Roasted Beets with Fennel
One of my favorite way to eat beets is roasting them with fennel. There is something about the combination of the beet’s warm, earthy flavor with the brightness of fennel that makes my mouth water. The first time I ate a fresh beet was shortly after the birth of my daughter. I was learning how to be a mother to this new person; cooking meals had fallen on my priority list and we were subsisting off of pre-prepared meals and granola bars. I hadn’t had a hot meal in days.
A knock on an early Sunday afternoon and the door opened. My friends bustled in, their arms bearing grocery bags of produce and staples. They marched around my kitchen, putting away food in the cabinets and preparing a hot dinner. Sunny brought me a plate of food, including a suspicious foil package.
“What is this?”
“A roasted beet wrapped in fennel greens.”
“Just eat it.”
I unwrapped the little foil package and found a dark beet wrapped in fennel leaves. After peeling the beet, I took one bite and was instantly sold. In fact, I ate four that night. The fennel greens, while not edible in this recipe, imparted their spicy flavor to the beets and the memory of the taste lingered in my mind for years, even though I was never brave enough to buy and prepare beets myself.
…Until the little red vegetables showed up in my Gila Farm CSA. They were baby beets, so tiny I could barely peel them. Ironically, I also had two fennel bulbs from the CSA delivery a few weeks prior. I was out of aluminum foil, but I wasn’t after the exact recipe—I really wanted the combination of flavors I remembered so clearly from that dinner years ago.
I quartered the peeled baby beets and fennel bulb, tossed them with a little olive oil and salt and roasted them in the oven at 400 for about 30 minutes. If I was using larger beets, I might roast the beets for an additional 10 minutes before adding the fennel.
The flavors were as I remembered them–the bright licorice fennel paired so well with the sweet, earthiness of the beets. As the vegetables roast, the sugars and flavors get more concentrated and intense, so they do well on their own as a flavorful side dish. However, you could also easily toss the roasted veg with field greens, add a light vinaigrette and goat cheese for a delectable salad, but I prefer to eat them warm, right out of the pan.
The beet leaves are also delicious, too. The baby beet leaves are sweet and spicy when eaten raw, but as an experiment, I tried making Beet Leave Chips. Tear the greens into smaller pieces, toss with a little olive oil and salt and roast at 375 for about 10 minutes, tossing again partway through the 10 minutes. Crunchy and salty—like a chip, but better because they’re green!
– This blog post was submitted by CSA customer Elisabeth E. Williams