I love a simple, fresh and healthy salad. I try to eat salads every day at work. But if you do the math on my years at the Gap times days of work less days of vacation less cheating with a burger plus days I justify my burger by adding a side salad…well…that would be a lot of salads. And everyone who has losing weight as a New Year’s resolution (like, every woman ever) vows “salads for life” and keeps that vow for about…three days. You know why we can’t hold those resolutions longer? Yes, you know why. Salads can be so boring! Iceberg lettuce, shredded carrots, the occasional broccoli floret and as much ranch dressing as you can justify to mask the boring-ness of veggies. So I set out to make a salad that would help me start that New Year resolution early. And stick with it. For at least four days this time.
This salad has a salty, creamy ricotta “dressing” that amps your salad up and makes it crave-worthy. The fennel/apple/beet combo will brighten your winter work day. And the simpleness of the recipe will help you keep resolutions of making your own lunch. So let’s get salading…
Beet, Apple & Fennel Salad with Creamy Ricotta Dressing
1 1/2c ricotta
3tbs + 1/4c olive oil
1/4c hazelnuts, finely chopped
4 roasted beets*
1/2 crisp fuji apple
1 fennel bulb
2tbs champagne vinegar
cooked chicken breast (optional)
salt & pepper
*Note: To save time, I used store-bought beets, which are pretty darned decent. To roast yourself, heat an oven to 350 degrees. Toss beets in olive oil, salt, pepper and wrap in aluminum foil. Cook for 20 minutes or until soft when pierced with a fork. Let cool and peel beets.
In a mixer, add ricotta, 3tbs olive oil and salt & pepper to taste. Mix on high until creamy. If desired, increase creaminess by adding more olive oil. This creamy sauce can be made in advanced and stored in an air-tight container in the refridgerator.
Heat a saute’ pan to medium and toast hazelnuts until fragrant, about 5 minutes, staring frequently. Careful – nuts burn quickly! Set aside nuts.
Thinly slice apple. Chop off roots of fennel and reserve the “fawn”, or soft, leafy parts from the top. Cut fennel into fours and cut out the tough core. Thinly slice.
In a small bowl, whisk together olive oil, champagne vinegar, and a pinch salt & pepper to make a light vinaigrette.
Spread ricotta mixture on the bottom of a plate. Lightly dress arugula with vinaigrette and place over ricotta. Top with beets, apples, fennel, toasted hazelnuts, (and chicken, if desired) and finish with a sprig of fennel fawn.
Eat, enjoy, and smile, knowing that you’re starting your New Year’s resolutions early – in a very delicious way.