Sitting at a table under the almond trees, dappled sunlight and soft ocean breezes caress our cheeks, the Caribbean sea shimmers turquoise in the distance. The perfection of this simple beet, goat cheese and fennel salad we’ve just eaten is surely a figment of our imaginations. We’ve been hypnotized by the voluptuous sea breeze and delicate scent of fangipani wafting in the air. That’s why it tastes so damn good. I’m certain that when I recreate this dish back home in Vermont it will taste disappointingly dull and perfectly pedestrian. Fast forward one week. Here we are, sitting in our Vermont kitchen, sleet pelting the window. A simple plate of beets, goat cheese and fennel sitting in front of us …is that a warm breeze I feel…?
This is my interpretation of one of the many simple and wonderful dishes prepared by the talented chefs at Hermitage Bay, Antigua. The orange juice reduction makes a bright sauce and the sesame stick crumbs provide a satisfying crunch with a bit of heat.
- 3 golden beets
- 3 chioggia or red beets
- 4 oranges (about 1 cup fresh juice) plus the zest
- Chèvre (I used Blue Ledge Farm Pepper Chèvre, one of my all time favorites)
- 1 egg, beaten
- ½ cup spiced sesame sticks, finely ground in a food processor
- (or substitute panko bread crumbs seasoned with salt and cayenne pepper)
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 fennel bulb, slivered
- Scrub the beets and place the golden beets and the chioggia or red beets in separate saucepans. Cover with water by about an inch. Bring water to a boil on high heat, then reduce heat and simmer for about 45 minutes, until beets are soft when pierced with a fork. Remove, drain, cool the beets and then trim and peel. Slice into ½ inch slices. Set aside.
- Zest the oranges and reserve about 2 tablespoons of zest. Juice the oranges and strain the juice. Put the juice in a saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to lowest setting and simmer until the juice is reduced to about ¼ cup and is syrupy.
- Crumble the chèvre into a bowl. Add the orange zest and mix well. Roll the cheese into a log, wrap in plastic wrap and chill for about 10 minutes. Remove the cheese and slice into disks. Dip the disks into the egg wash and then roll them in the ground sesame stick crumbs.
- Heat the oil in a non-stick pan over medium heat. Brown the chèvre disks on both sides and remove to a plate.
- To assemble, spread the orange reduction onto a plate and arrange the sliced beets on top. Arrange the chèvre over the beets and scatter the fennel on top.