Monday, 21 January 2013

How to Beet the Blues!

Insalata di Barbabietola Rossa & Finocchio, Couscous con Agrumi & Erbe al Forno
Baked Beetroot, Fennel and Couscous Salad with Citrus & Herbs

So... having been ill for over a week... having a snow-scape outside my window... having been generally a little bit down in the dumps of late- I decided to shake things up a little this evening! It was time for a bit of fun, a little color and a lot of flavor!

Fun meant of course as little work as possible- so with very little effort and making use of the leftover beetroot from last night- I came up with this little treat! Full of fresh flavors to make us hope for Springtime and take our minds off the cold and the sleet and the rain and the snow... if only for the duration of a meal! But it's a start at least!

This was a very easy dish to prepare. I began by steeping the couscous in boiling water, with some finely chopped fennel greens, a little dried mint (alas, because I had no fresh!), salt, pepper and a little grated ginger. I left it to sit and fluff up for 10-15 minutes whilst I got busy with the other ingredients.

Next came the fennel, which I cut into thin wedges and blanched in boiling water that I seasoned with equal quantities of sugar and salt- this softens the fennel and brings out ALL of its natural flavor... I left it in for just 2-3 minutes, then drained it and set it to one side. Easy, isn't it?

The next thing I did was to take an orange and to cut thin slices of peel from it, which I also blanched in boiling water with sugar and salt- this was a lot easier to do though- being so small I just popped my 3-4 slices of peel into a small cup and poured the boiling water over them. I let it sit there until the water was cool and then poured it away... along with all the bitterness. What was left was softer and infinitely more edible, yummy orange flavor! Yum!

As I already mentioned- the beets were pre-cooked, which was handy, so to bring them up to temperature, I popped them into a frying pan with a little water. I stirred them around to make sure they were moist and could conduct the heat better and once the water began to boil, pushed them to one side.... and on the other side of the pan I heated up the fennel slices once more. The water soon evaporated away, and as soon as it was gone, I added a drizzle of olive oil and made sure that everything got coated. 

This was all well and good, but I needed to get some real flavor into these ingredients- and the best way to do that was to sprinkle them, one and all, with a little of my seasoned salt. You can look up the recipe for my herb-infused "Salt of the Earth" here:

Excellent- so now everything was ready and warm. Obviously you can bake yours in a dish, but this evening, just for the hell of it, I decided to bake mine on baking paper. I first spread out the couscous and then arranged the beets and fennel evenly on top. I drizzled everything with olive oil and popped it under the broiler for 2 minutes.

In the meantime, I quickly dices some Feta cheese, then took the beet/fennel/couscous out of the oven... it had already started to brown. I laid the cheese out evenly and then drizzled everything generously with honey- this would caramelize slightly and bring all of the flavors to life! 2 more minutes and everything was toasted just enough to finish everything off nicely... well- almost...

The finishing touch was a scattering of fresh oregano and fennel greens- these and a final drizzle of honey, once everything has cooled down a little, REALLY make for a taste-sensation that is guaranteed to make you smile!

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