Bag of sweets

Licorice is not a flavor I am usually fond of.  In a bag of sweets, I go out of my way to avoid anything dark and mysterious, but fennel is something different all together.  It's an extremely refreshing veggie for any summer supper and it's fantastic as it is, pickled or roasted.  The below salad was born out of two inspirations.  The first was a discussion about fennel over dinner with our friends, Karyn and Nick, who shared that they slice it on a mandolin and usually with nothing more than a little lemon, olive oil, salt and pepper.  To make it fancy, they serve it with a decadent dash of white truffle oil along side fresh fried perch and green beans.  They even sent a photo of their proud supper that did indeed look delicious (and jealous as I had eaten mac n' cheese for dinner that night).   

The second inspiration came from a lunch I had at The Grocery on Southport on my birthday.  I had pickled fennel in a salad that sent off another light bulb in my head.  I should mention at this point when talking about The Grocery that my husband bought me the best vanilla cupcake with butter cream icing I have ever for my birthday there and for that, I am forever grateful (to both bakers at The Grocery and Martin).  

I have never roasted beet root and this salad made me head straight to the market.  I was delighted to find some lovely fennel with the fronds still attached.  I remember being disappointed in England when the fennel sometimes came with its dark green hair chopped right off at the bulb at larger super markets.  I also picked up some golden and reddish purple beets with the most technicolor stems you can imagine.

I turned to my trusty friend, Jamie Oliver, (or in my own mind he is my trusty friend ready to pick me up on his vespa and whisk me to the market where we look for fresh ingredients together) for some fennel and beet root ideas and he didn't disappoint.  Jamie's a huge fan of making tinfoil parcels for the barbecue and I am as well (again- we have so much in common).  I just made some mussels  on the grill by making a quick white wine sauce with shallots, garlic and parsley and then threw them in a tinfoil parcel- five minutes over hot coals and they're done.  Here's another idea for fennel that I hope Karyn and Nick like:

Barbecue-steamed Fennel
Adapted from Jamie at Home by Jamie Oliver

Fold a double piece of tinfoil in half and seal up the two sides to make a little bag.  Cut a fennel bulb in half and then into slices and add these to the envelope.  Squeeze in the juice of 1/2 a lemon and leave the lemon in the bag.  Slice up 1 red chilli, a good drizzle of olive oil and then season with sea salt and freshly ground pepper.  Seal tightly and cook over medium hot coals for about 25 minutes. 

When it comes to beets, I love them pickled, but roasted fresh, you can treat them just like carrots.  You can even use the leaves early in the season chopped up used in stir-frys.  In Jamie's book above, there are some gorgeous beet recipes for steamed beets served with grilled steak and cottage cheese dressing that is to die for, and I love the roasted beets with carrots and a sizzling hot and juicy pork chop.

So here it is, my re-creation of this beautiful salad from The Grocery.  They roast their own pecans in the store and sell them- I did note they were pepper roasted with a balsamic reduction.  No matter how you roast these pecans, they are great to keep around for snacking or salad additions.

I roasted them at the same time as the beets and you need to be careful- at a high temp, they only need about 7-8 minutes. 

Roasted Beet Root Salad with Pickled Fennel
Adapted from The Grocery
Serves 2

8 beet root- 4 golden and 4 purple/red
1 cup of pecan halves
1 fennel bulb
1 small package of goats cheese 
salad greens of your choice
2 tbsp white wine vinegar
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar

Preheat your oven to 425F.  Clean and trim your beets, drying them before placing in a small roasting tin and tossing with a little olive oil, sea salt and pepper.  Cover with foil and roast for about 40 minutes.  In the mean time, empty the pecans on another baking sheet and toss with some freshly ground pepper.  I used a Malibar spice seasoning blend that turned out tasty.

Again, pop these in the oven with the beets, but be careful and watch them so they don't burn- 7-8 minutes.  Remove and let them cool.

After the beets are done, test one with a sharp knife, then let them cool and remove their skins.  You may want to use gloves for this or you will stain your hands.

Thinly slice the fennel bulb and place it in a bowl with the white wine vinegar and some of it's chopped fronds from the top of the bulb.  Let this sit for about 5 minutes.

Mix a simple vinaigrette of the extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar and season well.  Take a handful of your favorite salad greens and mix with the dressing.  

Cut the beets into bite size pieces and assemble everything on a plate putting the pecans and goats cheese on the side.  This makes such a beautiful plate, even my husband loved eating it- greens and all. 

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