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Green Lentil-Beet-Braised Fennel Salad with Cider Vinaigrette For a Crowd
Yield: 50 each (6-7 oz.) entrée portions or 80-100 each (3-4 oz. servings) for entrees
Prep time: 45-60 minutes
Cook time: 45 minutes
Preheat oven to 350 degrees
10# Beets, golden or ruby
10 Fennel bulbs, large or 2 small
10 c. Green lentils
10 Red onions, medium
10 heads Butterleaf lettuce, or any variety available. OK to substitute spinach or arugula
1 Cider Vinegar recipe below
2# beets, any variety will work, I prefer golden for their bright color and milder flavor. Rub beets with oil and then place them in a shallow ovenproof dish. Pour at least one inch of water in the bottom of the dish and cover with foil. Roast for 1 hour or until tender when pierced with a knife. Once cooled, peel skin with a vegetable peeler or rub off with a towel. Slice ¼” across the equator for prettiest presentation showcasing the rings in beets.
These can be done with the onions below one day ahead and chill for serving.
Roasted Red Onion Agrodolce (ideal to do one day ahead if possible)
10 Large Red onions
2 qts. Red wine Vinegar
2 qts. Sugar
Cut onions in half root to top, skin on and place cut side down on sheet pan with a little oil and roast in a 350 degree oven until tender. While the onions are cooking, in a small sauce pan bring the vinegar and sugar to a quick boil, remove from heat and let rest to dissolve the sugar. When onions are done roasting, remove the peel and drizzle with the red wine simple syrup and marinate overnight for the most striking pink effect and to quick pickle. Cut most into ¼” dice but reserve a few to wedge for garnish
These will keep for a few weeks in the walk in due to the pickling brine.
Trim greens off and cut the bulb length wise from root to tops. Place cut side down in a shallow hotel pan. Add water or stock half way up the sides of fennel.
1 T.Salt, kosher or sea
1 T. Garlic, rough chop
1 Lemon juiced and the lemon halves as well
3 T. Butter, a dab on each piece of fennel
Cover with foil and cook for 45 minutes-1 hour at 350 degrees until tender and translucent but not mushy. Once cooled, cut half the bulbs into ¼” dice and sliver the remaining half into lengthwise wedges for garnish.
This can be done a day ahead but tends to oxidize once out of the braise.
Save the greens to add to salads, especially delicious with oranges.
Also nice to garnish roasted potatoes or mixed into a mayonnaise for sandwiches
Yield 2 gallons + 1 qt (300 oz.)
2 ½ qt. Green Lentils
2 ½ gal. Water or stock
10 Bay leaves
½ c. Minced garlic
½ c. Salt, kosher
Add all above ingredients in an 8 qt pot and bring to a boil. Then turn down to medium low and simmer for about 20 minutes. Start tasting the lentils after 15 minutes, all lentils are not the same and some cook faster than others. Once almost tender, turn off heat and let lentil rest in the remaining liquid until tender all the way through but not falling apart. Strain the lentils of the remaining liquid and cool on a cookie sheet or simply add to a medium mixing bowl to build the salad. See instructions below.
Yield 2 qts.
2 c. Apple cider vinegar
3 T. Dijon
¾ c. honey
¾ c. Shallots, minced
3 T. Thyme, fresh
6 c. Canola or grapeseed oil
In a blender, mixing bowl or food processor incorporate all the ingredients together except the oil. Slowly stream in the oil to form a temporary emulsification and reserve until all components are ready. This is a very versatile vinaigrette and will hold for a few weeks in refrigerator so make a larger batch for future green salads.
In a medium mixing bowl add cooked lentils along with the diced braised fennel bulb, diced beets and agrodolce red onions. Toss the chopped vegetables and lentils with the Cider Vinaigrette above. Use just enough dressing until the salad is well seasoned but not dripping. Taste and adjust with salt and pepper as needed. Lettuce leaves are nice to give a bed for the chopped salad. It is also offsets all the colors adding eye appeal and texture to your plate. Garnished with fennel wedges, sliced beets and agrodolce onion slices. Once dressed, the salad will hold well up to 4 days. The flavors will become more infused and take on a pickled quality. Best to make one day ahead and adjust seasoning as the lentils will absorb much of the vinaigrette.
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