Serious Eats: Recipes

Spirited Cooking: Crab and Citrus Salad with Verjus Vinaigrette

[Photo: Caroline Ford]

Verjus is by no means a new find, but thanks to a few financially savvy winemakers in the Pacific Northwest, it is gaining a resurgence in popularity. Yes, verjus is actually nonalcoholic, yet it offers many of the same culinary benefits as wine.

Like wine, this sweet-tart liquid achieves added depth in deglazing, marinades, sauces, and braises or stews. But verjus also has the flexibility to behave like citrus juice or vinegar in recipes for vinaigrettes, condiments, drinks, desserts, and as a poaching liquid for fish and meat.

This fresh, vibrant juice (it literally means "green juice") is made from the pressing of unripe wine grapes that must be pruned from the vines so the rest of the grapes can ripen properly. Pressing verjus is an excellent way for wineries to earn profit on grapes that would usually end up in compost. It can also save winemakers from a total loss when entire vines never fully ripen due to weather or other environmental conditions.

For this verjus vinaigrette, the liquid is reduced for a more intense flavor. While I chose pink peppercorn and coriander to complement the fennel, celery, and citrus in this particular salad, the spices can easily be adjusted to suit any variety of herbs, lettuces, fruits, and vegetables. I prefer varying levels of tang and sweet among the grapefruit, orange, and blood orange, but feel free to select the citrus for this salad according to your own tastebuds.

Tip: Using a strong flavored olive oil overwhelms the vibrancy of the verjus reduction. It is better to use a more mild, second pressing olive oil in this vinaigrette.

About the Author: Caroline Ford is a food stylist, food writer, and recipe developer in Portland, Oregon. In this column she'll be sharing recipes that feature a wide variety of spirits and liquors (plus beer and wine.)

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