I was inspired to make this salad after spotting the colorful assortment of beets at the farmers market. In a season that is devoid of so much color, I'm always on the lookout for something to brighten my meals. and, with such deep, earthy flavors, this meal also satisfies a winter's appetite. —julia johnson
Thoroughly wash the beets and remove greens. Lightly coat each beet with about 1 teaspoon olive oil and wrap each one, individually, in aluminum foil. Place each wrapped beet on a cookie sheet and roast for 45 minutes to an hour [depending on how large the beets are]. after 45 minutes, test the largest beet with a pairing knife - the knife should easily slide into the beet without resistance. return to oven if they need more time. Once finished, Set aside and allow to cool slightly.
While beets are roasting, prepare the fennel. Cut stalks from the bulb and set aside [the fronds can be used as garnish]. Cut the bulb into 1-inch pieces and arrange in one layer on a small cookie sheet. Sprinkle with remaining olive oil [about 1 tablespoon] and season with 1 teaspoon of the coarse salt. Transfer to oven and roast alongside the beets for 25-30 minutes, until the edges of the fennel are just starting to brown.
While beets and fennel are roasting, add the balsamic vinegar to a small sauce pan. Bring to a boil over high heat and reduce to a fast simmer. Reduce until the vinegar is a quarter of its original volume [1/4 cup] - This should take about 20 minutes. Pour reduction into a small bowl and allow to cool [it will thicken as it cools].
In a separate bowl, whisk together the sour cream and heavy cream. Add smoked paprika and season with freshly ground black pepper and remaining 1/4 teaspoon coarse salt, and mix until combined.
Once beets are cool enough to handle, scrape skins off with the back of a spoon or knife. Slice into 1/4 - 1/2-inch medallions.
To plate, smear some of the sour cream mixture on the bottom of the serving plate, and sprinkle the fennel pieces over the top. Arrange the beet medallions over that, and drizzle with balsamic reduction. Sprinkle the chopped pistachios and fennel fronds [optional] as garnish. Finish with flaked or coarse salt.