Winter Salad with Yellow Beet, Blood Orange, Fennel and Chèvre
After what seems like months of celebrations and travelling, we crave meals that are both hearty and light. Menus formed around fresh winter produce are vibrant and healthful, and keep us from feeling sluggish.
I’ve written about non-traditional salads in several previous posts, so I won’t go on too long about my appreciation of seasonal ingredients before sharing the recipe, but this stunner has everything to make any wintry day brighter.
In keeping with the season, cold-weather produce is front and center, offering a contrast of flavors and textures: deep red blood orange, earthy-sweet roasted golden beet, and the crunch + hint of licorice from thin slices of fennel bulb. Chèvre adds a creamy tang and gives the salad some more substance. Tart blood orange juice mixes with good-quality extra virgin olive oil to add complexity. And the feathery fronds of the fennel provide a pleasing visual + freshness counterpoint on top.
This a nice departure from the usual mixture of greens (though, I did add a few ribbons of baby collards to the plate pictured above because I had them). Even more so it’s a welcome change of pace from rich, heavy, and often meaty or starchy cold-weather foods that can be staples on the winter table.
Cheery and nutritious, I wouldn’t mind eating this salad every darn day.
What’s in it for me?
Eating a colorful array of seasonal fruit + veg guarantees plentiful nutrients to keep you nourished, energized and satisfied, and to support a strong immune system. Seasonal ingredients also taste better, and are often less expensive.
Beets are good sources of fiber, iron, manganese, and vitamin C. These root vegetables are also rich in cancer-fighting, inflammation-lowering pigment compounds called betalains — while red varieties have the highest levels, striped and golden beets also come with an impressive amount. For the ladies planning a baby or who are expecting, beets contain high amounts of folate, which is important for prevention of birth defects and low birth weight. If beets aren’t usually your thing, the golds are slightly sweeter and less earthy.
Blood oranges provide more than 100% of your daily vitamin C needs per one small fruit, which helps the body absorb iron + also block lead. For only about 70 calories, and are good sources of fiber, and the B vitamins folate and thiamin (B1).The crimson red pigment indicates the presence of two antioxidant phytochemicals — anthocyanins and lycopene — both of playing roles in decreasing inflammation and tumor growth, therefore offering protection from heart diseases and certain cancers.
Fresh fennel, also known as anise, has a crisp texture and clean, licorice-like flavor. This member of the carrot family is a rich source of fiber, vitamin C, as well as heart-healthy potassium, the latter of which helps rid the body of excess sodium and lower blood pressure. Fennel is about 90% water, making it a hydrating addition to the winter diet to combat dry lips, skin and hair. One half of a bulb is less than 40 calories.
For roughly 100 calories per ounce, chèvre is all at once rich, creamy, light, and earthy. This fresh goat’s milk cheese provides 6 g complete protein, meaning it contains all of the essential amino acids, and is naturally lower in fat than many other cheeses — only 8 g total fat (6 g saturated + 2 g unsaturated) per ounce.
The small amount of fat from the chèvre, plus that from the olive oil, help your body absorb and utilize the fat-soluble nutrients; while the honey provides small amounts of minerals and antioxidants that may have antiseptic and antibacterial properties — more so if you can find local honey.
This salad is lovely on its own, and is perfect for exploring the many varieties of both citrus and beets available during the colder months — try those which you like best, are on sale, or catch your eye at the market. It is just as delicious when it joins a healthy spread with lean protein, grains or warm bread, greens, etc. Either way, my beet, orange and fennel salad with chèvre is a terrific recipe to show off your gorgeous, seasonal fresh produce — a winter showstopper.
Tell me… Do you enjoy salads when it’s cold out? What are your favorite winter salad ingredients?
