Fresh beets have a few natural pairings and fennel is one of the best! The sweet flavor of beets also goes really well with anything creamy or tangy, so with the layer of creme fraiche and sprinkling of feta in this tart we’re off to a great start!
Creme fraiché is really similar to sour cream, just slightly less sour and with a higher fat content that makes it really smooth and silky. We picked ours up at Greenstar, if you can’t find it sub full-fat Greek yogurt or sour cream. This beautifully colored tart is made of 3 components – all of them can be made in a advanced and combined just before eating, or just cook the beets, caramelize the onions, and layer everything together!
If your beets are in a bundle with greens, make a simple side of salad or sautéed greens to enjoy on the side. I like to slow bake the beets for just about everything – they come out sweet and tender with a perfect texture. I recently discovered that a slow cooker does the job just as well as the oven – and you can cook the beets overnight or while you’re at work. Caramelized fennel just cooks nice and slow on the stovetop while you make the crust. Don’t like making crust? Just pick a pre-made dough or try puff pastry.
Caramelized Beet & Fennel Tart
1 1/4 cup all purpose flour
1 sticks butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 – 6 tablespoons ice water
1 fennel bulb
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
pinch of kosher salt
2 -3 beets
8 oz creme fraiche
1/3 cup feta cheese, crumbled
optional: fresh thyme and fennel fronds for garnish
Preheat the oven to 400°F
Cook the beets. If necessary, remove the beets from the greens. Scrub the beets clean, leave the stem end and bottoms in tact and lay onto a piece of foil. Drizzle with oil and fold into a packet. The size of the beets will depend on the baking time. For large beets it can take over an hour. Smaller beets can be done in 30-40 minutes. Beets are done when a fork easily slides in. Let the beets cool in the foil and then rub off the skins, the tops and bottom should slide right off. Slice the beets.
Make the tart dough. Pulse all-purpose flour and salt in a food processor to combine. Add butter and pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal with a few pea-size pieces of butter remaining.
Transfer mixture to a large bowl and ¼ cup ice water. Mix with a spatula, adding more ice water by the tablespoonful if needed, just until the dough comes together; lightly knead until no dry spots remain (do not overwork). Pat into a disk and wrap in plastic. Chill for 1 hour.
Caramelize the fennel. Take a thin slice off the bottom of the bulb, then remove the stalks and fronds. Slice each fennel into quarters, then thinly slice. Heat a heavy pot, like a cast iron skillet or dutch oven over medium low heat. Add the olive oil, then the fennel and a pinch of salt. Cook stirring occasionally, for 20 – 30 minutes until fennel is golden brown and reduced in volume. If the fennel is browning too quickly, just turn down the heat. Keep a close watch at the end of cooking so it doesn’t burn. When it’s just about done add the balsamic vinegar and stir to scrape up any bits from the bottom. Keep stirring until the vinegar is absorbed. Remove the fennel from the heat and let cool.
Bake the tart. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly flour a clean counter and roll out the dough into a circle. Grease a tart or pie pan and transfer the dough to the pan. Use your fingers to roll the edges of the dough and crimp. Spread the creme fraiché over the dough, season with pepper. Layer the sliced beets over the creme fraiche, spread the caramelized fennel over the top, then top with crumbled feta. Sprinkle fresh thyme leaves over the top. Bake tart for 30 – 40 minutes until the crust is firm and the creme fraiches is thickened. Let sit 10 minutes before slicing. Garnish with chopped fennel fronds. Serve warm.