Last Monday a big group of Zuni folk took a trip up to Tomales Bay to visit the Hog Island Oyster Company. What a beautiful day it was. The sun was out, the sky was blue and the breeze was cool. So cool that no one even felt the imminent sunburns in the making. But it was perfectly clear, the next day at work, just who had attended the event. All the tomato-faced people, walking around trying to keep their shirts off of their sunburned shoulders.
We got to hear all about the in’s and out’s of the business from the effects of the Cosco oil spill, to the “extinction” and re-generation of kumamotos, and the alarming costs of running an oyster farm. Then we were set loose in the picnic area for a Grand BBQ, Zuni style. While the restaurant provided us with Niman ‘dogs and Acme buns, the rest of the impressive spread came from both cooks, and front-of-house folk alike. And impressive it was! We had quinoa tabouli, carnitas, steak tacos, ribs, chocolate chip cookie bars, nectarine tarts, and more chips than you could shake an oyster knife at! (Oh, and tons of Hog Island’s Sweetwater and Kumamoto oysters!)
Well you know me, and the first thought I had was that someone had better bring some vegetables! So I got up early and cooked up a yummy little carrot, fennel and golden beet salad.
Roasted Carrot, Fennel, and Golden Beet Salad
For the Carrot component
As you may have read before, I love roasted carrots in salads. To prepare them, I peel them and cut them in halves or quarters, lengthwise. Then I put the carrots into a pot of cold, salted water and bring them to a simmer. Simmer until they are mostly cooked. As you’re simmering them, make a quick high-acid vinaigrette consisting of equal parts vinegar and olive oil. Season it with salt, cumin, corriander, and chili flake. Pour this vinaigrette into a flat-bottomed dish. When the carrots are ready, lift them out of the water and bathe them in the vinaigrette for 15-20 minutes. Meanwhile, turn on the broiler. Spread the bathed carrots on to a cookie sheet or metal roasting tray and place under the broiler for 10-ish minutes, until they start to color. Stir them around, and broil 5 to 10 minutes longer, or until they are evenly caramelized and roasty-looking. Place them back into the flat-bottomed dish that originally contained the vinaigrette.
For the fennel component
Trim the stalks from the top of the fennel, and cut the bulb in half, through the root-end. Use a paring knife to carve out the pithy root. Slice the bulb into match-sticks. Heat a saute pan over medium heat with olive oil and saute the fennel (don’t forget to salt it). Give them one quick stir to coat them all with olive oil and salt, and then let them sit for a minute or two until they become slightly golden. Give them a stir and them let them sit again. Continue doing this until they’re cooked through, but still retain their structure, and are golden. Place them, along with the carrots, into the flat bottomed dish.
For the Beets
I recommend using gold beets, or chioggia beets. Red beets will stain your whole salad red!
Check out how to cook the beets here. Cut them into match-sticks and macerate them in a little vinegar and salt, leaving them in their own bowl to macerate for at least a half hour. Then add them to the rest of the veggies in the flat-bottomed dish.
To assemble the salad
Once all the veggies are in the dish, add a few sprigs of chopped mint and a little chopped marjoram. You may also need to add a little more vinegar, oil, and salt. Allow the salad to sit for at least an hour so the flavors can marry, stirring every-so-often. Serve at room temperature. Yum!