Summer is the perfect time to try a new salad. Everything is so fresh and delicious! A couple of summers ago, I whipped this salad up on a whim when I remembered at the last hour that we were supposed to bring a dish to a birthday party. The tender, earthy beets are fantastic with the crunchy fennel and soft cheese. Originally, I used sambuca in the dressing, but opted for aquavit this time. It might seem a little bitter, but in the salad, it’s quite something else. If you prefer more of an anise flavor, feel free to swap the aquavit for ouzo, pastis, sambuca, whatever you have in the house. The recipe here will make a nice sized salad for 4 people, and is easily doubled or tripled for parties, potlucks and so on.
Roasted Beet + Fennel Salad with Goat Cheese
- 2 large beets or 3-4 small ones
- 125ml (1/2 cup) sliced fennel stalks
- juice of 1/4 of a lemon
- 60g (2oz) goat cheese
- 2.5ml (1/2 tsp) fennel seeds
- juice of 1/2 a lemon
- 30ml (2 tbsp) aquavit or anise liqueur
- 5ml (1 tsp) dijon mustard
- 5ml (1 tsp) honey
- 30 ml (2 tbsp) olive or grapeseed oil
- salt and pepper to taste
Pre-heat the oven to 220 C/425 F.
Peel the beets. If they are quite large, cut them in half. Roast them in the oven for 20 minutes, then turn them over and let them cook for another 20 minutes. They should be easily poked with a fork, but still nice and firm. If they need a few more minutes, stick ’em back in.
Let the beets cool while you prepare the rest of the salad.
Lightly toast the fennel seeds in a hot pan over medium heat. Set them aside to cool.
Remove the fronds from the fennel stalks, and slice. The stalks from one fennel bulb should give you the right amount. Toss the sliced fennel in the juice of the lemon quarter and set aside.
A quick note about the dressing: you will probably end up with more than you need. I always like to make a little more than I think I might need, just in case. The leftover is easily added to a green salad, and will keep for some time.
To make the dressing, whisk the aquavit (or other booze of choice), lemon juice, mustard, honey, olive (or grapeseed) oil, and a pinch of salt and pepper. If you are using aquavit, the honey should be just right. If you choose a sweet liqueur, you might want to pass on the honey, or at least go easy on it. Taste the dressing and add salt and pepper, if needed. Set the dressing aside.
If your beets haven’t cooled enough to slice, pour yourself an aperitif and put your feet up for a few minutes. You’ve earned a rest! *you should have a quarter of a lemon left, that should go nicely in something!
Now that you’re slightly tipsy, it’s time to get out the knives. Slice the now-cooled beets into nice slices, not too thick… not too thin.
With everything ready to go, get your goat cheese out, and assemble the salad. I like to layer beets, crumbled cheese, fennel, a drizzle of dressing, repeat. Sprinkle the top with the toasted fennel seeds. You can make individual stacked salads, or layer it all in a nice big dish.