Roots are really fun to grow. It’s very satisfying when it’s time to start pulling up beets and radishes by the fistful. When a tall, thick carrot comes out of the ground, it’s a miracle. We’ve been making do with the carrot tops and the beet greens, and even radish greens to round out a salad, but now with the real deal in hand, the greens mostly go onto the compost pile. (Well, not the carrot greens… I’m making and freezing the pesto!)
We’re still a few weeks away from carrots, and really, a couple of these beets could have been left in the ground a week longer, but I couldn’t wait! And some of them were pushing themselves mostly out of the ground, which means they’ve kind of done all they’re going to do. (Don’t worry. There’s still plenty.)
Rather than jump right into another pesto, I started off by just roasting them and eating them with a little olive oil and feta. I have to remind myself each year that I really do like beets, after only eating them pickled for most of my life.
Then I went looking on the internet and my recipe books at beet salads, and many of them involved the combination of beets and oranges. I guess beets, as a root storage vegetable, also grown in fall, are considered a winter veggie. Oranges are NOT in season, and I really don’t like to buy produce at this time of year, but I went ahead and bought a less-than-inspiring orange (and a couple small cans of Mandarin oranges) and a head of fennel for a recipe I really wanted to try. It was a beet, fennel and orange salad I’d saved from Epicurious.com mostly because it was attached to a salmon recipe.
I also found (again, with salmon) a recipe for an Asian beet salad. (Truth is, the night before I made salmon and was just too tired to make either of these, so made asparagus instead. Then the next night I made BOTH beet salads and no meat. ‘Cause that’s where we are.)
The first, Mediterranean salad, used roasted beets. To the recipe I added a can of garbanzo beans and lime juice, and consoled myself with the fact that I wasn’t just using orange, fennel and feta, but also from the garden I used shallots, mint, and parsley. I didn’t have hazelnuts, which was in the original recipe, but I had plenty of pine nuts in my anticipation of pesto season, so I toasted those. The second time I made it (tonight) I used toasted walnuts instead (you could also use walnut oil in place of the olive oil).
The second, Asian approach, was a slaw and used raw beets. It was also very good, just different. And really, you shouldn’t eat both these salads on the same night, but, you know, it was beet night! I bought oranges! Dang those peeled beets are gorgeous. As with most things that have a dressing of soy sauce and sesame oil, the natural flavors of the veggies were pretty altered. Also, I didn’t have cabbage (I was not about to buy a cabbage with four growing in the garden) so I just put the rest of the ingredients on a bed of rubbed kale. That’s why I’m calling it a salad instead of a slaw.
I had my very first ever homegrown kohlrabi. (Why didn’t I plant more of them?? I’m starting some more right away…) I sliced it into the slaw, and two carrots from the co-op, as I’m being patient and waiting for mine to grow up. I agree it would be best to do it right, as a slaw with cabbage, but that would also take away some from the beets, which are my stars right now.
In any event, it was all delicious, and there were no leftovers. I doubled the first recipe tonight when I made it again, with the second half of the fennel bulb and Mandarin oranges only, and again, no leftovers. The herbs give it a really fresh taste and the beets are definitely in a starring role. And it’s vegan.
Beet, Orange and Fennel Salad with Feta
for the original recipe, click here
4-6 beets, depending on size, mix of golden and red is nice
2 oranges or 1/2 small can of Mandarin oranges
1 small fennel bulb cored and sliced into thin strips
1/4 cup chopped mint
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1/4 cup roasted pine nuts or walnuts
1-2 shallots, thinly sliced and chopped
1 Tbs balsamic vinegar
2 Tbs olive oil (or walnut oil)
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup feta cheese, crumbled
Roast the beets wrapped in foil in a 350 degree oven until tender (about 50 minutes). Slip them from their skins, slice them and put them in a bowl.
Peel and section the orange into slices, or do yourself a favor and just use ones in a jar. Add them to the salad. Add the fennel, chopped herbs and walnuts. Mix in the balsamic vinegar, oil, salt, pepper, and either lime juice, orange juice (if using real oranges) or combination of both. It really does need juice to make it moist.
Mix the salad before adding the feta cheese to keep it from getting too pink from the beets. You can even add feta to the bowls/plates at the table.
The Asian slaw recipe can be found here. But I’ve copied it below verbatim. To this recipe I added thinly sliced kohlrabi and thinly sliced radishes. I’m sure it’s better with cabbage as a slaw than how I made it, as a glorified kale salad. A friend recommended red pepper flakes, which also would be a great addition. The dressing is very good, and the honey gives it that slaw sweetness.
Asian Beet Slaw
1½ tablespoons sesame seeds, toasted
1 cup julienned beets (If you don’t have a julienne peeler, slice a beet in half and then use a vegetable peeler to shave the beet into half moons. Next slice the half moons into very thin strips.)
1 cup shredded carrots
3 cups finely chopped green cabbage
1 navel orange, peeled, segmented and chopped
4 scallions, finely chopped (whites and light green parts only)
1½ tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
1 teaspoon rice vinegar
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1 teaspoon honey
1 teaspoon fresh ginger, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
- First, you need to toast the sesame seeds. Heat a small pan over medium heat. When hot, add the sesame seeds and toast for about 1 minute until they are golden brown.
- In a large bowl, combine the beets, carrots, cabbage, oranges and scallions.
- In a small bowl, combine the soy sauce, rice vinegar, lime juice, honey, ginger and garlic.
- Pour dressing over the beet slaw and toss to coat. Serve room temperature or chilled.