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Green Lentil-Beet-Braised Fennel Salad with Cider Vinaigrette

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Yield: 4 each entrée portions or 6-8 smaller salads or sides for entrees
Prep & cook time: 45 minutes
Preheat oven to 350 degrees

2# Beets, golden or ruby
1 Fennel bulb, large or 2 small
1 c. Green lentils
1 Red onion, medium
1 head Butterleaf lettuce, or any variety available. OK to substitute spinach or arugula
1 Cider Vinegar recipe below

Roasted Beets: 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)
Yield: 1 each large onion (about 1 ½  cups)
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 45 minutes
1 Large Red onions
1.5 c. Red wine Vinegar
1.5 c. Sugar

Cut onion 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. 
Tip:  These will keep for a few weeks in your fridge or walk in due to the pickling so make extra!
Braise Fennel:
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 45-60 minutes

Trim greens off and cut the bulb length wise from root to tops.
Place cut side down in a sauté pan or shallow baking dish and add water half way up the sides of fennel
1 tsp. Salt, kosher or sea
1 T. Garlic, rough chop
1 T. Lemon juice
1 T. Butter, a dab on each piece of fennel
Cover with foil and cook for 45 minutes-1 hour at 350 degrees until tender but not mushy.
Tip: Save the greens to add to salads, especially delicious with oranges.  Also nice to garnish roasted potatoes or mixed into a mayonnaise for sandwiches
Cooking Lentils

Yield 2 ½ cups
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 15-30 minutes

8 oz. Green Lentils
4 c. Water or stock
2 Bay leaves
1 T. Minced garlic
1 T. Salt, kosher
In a small sauce pan, all above ingredients and bring to a boil. Then turn down to medium low and simmer for about 20 minutes. Start tasting them after 15 minutes, all lentils are not the same and some cook faster than others. Once almost tender, turn off heat and let lentils rest in the remaining liquid until tender 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.
Cider Vinaigrette
Yield ¾ cup
Prep Time: 10 minutes
¼ c. Apple cider vinegar
1 tsp. Dijon
1 T. Honey
1 T. Shallots
1 tsp. Thyme, fresh
½ 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.

Salad Assembly
In a medium mixing bowl add: 
2 ½ c. cooked lentils along with
1 c. ¼” diced braised fennel bulb
1 c. ¼” diced roasted golden beets
½ c. ¼” diced red onion
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 nice for offsetting all the colors adding eye appeal and texture to your plate. 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.