The original recipe is asparagus, fennel and beets with verjus from Yotam Ottolenghi’s Plenty. The word verjus derives from the French term vert jus, literally “green juice,” which refers to its source — the high-acid, low-sugar grapes that winemakers thin from the vines just when the crop is beginning to ripen.
Since I haven’t found verjus, I’d have to explore a homemade alternative. Verjus was popular in medieval times and is still used in traditional French dishes. In recent years, verjus has gained popularity as an alternative to vinegar in sauces and dressings. I adapted it by making a lime juice and white wine reduction, replicating the sourness and fruity flavor of unripe grapes. To balance the acidity, I added some sugar for sweetness. I can’t tell whether I am successful or not since I’ve never tasted verjus. Verjus is known to be less assertive than vinegar or citrus and does not compete with cooking flavors. I am on the lookout for some.
One thing for sure, you can’t really go wrong putting together steamed asparagus, roasted beets and fresh fennel. They are all delicious on their own. Ottolenghi specifies placing the fennel half cut-side down on a mandolin and shave into paper-thin slices. The slices should take on a hand shape. See the fennel slices shaking hands and getting acquainted with other vegetables! Seriously, I like Ottolenghi’s meticulousness when it comes to plating. To me, there’s much to learn there. (For that reason, I am partial to cookbooks and recipes with good visuals as well as weight measurements.)
To top it off, toasted pine nuts serve up this light vegetable dish with a crunchy and nutty note. It’s a bright and eye-catching dish. Not your usual combination of everyday vegetables. I’d certainly enjoy bringing it to the dinner table more often.