With the goal of keeping it bright and fresh well into January (you know, before we give it all up and start swimming in chocolate next month), I present to you my new favorite salad. For much of my life, “salad” was one that included leafy greens, chopped fresh vegetables, possibly something crunchy, like nuts or croutons. When I first traveled to France, I fell in love with the idea of the salade verte, which invariably was a pile of greens dressed with the best vinaigrette I’ve ever tasted. Seriously, every single French restaurant (and possibly every French person?) knows how to make a perfect vinaigrette. I have yet to master this, but I keep trying.
When I started writing this post, I labored for a bit over the name. What do I call a bowlful of yummy roasted winter vegetables? Thinking about it for a bit, I realized that roasting beets, carrots and fennel slices, and tossing them while warm in a citrusy vinaigrette was very much the definition of a salad. In fact, the methodology actually reminds me quite a bit of a potato salad that I adore. Which, of course, is also a “salad”. As is tuna salad. And chicken salad.
So then I started to google, because what the hell IS a salad anyways? It turns out that salad comes from the French word salade (they are the masters for a reason) or salata in latin, which means “salt”. As it turns out, the word “salad” in Roman times, because it referred to vegetables seasoned with brine or a salty oil-vinegar dressing. Which is pretty much what we have here with this recipe.
I’m glad we have all that cleared up. And now that you know that I am a word dork that is trying to eat healthfully this winter, let’s talk about the recipe below.
The sweet, earthy flavors of the beets, carrots and fennel are a great combination. And the addition of the citrus dressing brings brightness to the dish that makes it both hearty and refreshing. Plus, with just a little bit of work, you have a lot of food that you can eat for days. For us, we ate the salad first as a side dish alongside fish at dinner and then tossed into a larger green salad for lunch the next day. Hello, January!
Roasted Beet, Carrot and Fennel Salad
Yields about 4-6 servings
4 beets, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch wedges (about 1 ½ pounds)
3-4 medium sized carrots, cut into thick coins
1 fennel bulb, top removed and sliced into medium-sized wedges
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 orange, juiced
2 tablespoons white vinegar
salt and freshly ground pepper
2 thyme sprigs
Optional additions: goat cheese, nuts (hazelnut or pistachio would be great here), capers (I pan-fried mine), citrus segments
Preheat the oven to 400°. Toss the beets with the thyme, the water and 1 tablespoon of the olive oil; season with salt and pepper. Spread into one layer on a parchment or foil lined baking sheet. Cook for about 35-40 minutes, or until tender. Let cool slightly. Discard the thyme.
Meanwhile, in a small baking dish, drizzle the fennel wedges and carrots with the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Bake for about 15-20 minutes, or until tender and lightly browned. (I put the fennel and carrots into the oven while the beets were baking).
In a small bowl, add the juice the juice of an orange and whisk in the vinegar. While the vegetables are still warm, add the citrus and vinegar mixture and toss well. Season with salt and pepper. If you think it needs a bit more brightness, add another splash of vinegar or squeeze more orange juice on top, and toss again. Serve warm or at room temperature.
(Note: this can be made ahead, but you may want to store the beets separately from the fennel and the carrots, as the beet juice will stain everything pink - though it IS very pretty that way!)
Taking it to the next level. Because of this household’s love of the beet, I made a LOT of this salad for just two people. The first night, we ate it as is, and loved it. The second night, I mixed things up a bit by adding toasted hazelnuts, fried capers, and goat cheese crumbles. Just delicious! And I even have some left for lunch. I swear, my insides must be stained beet-red by now.
Cutting Corners. Since you all seemed to appreciate my shortcuts in the last post, I will suggest them any time I can in the future. I certainly use them all the time! If I were craving this salad, but was short on time, I would definitely buy those pre-cooked beets that have been popping up in the produce aisle recently. The brand I have been buying is called “Love Beets”. They seem to be lightly pickled, perfectly tangy and sweet. I would roast the fennel and carrots the same way for about 15-20 minutes, cut up the prepared beets, add a squeeze of orange, and enjoy the heck out of them. I’m not sure canned beets would be a great solution, because they can be a little soft and cloyingly sweet at times, but these freshly prepared beets are a wonderful solution.