Toss earthy beets in a bright lemon vinaigrette, then add some salty capers, nutty walnuts, sweet fennel, and a drizzle of zesty crème fraîche, and you have a well-balanced salad that, when served over greens, is a filling lunch.
If you’re using a combination of yellow or orange beets and red beets, you can opt to place the red beets in a separate bowl and toss them with dressing so as not to let the red color bleed into the other ingredients. Toss the yellow or orange beets with the remaining dressing and ingredients. To plate, place the red beets around the rest of the salad.
2 pounds (about 5 to 6) medium beets (red, yellow, or orange), tops removed and washed well
Freshly ground black pepper
½ cup crème fraîche
Finely grated zest of 1 medium lemon
4 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice (from about 2 lemons), plus more as needed
¼ cup minced fresh chives
¼ teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon champagne vinegar
1 tablespoon minced shallots
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling the beets
1½ cups thinly sliced fennel (from about a 12-ounce bulb)
2 tablespoons capers
½ cup walnuts, toasted and coarsely chopped
4 ounces flaked smoked trout (about 1 cup; optional)
1. Heat the oven to 400°F and arrange a rack in the middle.
2. Place the beets in an 8-inch square baking dish and add just enough water to cover the bottom of the dish (about 1/3 cup). Drizzle the beets with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cover the dish tightly with aluminum foil. Bake until a knife can be easily inserted into the center of the beets, about 40 minutes to 1 hour 10 minutes (for small beets start checking after 40 minutes; large beets may need even longer than 70 minutes).
3. Meanwhile, make the crème fraîche dressing and the vinaigrette. Place the crème fraîche, lemon zest, 1 tablespoon of the lemon juice, and half of the chives in a small, nonreactive bowl and stir to combine. Taste and season with salt, pepper, and more lemon juice as needed; set aside.
4. For the vinaigrette, whisk together the mustard, remaining 3 tablespoons lemon juice, vinegar, shallots, and a pinch each of salt and pepper in a small, nonreactive bowl. Let sit for 15 minutes, then whisk in the measured olive oil in a slow and steady stream; set aside.
5. When the beets are ready, carefully remove the foil and let them sit until cool enough to handle. Peel and cut the beets into bite-sized wedges about 1/3 inch wide. Immediately place them in a large bowl and add the fennel, capers, and remaining chives. Add the reserved vinaigrette and toss to combine. Taste and season with salt and pepper as needed.
6. Just before serving, top with the walnuts and smoked trout, if using. Drizzle with the crème fraîche dressing. Serves 6. –Jill Santopietro for CHOW.com