It never fails: I’m standing in line at the farmers market when the person in front of me politely asks the vendor to “please cut all those leaves off my beets/turnips/carrots/fennel (you choose) before I put them in my bag.” Sigh. What are they thinking?!! It’s as if they said, “Please take half the vegetables off the scale once I pay for them; then, I’ll put them in my bag.” Seriously.
Ok, I realize that for some folks those extra greens are big and bulky in their market bags and baskets. I get it that it’s extra work to take them home, wash them and then find a creative use for them. And, of course, if they aren’t going to use them or compost them, anything is better than the landfill!
So when Keith Biver of Biver Farms handed me a big bag of FREE beet greens and said the guy ahead of me didn’t want them, I just smiled, said thank you, and went home to plan smoothies, salads and sautés. It also got me thinking that people are just as likely to be pitching the carrot tops (which usually come with market carrots) and fennel tops, mainly because they have no clue what to do with them. And, naturally, I’m happy to share an answer to this dilemma—in the form of a new quinoa salad, just perfect for spring picnics and summer suppers.
What I love most about my Carrot and Fennel Top Quinoa Salad is that the ingredients help us avoid food waste while encouraging the use of really local ingredients. Furthermore, there are any number of variations you could incorporate into this dish as the market season progresses. So on to cleaning those tops!
- One-half cup carrot top greens, tough stems removed and thoroughly washed and dried,
- One-half cup fennel top greens, just the feathery fronds, thoroughly washed and dried
- Three to four cloves garlic (Fresh garlic is at market in May and it is mild and wonderful. If you are using cured garlic, you might only want two to three cloves.)
- Two tablespoons fresh grated gingerroot
- One tablespoon minced parsley
- Zest and juice of one large lime
- Two tablespoons honey—local is always best!
- One quarter cup rice vinegar or mirin
- One quarter cup pure hemp oil, cold pressed
- One tablespoon pure dark sesame oil
- Coarse sea salt to taste
- One-quarter teaspoon white pepper
- Two cups cooked quinoa, cooled just to room temperature
- One cup diced carrot
- One cup diced fennel bulb
- One cup chopped green onions, including nice tops
- Quinoa works just like rice—two cups liquid to one cup quinoa. I used water for my liquid because I didn’t want another flavor like stock to interfere with the flavor of the dressing, but any liquid will work.
- Rinse your quinoa really well in a fine mesh strainer—this is essential in preparation. The quinoa will retain a bitter coating that will change the favor of the dish if you don’t.
- Place the rinsed quinoa and the water in a saucepan with a good pinch of sea salt. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and cover. Simmer until all the liquid is gone. Remove from heat and set aside on the stove.
- While the quinoa cools a bit, finely mince the carrot and fennel tops, the garlic and the ginger. Combine all the dressing ingredients in a large bowl and whisk well. Dump the cooled quinoa into the large bowl and toss with the dressing.
- Add the carrots, fennel and green onion. If there are other goodies at your market, like radishes, kohlrabi, broccoli, cauliflower, etc., feel free to add them in or do some exchanges. And maybe don’t stray too far from your own backyard—herbs, dandelions and violet leaves are yummy here!
- Chill in the refrigerator at least four hours. Can be made two days ahead.
The prep time includes every task but the chilling. This is super easy to prepare and can be made ahead by a few days. Just gets better over time.
This salad is exactly what Green Gal of the Midwest is all about—eating as local as we can and wasting as little as we can, while enjoying an amazingly delicious dish that is healthy and fresh. I served our salad over fresh market greens. I can’t wait to experiment with other ingredients as the market season progresses.
Since you will likely have leftover fennel and carrot tops, you can put them in a freezer bag for stock, which is just superb. Green onion tops that aren’t used can go right in the stock bag, too. Extra parsley usually goes in my smoothies or my stock bag.
Let us know how your creations go!