Blood Orange, Beet, and Fennel Salad

After a week and a half of my paleo experiment I have to admit that I’m feeling pretty great. While it would be easy to say that the paleo pundits are right about the grains, dairy, and sugar, but so far I’m not totally convinced that it’s the lack of wheat berries, goat cheese, and hummus in my diet that’s making my body happy, but instead the lack of gummy bears, ice cream, cupcakes, and beer. (No matter which nutritional approach you subscribe to, I’m sure we can all be in agreement that Ben & Jerry shouldn’t have their own spot on the pyramid)

The hardest part thus far has been avoiding the delicious apres-ski junk food we had strewn about the house during the ski trip I took last weekend to New Hampshire with a bunch of friends. After a long day of free-heeling, I wanted nothing more than to relax with beer and a fistful of salty M&M’s hand-picked from the trail mix. My fabulous friends, though, are no stranger to special dietary needs (we had 2 paleos, 2 vegetarians, and one who keeps kosher) and made really delicious food that kept every belly full and happy.

Photo credit: Phan Huynh

Thanks to my recent introduction to Larabars, which are perfect for paleo-on-the go (and even easier to eat from the couch!) once I was back in Boston I was somewhat devoid of culinary inspiration. I cracked open my file of recipes and found this bright plate of gem tones waiting for me the top of the stack. Is there any better way to greet this weekend’s spring-forward than with a citrus-y salad to accompany my favorite oven roasted chicken thighs?

Dinner is served.

And while you’re here, why don’t you give “A Walk” by Tycho a listen. I had their chilled out ambient tunes on repeat while cruising the slopes of Attitash this weekend; I think you’ll like them.

Tycho – “A Walk”

Blood Orange, Beet, and Fennel Salad

Adapted from Bon Appetit

2 medium red beets, tops trimmed*
2 medium golden beets, tops trimmed
3 blood oranges
1 medium navel orange (preferably Cara Cara)
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1/2 small fennel bulb, very thinly sliced crosswise on a mandoline
1/4 red onion, very thinly sliced on a mandoline (about 1/3 cup)
Good-quality extra-virgin olive, pumpkin seed, or walnut oil (for drizzling)
Coarse sea salt, such as fleur de sel or Maldon sea salt, and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup loosely packed fresh cilantro and/or chervil leaves (I left this out b/c I’m one of those people who hates cilantro)

*Note on buying beets: Always try to buy beets with the tops attached because healthy looking greens indicate fresher beets. Without the tops, it’s hard to tell how fresh they are because the bulbs hold up much longer than the greens do in cold storage. Plus, you can sautée them, which makes for a delicious side dish!

Preheat oven to 400°. Wash beets, leaving some water on skins. Wrap individually in foil; place on a rimmed baking sheet and roast until beets are tender when pierced with a knife, about 1 hour. Let cool.
Meanwhile, using a sharp knife, cut all peel and white pith from all oranges; discard.

Working over a medium bowl, cut between membranes of 2 blood oranges to release segments into bowl; squeeze juice from membranes into bowl and discard membranes. Slice remaining blood orange and Cara Cara orange crosswise into thin rounds. Place sliced oranges in bowl with the segments. Add lemon juice and lime juice.

Peel cooled beets. Slice 2 beets crosswise into thin rounds. Cut remaining 2 beets into wedges. Strain citrus juices; reserve. Layer beets and oranges on plates, dividing evenly. Arrange fennel and onion over beets. Spoon reserved citrus juices over, then drizzle salad generously with oil. Season to taste with coarse sea salt and pepper. Let salad stand for 5 minutes to allow flavors to meld. Garnish salad with cilantro leaves, if you’re into that.

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