My favorite salads are the serendipitous surprises that spring into being when I clean my vegetable drawers. Beet, Fennel, and Leek Salad with Lemon-Ginger Dressing (Παντζάρια, Μάραθο και Πράσο Σαλάτα με Πιπερόριζα Σάλτσα) ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
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.
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.)
Beet, Fennel, and Leek Salad with Lemon-Ginger Dressing (Παντζάρια, Μάραθο και Πράσο Σαλάτα με Πιπερόριζα Σάλτσα)