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Beets, Roasted Fennel with Pepita Crema

It's a new year and I am starting to book some new, exciting events and classes. First up will be another Drop in Dinner at The Deppaneur here in Toronto on Friday, January 22 starting at 6pm. I will be serving this salad with either a delicious Pork Chili Verde or my vegan Jackfruit Pozole , some Agua de Jamaica to wash it down and Mexicanish Compost Cookies for dessert.

I made the salad that this was inspired by and it was delicious but some things just didn't work for me so I made some changes and tinkered with it and came up with this variation. Don't get me wrong, Rick Bayless's version was delicious but the dressing was thicker than I wanted and I found that the addition of orange juice brightened it up (and I thinned it out a bit too).

So, you can make this yourself OR you can come to the Deppaneur, say hi and let me make it for you. 

Beets, Roasted Fennel and Oranges with Pepita Crema

adapted from Rick Bayless


Pepita Crema:
3 tbls toasted, salted pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
1/4 cup fresh lime juice 
2 tbls fresh orange juice
1/4 cup grapeseed oil
2 tbls pumpkin seed oil
2 cloves garlic, peeled
1/2 to 1 whole seeded jalapeno, quartered
1 tbls honey
1/2 tsp salt

*1 lb cooked beets (I used half red and half yellow)
1 head fennel
glug of olive oil
1 orange, peeled and cut in chunks
1/2 cup cojita cheese, crumbled
another 1/4 cup of pepitas (1 tbls per serving)


Preheat the oven to 400F

Cut the top of the fennel off and cut the bulb in half. Cut out most of the core on each half and then slice both up into 1" wedges. Reserve the feathery leaves from the stalks to scatter over the top of the salad and I keep the rest for soup stock.

Toss the fennel in a bowl with a glug of olive oil, a pinch of salt and then lay them out on a baking sheet. Bake for 15 minutes before turning them and cook for another 15 or 20 minutes. Keep an eye on them after you turn them so that they don't shrivel up and burn - you want them nicely caramelized with brown spots but still soft and not burnt. When they are done, set aside.

You can roast the beets (about an hour in the same oven as the fennel, wrapped in a foil pouch and when fork tender, run them under cold tap water and rub the skins off), you can steam them OR, like me, you can cook them in a pressure cooker ( I used the new love of my life, my Instant Pot) by placing them on the trivet set over 1 cup of water and then cooked at high pressure for about 15 minutes for small beets or about 25 minutes if they are large and let the pressure release naturally. If they aren't quite tender after the time is up, try another 5 minutes.  You can also cut them in half if they are huge but I like to keep them whole if I can so they don't bleed all over the damned place. When you have cooked, peeled beets you can then slice them into wedges and put them aside.

To make the Pepita Crema:

Put the pumpkin seeds, lime and orange juice in a blender.
Heat the grapeseed oil over medium heat and throw in the whole, peeled garlic cloves and the hot pepper and cook, stirring from time to time, for about 4 or 5 minutes until the garlic is getting brown.
Take the pan off of the heat for a couple of minutes and then scrape the contents of the pan as well as 2 tbls of pumpkin seed oil into the blender.
Add the honey and salt and process until it's smooth. It should be on the thicker side but able to dribble off of a spoon.

Arrange your beets, fennel and orange slices on four to six small plates and drizzle with the pepita crema, scatter some cojita over the top and finish with about a tbls of toasted pepitas.

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