I had never eaten a beet until I moved to California 18 years ago. Up until that point, beets were something you would see in every Jewish deli in Brooklyn. They were not necessarily presented as something very appetizing. My mother never made beets. And I never saw anyone I knew eat beets until I was around 10, when I saw my now brother-in-law, eat the beets at our favorite neighborhood deli. And I remember thinking…eeew.
Fast-forward nearly 30 years and I find myself in the fresh-from-the-farm food Mecca of San Francisco where beet salads are a staple on gourmet California-cuisine menus. Having met some foodie friends when I first moved here, I got the nerve to try beets and found that I really liked the earthiness flavor and hearty texture. The beautifully rich hues of purple-red and orange-yellow brighten up any bunch of greens.
There are many variations of beet salads. Some use red beets, others golden, some add cheese such as goat cheese or feta. I prefer this salad simple and golden, and I love the licorice-flavor of fennel and the sweetness of figs to balance the earthiness of the beets. The dressing for this salad is simple and combines the tanginess of orange juice and apple cider vinegar with the sweetness of honey.
To make this salad, first rinse and wrap the beets individually in aluminum foil and roast them in a baking pan in the oven for about an hour. When the beets are done and cool enough to handle, peel the skins using the side of a fork to scrape way the skin. Then slice the beets into half-inch pieces and add them to a bowl. Slice the fennel bulb in about 1/8 inch thickness and add them to the beets. The fennel will separate into pieces, but that is okay. Combine all ingredients for the dressing and pour over the beets and fennel, and refrigerate until the beets are cool – about an hour and a half.
When the beets are chilled, take out of the refrigerator and slice the figs into quarters and add to the bowl with the beets and mix the dressing through. Place the watercress on the platter and spoon the bets, figs and fennel over the watercress and drizzle the remaining dressing on top.
Beets, Figs and Fennel Salad
1.5 lbs golden beets
1/2 lb black figs – quartered
2 cups sliced Fennel sliced into 1 inch pieces – about a bulb
2 bunches of watercress
1/4 cup orange juice
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoons EVOO
1 teaspoon honey – golden blossom
Salt and pepper
Wrap beets in foul bake at 400 for 40-60 minutes depending on size of beets. Until a knife goes through the beet with ease.
Using the side tong of a fork, scrape away the outer skin of the beets. Then slice into pieces about 1 inch size add to bowl. Slice the fennel and add to the bowl with the beets. Then mix all ingredients of the dressing and pour over the beets and fennel and refrigerate until beets are cool – about an hour and a half.
When ready to serve, cut figs into quarters and add them to the beets and fennel and mix through to cover with the dressing. Place watercress on bottom of platter or bowl, and spoon the beets, figs and fennel over the greens. Drizzle remaining dressing on top and serve.
Serves 4-6 people