This bright and fresh first course will set the tone for the rest of the dinner. Red-and-white-striped Chioggia beets (also called candy cane beets) make a festive presentation, but if you can’t find them, use red or golden beets. When choosing beets, whether you purchase the Chioggia or the more common red or golden ones, look for beets that are firm with smooth skins. If the beet greens are attached, they should be crisp and bright. Go ahead and remove the greens once you get the produce home. Small or medium-sized beets are usually more tender than the larger ones. Wash beets gently before cooking and be careful not to pierce the skin – this might lead to some color loss. Peel beets once they have cooled and are easier to handle. It’s important not to over cook your beets. A knife inserted should meet with a bit of resistance. Leftover salad is great the next day tossed with shrimp or diced, roasted chicken. The vinaigrette can be made in advance and refrigerated, and is an ideal dressing for a traditional tossed green salad.
2 medium-size beets (about 4 to 6 oz. each)
1 small fennel bulb, trimmed (about 5 oz.), halved lengthwise and cored
1 medium-size Granny Smith apple (about 8 oz.), halved and cored
4 cups firmly packed arugula (about 5 oz.)
1/4 cup firmly packed fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
1/4 cup firmly packed fresh mint leaves
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon orange zest plus 1 Tbsp. fresh juice (from 1 orange)
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon honey
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
How to Make It
Place beets in a medium saucepan with cold water to cover. Bring to a boil over high; reduce heat to low, and simmer until beets are tender, 35 to 40 minutes. Drain and let stand until cool enough to handle, about 15 minutes. Peel beets, and cut into wedges.
While beets are cooling, use a mandoline or sharp knife to cut fennel bulb and apple into very thin slices. Place in a large bowl with beet wedges, arugula, parsley, and mint.
Whisk together oil, vinegar, zest, juice, salt, honey, and pepper in a small bowl. Drizzle vinaigrette over beet mixture, and toss to coat. Serve immediately.