepper

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
2. Remove leaves from beets, leaving a few inches of stems. Rinse the beets, and while still wet, wrap them individually in foil, or place them together in a covered pan. Roast in 400 degree oven for about 1 hour until tender. (I learned this technique from Mark Bittman, who learned it from the great Jean-Geoerges Vongerichten) (You can refrigerate the beets, still wrapped, for about a week).
3. Meanwhile, remove the outer layer from the fennel and cut into small spears. Put in pan, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt, and roast alongside the beets for 20-25 minutes, or until beginning to caramelize (brown).
4. Make the vinaigrette. Combine the lemon juice, lemon zest, 1/2-1 C olive oil, 1 clove garlic, pinch of salt, and pepper to taste in a small blender or food processor until emulsified.
5. After the beets have cooled, peel them. The skin will slide right off. (Bittman says if you use paper towels you won't stain your fingers, but I haven't figured out how to get away without beet on my hands).
6. Cut the beets into quarters, then into slices. Place in a bowl. Dress with 1/2 vinaigrette.
7. In another large bowl, toss together the roasted fennel, pears and oranges. Dress with 1/2 the vinaigrette. Toss with walnuts, mint, and (some) fennel fronds.
8. Lay the beets gently on top of the salad mixture, garnish with mint and fennel fronds, and serve.

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