Whenever I see beets, I usually buy them. Even if they are big, overgrown beets (which is what I usually find in the markets here in Rome) I always figure they are better than nothing. I’m not quite sure why the farmers let their beets get so out of control. I think it’s that beets are not really such a common thing in central Italy, and so they really don’t know what to do with them. They don’t realize what a huge difference in texture and taste there is between tiny, golf ball size beets and the grapefruit sized ones they are growing.
Which explains why, when I saw an entire crate full of mini beets last week at the farmer’s market, I bought 2 kilos of them. In case you’re wondering, that’s a lotta beets. But that’s ok with me. On Sunday I roasted all of them, and so they were already cooked and ready to go all week long.
I’ve been house bound all week, working on finishing the last bits and pieces of my book. So I was very happy to find beets every day when my stomach started rumbling for lunch. I made a different salad every day: I chopped them up and added them to kale; I sliced them thinly and sprinkled them with blue cheese; I topped them with roasted almonds and red onions. Simple variations, but once on the plate so different.
My final salad of the week not only used up the last of the beets, but managed to use up the last fennel as well. Since my go to fennel salad involves oranges I had my ‘ah ha’ moment. Oranges are in fact now my favorite pairing with beets. I’m not quite sure why I never figured this out before.
beet, fennel and orange salad
4 small beets
1 small head of fennel
fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup chopped, roasted hazelnuts
Preheat oven to 350F/180C
Wash the beets and wrap each one in tin foil. Place on an oven tray and roast for about an hour.
Take the beets out and when they have cooled enough to handle, gently slip the skins off. Cut the beets into quarters.
Take off the outer layers of the fennel bulb and cut it length wise. Slice into very thin slices, lengthwise.
Cut the peel off of the oranges using a sharp knife. Do not just peel the orange, or else the white pith will remain. You want to cut off the skin and pith. Then slice the orange into disks,.