Sunday, February 10, 2008

Recipe: Beet, Fennel, and Leek Salad with Lemon-Ginger Dressing (Παντζάρια, Μάραθο και Πράσο Σαλάτα με Πιπερόριζα Σάλτσα)

My favorite salads are the serendipitous surprises that spring into being when I clean my vegetable drawers.

On the Friday before my Full Circle Farm CSA box is due, I rummage through the refrigerator to discover what ingredients most need to be used. This week it was the last of my roasted beets, a sturdy fennel bulb, and a bag of leeks that had been lingering unused for way too long.

To tie the beets, fennel, and leeks together, I needed a dressing that would stand up to their strong flavors. I started with lemon and olive oil, a classic Greek pairing called Latholemono, and spiced it up fresh garlic and ginger. Honey, sherry vinegar, and ground coriander balanced the garlic and ginger and, with a little salt and freshly ground black pepper, the dressing was done.

The tangy dressing enhances the earthy beets, fresh clean-tasting fennel, and subtly sweet leeks for a salad that is good on its own, or as an accompaniment to roast chicken or fish.

Beet, Fennel, and Leek SaladBeet, Fennel, and Leek Salad with Lemon-Ginger Dressing (Παντζάρια, Μάραθο και Πράσο Σαλάτα με Πιπερόριζα Σάλτσα)
Serves 4 – 6

The easiest way to peel ginger is to scrape off the peel with the edge of a teaspoon. To mince peeled ginger, cut it across the grain into thin slices and whack each slice with a meat pounder. The slices break up into small pieces; if you prefer a finer mince, chop up the small pieces with a chef’s knife.

1/3 cup lemon juice
1/3 cup olive oil
2 tsp. minced garlic
1/4 cup peeled and minced fresh ginger
1 tsp. honey
2 Tbsp. red wine or sherry vinegar
1 tsp. whole coriander, crushed
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper


4 medium beets, peeled and roasted (see NOTE below)
1 large fennel bulb (3 cups thinly sliced)
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 leek, white and light green parts only (1 1/2 cups thinly sliced)

Mix all the dressing ingredients together.

Cut each beet in lengthwise quarters, and each quarter into 3 wedges. Stir the beets into the dressing. (This can be done several days ahead.)

Cut the stalks off the fennel bulb and reserve for another use. Using a vegetable peeler or sharp knife, remove any darkened or damaged portions of the bulb. Cut the fennel bulb into quarters. Cut out and discard the fennel’s core. Cut the fennel quarters crosswise into vey thin slices (using a mandolin makes this task go quickly), and toss with 1 Tbsp. lemon juice (this prevents the fennel pieces from discoloring).

Cut the white and light green parts of the leek in half lengthwise. Rinse the leek under running water, separating the layers to remove any trapped dirt. Cut the leek crosswise into very thin slices. Stir the leeks into the sliced fennel. (This can be done several hours ahead.)

Spread the fennel and leeks over a large plate or individual salad plates, making an indentation in the center for the beets. Lift the beets out of the dressing with a slotted spoon and place in the indentation. Drizzle the salad with dressing and serve immediately.

NOTE on Roasting Beets: Preheat the oven to 400°F. Wash the beets, cut off the greens leaving an inch of stem (don't cut into the beet itself), rub the beets with olive oil, and wrap tightly in a foil packet (or place in a tightly covered baking dish). Bake for 40 minutes to 1 1/2 hours, depending on the size of the beets and how fresh they are. The beets are done when they're tender if poked with a knife or skewer. Let the beets cool, and slip off their skins (I wear gloves when I do this to protect my hands from staining). (These can be made ahead and kept in the refrigerator for about a week.)


This is my entry for Waiter There's Something in my ... Salad hosted by Spittoon Extra.


Peter G said...

You've certainly inspired me to use beets again. I had a bit of a phobia of them for years. What a lovely combination of flavours and that dressing sounds divine.

Ivy said...

Can imagine the taste. Nice combination.

Elly said...

Another great looking recipe, Laurie. I am loving all the beets on your blog lately!

Peter M said...

I agree Laurie, those last minute kitchen surprises are so invigorating and I echo that these ingredients make a wonderful salad.

Lydia said...

I use my mandoline to slice fennel when I'm going to use it raw in a salad. If the slices are too thick, I find the rawness overpowering. Shaving it paper-thin is easy with the mandoline.

MARIA V said...

Laurie, what exactly is a Full Circle Farm CSA box? Are these vegetables, organic, specially ordered, or scarcely available?

Lisa said...

Oh, another beet recipe. Yet another one I must try!

Pannifer's said...

It looks so yummy! As does the cabbage and rice recipe! I have to make that one!

the chocolate lady מרת שאקאלאד said...

I am really becoming devoted to your wonderful blog. I especially love the beet recipes; they just move me somehow.

aforkfulofspaghetti said...

As a fellow beetroot fan, I'm loving these recipes!

JennDZ - The Leftover Queen said...

That looks just great Laurie! Another wonderful way to use my belovd beets paired with Roberto's favorite - FENNEL!

katiez said...

Both of your beet dishes (this salad and the tart) look so lovely... I really have to start using more beets. What a rut I've gotten into.
Plus, this is a perfect winter salad...

Laurie Constantino said...

Peter G, I understand beet-phobia fully - I wouldn't touch them until I was introduced to the combination of beets and skordalia. Now when winter comes around for you, you can start digging into the beets!

Ivy, thank you!

Elly, the thing about getting your vegetables in a CSA box is that you eat very seasonally and get to explore the many dimensions of single ingredients.

Peter M, thanks!

Lydia, great suggestion to use the mandolin - it's a great tool for cutting fennel.

Maria, CSA means community supported agriculture, and is a way for members to directly support small, usually organic, farms by committing to buy vegetables on a regular schedule. Full Circle Farm is an organic farm in the Washington state that ships its vegetables and fruits to Alaska. Every other week I get a box of vegetables/fruits, selected by Full Circle Farm, based on what is fresh and in season. Here's a post that explains in more detail:

Lisa, I'm glad you're not getting tired of them!

Pannifer, I'm glad you like the recipes - I'd love to hear back if you make them!

Chocolate Lady, that's very nice to hear. And as you can tell, I find beets very inspirational!

aforkful, thank you!

Jenn - count me with Roberto - I love fennel!

Katie, ruts are easy - it used to be that when I had beets I roasted them and made skordalia and that was it. I started experimenting when I had so many beets that I couldn't stand to eat them all the same way. A side benefit of eating seasonally...

Cakelaw said...

Another great way to use beets - I am in heaven!

Andrew said...

flavoursome sounding list of ingredients; one I must try out (as soon as the weather approaches something warmer!)

Bev said...

I found your recipe googling beets and fennel. What a wonderful treat - made recipe and took it to an easter brunch, it was a hit. This goes in my favorites binder.