Roasted Fennel, Beet + Romano Bean Panzanella Salad

Sundays are all about relaxing at my house. No plans and no commitments. I enjoy being with my family and hanging out for the day. I always look forward to Sunday supper. It's all about easy. I have a few favorite easy recipes, and this is one of them.

A leftover loaf of focaccia can be magically transformed into crispy croutons for a warm panzanella salad. Crunchy fresh romano beans, soft strands of roasted fennel, and red-ringed Chiogga beets create a twist on this classic Italian dish. Although this recipe is traditionally a summer salad made with fresh tomatoes, take poetic license and make it year-round with whatever is in season. It's perfectly delicious as a light vegetarian supper with a bowl of soup, or you can add one of my favorite staples for a more hearty version- roasted citrus fennel chicken.

Nothing fancy. Simply delicious.


1 bulb fresh fennel
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper
1 boneless, skinless split breast of organic chicken
1 teaspoon Citrus fennel aromatic salt
1 bunch beets, any variety will do: golden, chioggia, red
3 cloves garlic, in their skins
A few sprigs of fresh thyme
1 large handful romano beans
1 cup focaccia croutons
Fresh basil leaves

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cut the stem and fronds from the fennel bulb. Reserve for cooking {this will add lots of flavor to your chicken}. Cut the fennel bulb into quarters, remove the core, and slice lengthwise into 1/2 inch pieces. Toss with 1 Tablespoon olive oil and a sprinkle of salt and pepper. On a parchment-lined sheet pan, lay the fennel fronds on one side of the pan. Place the chicken breast on the fennel fronds. Drizzle with 1 Tablespoon olive oil and sprinkle with the citrus fennel salt and pepper. On the other side of the pan, place the sliced fennel. Cook just until fennel is soft and chicken is tender and done, about 25-30 minutes. Cool the chicken and cut into thin slices. Disgard the fennel fronds. Reserve the roasted sliced fennel for the salad.

To prepare the beets for roasting, remove the beet greens, leaving some of the green stem on the beets. Place the beets on a large piece of tinfoil. Drizzle with 1 Tablespoon olive oil and sprinkle with 1 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon cracked black pepper. Add the garlic and thyme. Close up the ends of the tinfoil and seal like a package. Place on the sheet pan next to the chicken and roast until the beets are cooked and can be easily pierced with a knife, about an hour. When the beets are done, let them cool just enough to handle. Remove the skins and cut into 1/4 inch slices. Set aside for the salad.

Trim the ends of the beans and cut into 1 inch pieces. Blanch the beans in boiling salted water until tender, about one minute. Cool in a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking. Drain and set aside.

To make the vinaigrette for the salad, in a medium bowl, whisk the red wine vinegar, juices from the chicken, lemon juice and about 2 Tablespoons of olive oil. In a separate bowl, asssemble the panzanella salad. Toss the roasted fennel slices, beans, beets, croutons and basil. Toss with just enough vinaigrette to coat the salad .

If the beet greens are fresh, you can saute' them in a bit of oil and add them to the salad.

Serves four.

copyright 2009 Alisa Barry

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