Beet and Fennel Salad and the End of Summer

Bright Fennel Salad with raw beet slivers makes a lovely end-of-summer salad. Zesty vinaigrette with fennel seeds and fronds to layer the delicate flavor.

Striped Beet and Fennel Salad

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?

aucchini, tomatoes, and cucumbers from the garden

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.

Oregon Coast, Beet and Fennel Salad

In San Francisco we walked and walked. Did all the touristy things. Marvelled at the beautiful buildings.

Golden Gate Bridge in the Mist
Beet and Fennel Salad, San Francisco 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.

Beet and Fennel Salad, Napa Valley Vineyard
Beet and Fennel Salad, grapes in Napa Valley vineyard

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?)

cooking class, San Francisco

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.

cacti in Napa Valley, beet and fennel salad
rooster in Napa Valley vineyard

crab at beach, San Francisco, beet and fennel salad

finding crabs at San Francisco Beach, beet and fennel saladHome again.

With a lovely bag of fennel that a friend dropped off from her garden.

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

playing in the waves at San Francisco, beet and fennel salad

buildings in San Francisco

* * * * *

Kitchen Frau Notes: If you’ve never tried fennel, you may be pleasantly surprised. It’s like crunchy celery with a slight licorice flavour (much better than it sounds). Choose large, heavy bulbs when buying them. Save the ferny fronds for garnishes. Try adding raw slices of fennel to a veggie and dip platter. You’ll have guests wondering what that delicious vegetable is.

Italians serve raw fennel after a meal and before the dessert course, as part of a fruit platter. I first tasted fresh fennel at an Italian friend’s house years ago, when it was served along with cantaloupe wedges between the entree and dessert – it was so refreshing and I was hooked.

Adding fennel seeds and powder helps amp up the flavour in this salad, but you can also just substitute in poppy seeds for the fennel seeds and powder if you want a milder flavour.

If you don’t have both fennel seeds and powder, you can grind the seeds to a powder in a mortar and pestle, or just use all seeds or all powder.

 Beet and Fennel Salad

Beet and Fennel 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 tablespoons (30ml) freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 1/4 cup (60ml) grapeseed oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground fennel seed
  • 1 teaspoon whole fennel seeds
  • 1 teaspoon dijon mustard
  • ¼ teaspoon sea salt
  • ¼ teaspoon 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 sieve and rinse them well under cold running to remove any of the juices that may stain the fennel. Shake the sieve 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.)
ingredients for beet and fennel salad

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 or with a rolling pin 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 bits of fennel fronds.

Serves 4 to 6.

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4 Responses to Beet and Fennel Salad and the End of Summer

  1. heidi says:

    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. Erika says:

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

  3. Vivian says:

    Thanks for sharing your wonderful trip through your pictures, I especially love the stair shot with the varied risers (I have a graphic kind of mind). I have seeded Chioggia beets this spring (2013) but as you know it has been cool and late so I don’t know if I will be able to make this gorgeous salad. The Stony farmers market might have some.

    • Margaret says:

      Thank you Vivian! Those Chiogga beets are great aren’t they – so cool. Hopefully they thrive for you this year. I’ve planted my garden as late as the middle of June and it’s done well. Good luck with them.

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