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.)
- For the Vinaigrette:
- 1/2 cup verjus
- 1/2 teaspoon pink peppercorn
- 1/2 teaspoon coriander seed
- 1 large clove garlic, smashed
- 4 tablespoons neutral-flavored olive oil
- Salt and Pepper to taste
- For the Salad:
- 2 medium fennel bulbs, trimmed, reserve some fronds
- 2 celery stalks, trimmed, reserve some celery leaves
- 1 grapefruit
- 3-4 medium oranges or blood oranges, or combination
- 8 ounces lump crab meat, picked over for shells
Place verjus, pink peppercorns, coriander, and garlic in small, heavy bottomed saucepan over medium-high heat. Simmer until reduced to 2 to 3 tablespoons. Strain liquid and discard solids. Slowly whisk oil into reduced verjus to create an emulsified vinaigrette. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Cut ends off of grapefruit and oranges. