Roasted Beets with Fennel Oil

Fennel seed’s licorice-like flavor is lovely with sweet, young beets. To capture it, I crush the seeds in a mortar, then heat them gently in olive oil just until they impart their fragrance. The strained oil makes the beets glisten, and the subtle fennel flavor is captivating.  From Fresh from the Farmers’ Market by Janet Fletcher (Chronicle Books).

  • 3/4 teaspoon fennel seeds, crushed in a mortar or spice grinder
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1-1/2 pounds small beets, preferably a mix of red and golden beets (see Note)
  • 1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
  • Kosher or sea salt
  • 1 tablespoons thinly sliced chives, optional

Heat the fennel seeds and olive oil in a small skillet over low heat until the oil is fragrant with fennel, about 5 minutes. Cool, then strain through a sieve.

Preheat the oven to 375°F. If the beet greens are attached, remove all but 1/2 inch of the stems (so as not to pierce the beets) and reserve for another use. Put the beets in a baking dish with 1/4 cup water. Cover tightly with a lid or aluminum foil and bake until a knife slips in easily, 40 to 55 minutes.

Cool slightly, then peel. Cut beets in quarters or, if very small, in half. Toss with the strained oil and sherry vinegar. Season with salt. Transfer to a serving bowl or platter and top, if desired, with chives.

Note: If using both red and golden beets, bake them separately or the red beets will stain the golden ones. Dress them in separate bowls, using half the oil and vinegar for each. Serve them alongside each other, in separate mounds.

Serves 4