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Beet, Orange and Fennel Salad

The combination of beet, orange and fennel is perfect for a wintertime brunch. Any type of beet can be used, but keep in mind that red beets can color your fingers. To avoid stains, wear rubber gloves when peeling them. Chioggia beets, with their concentric red and white rings, bleed only slightly, and golden beets not at all. The flavors are quite similar, with golden beets slightly milder than the other two varieties. 

Ingredients:

  • 4 red or golden beets, about 1/2 lb. total  
  • 2 tsp. olive oil 
  • 2 oranges 
  • 1 fennel bulb 
  • 2 Tbs. orange-infused olive oil 
  • 1 tsp. red wine vinegar 
  • 1 tsp. balsamic vinegar 
  • 1/2 tsp. salt 
  • 1/4 tsp. freshly ground pepper 
  • 8 to 12 red leaf or other delicate lettuce leaves 
  • 1/2 cup grated pecorino cheese  
  • 1/4 cup slivered almonds, toasted  

Directions:

Preheat an oven to 350°F.

If the beet greens are still attached, cut them off, leaving 1/2 inch of the stems attached. Place the beets in a single layer in a shallow baking dish. Drizzle with the olive oil and turn to coat. Roast, turning the beets occasionally, until tender when pierced with a fork, about 1 1/4 hours. When the beets are cool enough to handle, remove the skins with your fingers. Cut each beet into quarters.

Cut a thick slice off the top and bottom of each orange. Stand the orange upright and, following the contour of the fruit, carefully slice downward to remove the peel, pith and membrane. Holding the orange over a bowl, cut along each section of the membrane, letting each freed section drop into the bowl. Strain the oranges, reserving 2 tsp. of the juice.

Cut off the stems and feathery leaves from the fennel bulb. Discard the outer layer of the bulb if it is tough. Quarter the bulb lengthwise and cut away any tough base portions. Cut the fennel into slices about 1/4 inch thick. Add to the bowl.

Add the beets to the bowl along with the reserved orange juice, the orange-infused olive oil, red wine vinegar, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper. Stir to coat.

Place 2 lettuce leaves on each individual plate. Top with the beet mixture, dividing it evenly, and spoon some of the juices from the bowl over the salad. Sprinkle with the cheese and toasted almonds, dividing evenly. Serve immediately. Serves 4 to 6.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Essentials of Breakfast and Brunch, by Georgeanne Brennan, Elinor Klivans, Jordan Mackay and Charles Pierce (Oxmoor House, 2007).