I always find March to be such a difficult time of the year to eat healthy and inspiring food. On the one hand it's still winter for a few more weeks, but it's usually this time of year when I find myself craving fresh and light meals. Spring produce hasn't quite popped up at the farmers markets yet but we're so gosh darn close that I can almost taste my first strawberry of the season!
This roasted fennel and beet salad is my in-between the seasons cure. We still have beets storing in our barn from the fall and they pair beautifully with the sweet roasted fennel and tangy tahini dressing. Maybe I've just eaten too many winter soups, pastas and heavy food over the past few months, but I'm pretty sure this is the best salad I've had since the new year. My only regret is that I didn't double this recipe so we could enjoy it all week long.
I don't know about you all but I'm a huge fennel fan. It's a lovely vegetable and very versatile. Fennel is often sliced thin and eaten raw in salads or tossed in a creamy dressing and served as more of a slaw. When eaten raw, it's crunchy, with a faint anise flavor, which is why I think some people shy away from it. Once it's roasted or grilled, that anise flavor tames down and the fennel takes on a subtle, sweet flavor. The whole bulb, including the stalks and fronds are edible. I like to save the fronds for garnish and even sprinkle them on other dishes throughout the week. They taste great on soup, sprinkled on hummus or tossed in a green salad. They are mild, but still add a nice "zip" to any dish.
If you're experiencing the in-between the seasons blues I think this salad will be a highlight. We've almost made it to Spring so let's finish the last few weeks of winter strong. Grab a fork!
For the salad:
- 2 medium-sized fennel bulbs trimmed and cut into ½ inch wedges (save the fronds for garnish)
- 4 medium-sized purple beets peeled and cut into ½ inch chunks
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- ¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
- Pinch of black pepper
- 1 cup French green lentils rinsed and picked over
- 2 tablespoons fennel fronds
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped dill
- Preheat the oven to 425ºF.
- Toss the fennel and beets with the olive oil, salt and pepper. Transfer to a rimmed baking sheet and roast in the oven until tender and lightly browned, about 25 minutes, stirring halfway through cooking.
- While the vegetables are roasting, place the lentils in a saucepan with 2 cups of water. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to low and simmer uncovered until the lentils are tender, about 20-25 minutes. Drain and set aside.
- Combine all the ingredients for the sauce in a small bowl and whisk until smooth and creamy. Taste test and adjust seasonings if need be.
- To serve, divide the lentils between 4 plates and top with the roasted vegetables. Drizzle with the sauce and garnish each plate with fennel fronds, parsley and dill. Season with additional salt and pepper.