Lessons from a Winter Salad

Yesterday, I decided to make this Blood Orange, Beet and Fennel salad from Bon Appetit Magazine.

I learned a few things along the way:

1. I gained a lot of respect for the complex orb that is the orange. Never again will I agree to peel, remove the pith from, de-membrane, and segment oranges, unless I have first been given a citrus fruit crash course with a culinary great. It was an incredibly juicy half hour, and not in a good way.

2. To put it politely, I’d rather not eat fennel. Or smell it. Or lay eyes on it. Ever again.

3. The salad was a perfect way to use the tangerine olive oil I got for Christmas. Flavored oils are a sneaky way to add another layer of flavor to any dish.

4. No matter the battles this winter salad and I fought, this one’s a winner for its colors alone.

Blood Orange, Beet and Fennel Salad recipe

Makes 4-6 servings

Ingredients

2 medium red beets, tops trimmed
2 medium golden beets, tops trimmed
3 blood oranges
1 medium navel orange
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1/2 small fennel bulb, very thinly sliced crosswise
1/4 red onion, very thinly sliced
Good-quality extra-virgin olive oil (for drizzling)
Sea salt, freshly ground black pepper, 1/4 cup loosely packed fresh cilantro

Preheat oven to 400°. Wash beets, leaving some water on skins. Wrap individually in foil; place on a rimmed baking sheet and roast until beets are tender when pierced with a knife, about 1 hour. Let cool.

Meanwhile, using a sharp knife, cut all peel and white pith from all oranges; discard. Working over a medium bowl, cut between membranes of 2 blood oranges to release segments into bowl; squeeze juice from membranes into bowl and discard membranes. Slice remaining blood orange and navel orange crosswise into thin rounds. Place sliced oranges in bowl with the segments. Add lemon juice and lime juice.

Peel cooled beets. Slice 2 beets crosswise into thin rounds. Cut remaining 2 beets into wedges. Strain citrus juices; reserve. Layer beets and oranges on plates, dividing evenly. Arrange fennel and onion over beets. Spoon reserved citrus juices over, then drizzle salad generously with oil. Season to taste with coarse sea salt and pepper. Let salad stand for 5 minutes to allow flavors to meld. Garnish salad with cilantro leaves.

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