This rainy, mild winter reminds me of being a kid: sitting in the back of my family station wagon, listening to rain drops on the roof and the squeak of the windshield wipers with the easy listening sounds of Carole King on the radio. Remember when the backseat could be the safest, coziest place in the world? What a bummer that grown-ups don’t really get to snuggle in the back seat very often.
Nowadays, instead of Carole King and pleather, good food brings reassurance and comfort. Every February I find myself in the kitchen trying to cook my way out of the seasonal funk. Soups or casseroles are obvious comfort food choices, but a big bowl of fresh, crisp vegetables and sweet fruit can be reassuring too. Color, crunch, and varying textures are all things that make this salad awesome. Not to mention heaps of blood oranges, which are to be savored to the last.
Fennel, Beet, and Citrus Salad (inspired by Bon Appetit)
1 bunch beets, washed with greens trimmed
1 head fennel, trimmed and cut into 1/8″ slices, with green fennel fronds reserved for garnish
1/2 red onion, sliced into paper thin half moons
2 blood oranges
1 navel orange
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
To prepare the beets, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Wash the beets thoroughly and trim off the greens. Place the beets in a large casserole dish, or anything that will hold 1/8″ of water. Sprinkle the beets with salt, cover tightly with foil, and put into the oven. Roast until the beets are tender, and you can easily pierce them with fork, around an hour, but start checking after 40 minutes. Add more water if too much has evaporated. Once the beets have cooked though, run them under cool water to remove the skin. Slice into 1/8″ rounds and set aside.
Meanwhile, use a peeler to remove the zest from the blood oranges. Set aside. Then, supreme the 1 1/2 blood oranges and the navel orange, reserving any juice. You’ll use the other half of the blood orange to juice for the dressing.
Mince 1 tablespoon of the blood orange zest, and set the rest aside for garnish.
In a small bowl or jar, pour in 3 tablespoons of the reserved orange juice (use the extra 1/2 of blood orange if additional juice is needed). Whisk the olive oil into the juice, and add the minced zest, salt, and pepper.
When ready to serve, layer the fennel, onions, oranges, and drizzle on several tablespoons of the dressing. Keep in mind that the beets will quickly turn everything pink, so dress them separately and intersperse just before serving for optimal presentation. Finish with a few turns of fresh pepper, green fennel tops, and a strip of blood orange zest.