Freshly roasted sweet beets and crisp, refreshing fennel are a match made in heaven. Sprinkle with a touch of salt and pepper, drizzle with extra virgin olive oil, and you’ve got perfected perfection.
In this week’s CSA, we received fresh beets, fennel, and red butterhead lettuce, among other veggies, like green beans and golden squash. Since the temperature here in Maryland has been scorching hot, we’re talking muggy humidity and temperatures way up in the 90s, nothing refreshes the palate better than a cool salad.
While our recipe for this week is indeed a cold salad, we did have to turn the oven on just briefly to roast the beets; but, trust us, it’s worth it! Roasting beets helps concentrate the natural sweetness and softens the root for a delicate bite. After roasting the beets in foil for about an hour and a half, it’s important to allow the beets to cool before peeling the skins off. The longer the beets roast, the easier it will be to peel, as the skin begins to pull away from the ruby flesh beneath. You might want to wear gloves and use a dark-colored, non-porous cutting board so as to not stain your hands or your cutting surface. Again, trust us on this one!
Slicing the fennel and beets thinly is ideal for layering on top a bed of tender greens, such as red butterhead lettuce. So, if you’re looking for a light summer salad to enjoy for lunch or to serve with your grilled chicken skewers, this is the perfect one!
Fennel and roasted beet salad
1 fennel bulb
3 medium beets
½ head of red butterhead lettuce, or any comparable delicate green
Salt and black pepper to taste
3-4 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
2-3 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
First prepare the beets. Chop off the beet greens from the roots and reserve for another recipe. Wash and dry the beet roots well. Wrap the beets together in foil and roast at 350 F for about 1.5 hours, or until the beets are soft and fully cooked through. Allow the beets to cool. Once the beets are cool enough to handle, put on a pair of gloves or use kitchen gloves, and using a small paring knife and your thumb as a guide, gently peel the skin away. The skin will be a dark red, but as you peel the skin away, you will see the ruby red beet beneath. Peel all of the beets and then using a larger knife, slice the beets thinly. Set aside.
Next prepare the fennel. Chop off the stalks with the fronds from the fennel bulb and slice off the thin root bottom of the fennel bulb so you have just the bulb. Cut the bulb in half vertically. You will see a core in the middle. Using your knife, make an angled incision on either side of the triangular core and use your fingers to pry the core out. Discard the core from both halves of the fennel. Set each half face-side down and slice thinly. Set aside.
Prepare the lettuce. Keeping the whole head of lettuce intact, begin to peel away the outer leaves like lettuce cups. Wash and dry the leaves thoroughly. Lay the leaves cup-side up on a platter. Then scatter the fennel slices in a thin layer. Next, layer the beets over top of the fennel. Sprinkle with a bit of salt and black pepper to taste. Drizzle with the extra virgin olive oil and red wine vinegar. Serve immediately.