- 2 large or 4 small golden beets, washed well, greens removed if still attached
- 2 small to medium fennel + 2 Tbsp fennel fronds, divided -- 1 Tbsp minced, 1 Tbsp whole
- 3 small blood oranges, divided -- 2 for the salad, 1 for juicing (to yield about 1/4 cup)
- 2 handfuls of baby greens, like collards, kale, arugula or spinach, washed and dried well, thinly sliced into ribbons (optional)
- 2 Tbsp good-quality extra virgin olive oil
- 1 Tbsp finely minced shallot (about 1 small shallot)
- 1 tsp white wine vinegar
- 1 tsp pure honey
- 4 oz chèvre
- Preheat oven to 400° F. Wrap beets individually in foil, and place them into a rimmed baking tray or glass oven-safe dish. Roast, undisturbed, until beets are tender when pierced with a knife, about 45 minutes for small beets and up to 1 hour or more for larger beets. If you have beets of differing sizes, remove each when it is done. When cool enough to comfortably handle, gently rub off the beet skins with your fingers. With a sharp knife (or mandoline), cut each into slices about 1/8-inch thick. (Can be roasted ahead of time, then refrigerated, once cool, up to 2 days before using.)
- Cut off the stem and frond portions of the fennel; reserve the fronds, and either discard the stems or save to compost or make stock (see HGN Notes). Discard the outer layer of the bulbs if tough or beat-up looking. Halve each bulb, then cut out and discard the core. Place each half on a flat side, and use a sharp knife (or mandoline) to slice thinly, 1/8-inch thick. Repeat with the second bulb. Set aside.
- Cut off the tops and bottoms of the blood oranges. Stand one orange on a cut end, then use a sharp knife to pare off the peels, carefully slicing in a downward motion along the contours of the fruit. Repeat with the second orange. Discard the peels. Cut each orange crosswise into 1/4-inch thick slices.
- In a small bowl or lidded jar, whisk or shake together the blood orange juice and extra virgin olive oil. Add the minced fennel fronds, shallot, vinegar and honey, and whisk/shake again. Taste, and season as needed with salt and black pepper. Set the vinaigrette aside at room temperature for 20 to 30 minutes to allow the flavors to mix and mingle. (Can be prepared ahead and kept refrigerated up to 1 day in advance. Bring out to rest at room temperature 10 to 20 minutes before using.)
- On a large serving platter, layer the slices of beet, fennel and orange; or onto 4 individual salad plates, dividing evenly. Add the reserved minced fennel fronds to the vinaigrette, and whisk once more before lightly drizzling over the salad(s). (Keep in mind that the blood oranges and blood orange vinaigrette will quickly turn everything pink, so assemble the salad just before serving for optimal presentation.) If using the ribbons of baby greens, give them a quick toss in a small bowl with a spoon of the vinaigrette, then pile on top of the veg. Top with nubs of chèvre, finish with a light pinch each salt and black pepper, and then garnish with the reserved whole fennel fronds. Serve immediately.
As for the fennel, you can reserve the stems to imbue a batch of Homemade Stock with their licorice-sweetness: http://buff.ly/2jg5kBA.
+ I highlight blood orange, golden beet and licorice-y fennel (anise), but you can swap in other winter produce as desired. Try other citrus, like mandarin or cara cara orange, grapefruit, even kumquats; red or stripey beets, or slices of sweet potato or squash; and celeriac (celery root), kohlrabi or daikon radish.
+ If you don't have or like fennel fronds as a finishing "herb," swap in fresh dill, tarragon, mint, thyme or basil. Tender baby greens like mâche, arugula, baby spinach or baby kale, or even broccoli sprouts.
+ Substitute chèvre with similarly creamy, fresh cheeses like ricotta, farmer's cheese, labneh or a fresh feta; though, really any cheese you like can stand in. Alternatively, omit the cheese altogether.
+ To make it more substantial, higher in protein, and add a textural contrast, add some chickpeas, chopped hazelnuts, pistachios or walnuts, poached or rotisserie chicken pieces, cooked shrimp, toasted pepitas or sunflower seeds.
+ Should you want something warm and carb-y for the side, try a warm hunk of bread, or a scoop of quinoa or whole grains, such as barley, farro or bulgur.
Recipe adapted from Bon Appetit.
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