Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Fennel and Beet Salad and the End of Summer

I know. I know. It looks like Christmas. In September. What with the candy-cane striped beets and the green of the scallions.

But if you squint your eyes a little it still looks like summer. Right? Imagine the beets are the seersucker stripes of a bright beach umbrella and the green is the soft green of oceanside grasses rippling in the breeze.

I can't help but smile when I cut into one of these striped beets. They look so joyful and festive. They just beg to be included in a salad. Too bad they lose that gorgeous colour when cooked.

Summer is ending, even here in the north where everything is later. The garden is already well past its glorious prime and the nights are getting colder. We listen for the first frost warnings. Will we have to rush out to cover the tomatoes tonight?

My kitchen counters are crowded with bowls of cucumbers, tomatoes, and a few monstrous zucchinis, all waiting hopefully to be included in the next meal or put up in jars for the winter. The fruit flies are having a circus, hovering over the bounty and hiding out from the cool nights outside.

We had a glorious holiday, Raymond, I, Andreas and my mom, doing a road trip to Vancouver, down the Oregon coast, San Francisco, Napa Valley and back home through Nevada, Idaho and Montana.
Every minute was full of new things to see and do. I love those kinds of holidays. Along the coastal highway we explored beaches and marveled at the ancient redwoods.

In San Francisco we walked and walked. Did all the touristy things.Marvelled at the beautiful buildings. In the Napa Valley we found the sun, and wine-tasted in some spectacular settings. In Nevada we lamented the miles and miles of sage and rock. All wonderful.

But I think the highlight for me was a three-hour period. An evening cooking class that Raymond surprised me with for my birthday in San Francisco. (When did he get so smart?)

What an amazing evening if you are an addicted foodie and cookbook collector. (Cough, cough. Me?)

Our lively and talented instructor, Emily, of first class cooking taught me and my fellow students all kinds of wonderful kitchen tricks, as we prepared a tomato and peach Caprese salad, pistachio crusted snapper, quinoa salad and baked plums with almond macaroons. All in her beautiful apartment with a San Fransisco city view through her glorious floor to ceiling windows. And then we got to sit and share the meal. Heaven, Nirvana, Himmel.

And now we're home again, with the memories and photos to relive the many amazing things we saw and did.




Home again.
With a lovely bag of fennel that a friend dropped off from her garden. (Thanks, Ronaye.)

                So while I shave the fennel, I think back on my travels and dream of the next ones.

I love the slight licorice flavour of fennel and wanted to amp that up by adding the ground anise and anise seeds to add more layers of flavour. If you don't have both, just use a bit more of whichever one you have, or leave them out altogether. Or replace them with less assertive poppyseeds. Still good.

I often use extra virgin olive oil in salads, however, I like to use neutral-flavoured grapeseed oil in dressings when I want the oil to take a backseat to other flavours, like in this one. 

Fennel and Beet Salad

1 medium fennel bulb, about 1 lb (450 gm)
2 medium striped (or regular) beets, about 4 oz. (115gm)
3 green onions (scallions)

2 Tbsp (30ml) freshly squeezed lime juice (1/2 a large juicy lime)
1/4 cup (60ml) grapeseed oil
1/2 (5ml) tsp ground anise seed
1 tsp (5ml) whole anise seeds
1 tsp (5ml) dijon mustard
1/4 tsp (2.5ml) sea salt
1/4 tsp (2.5ml) pepper

Cut the fennel bulb in half, then slice it thinly with a knife, turning the bulb as you slice so that you have relatively even shards.

Cut the tops and roots off the beets and peel any toughened bits from the skin.  Slice the beets very thinly on a mandoline, then stack several slices at a time together on a cutting board and slice them into pencil-wide strips. (If you are using regular beets, put the slices into a seive and rinse them well under cold running to remove any of the juices that may stain the fennel. Shake the seive and let them drain until almost dry. This makes the salad look less pink. If you are lucky enough to get a hold of the striped beets you can skip this step.)

Slice the green onions finely. Put the vegetables into a bowl and prepare the dressing.

Lightly crush the fennel seeds in a mortar and pestle to release some of their aromatic oils. Place all the dressing ingredients in a small jar and shake vigorously to combine. (The dressing can be prepared ahead of time to allow the flavours to blend and the fennel seeds to soften a bit, but it is also fine prepared just before serving.

Pour the dressing over the vegetables and toss gently to keep the beets' colour from bleeding.

Garnish with some bits of fennel fronds.
Serves 4 to 6.



  1. I thought it was shrimp, so it looked summery to me, sounds delicious, will have to share it with Tanis.
    Glad you had a great trip, sounds wonderful and you have great pictures!

  2. This salad sounds delicious, I love fennel. I will have to buy fennel so I can try this recipe out!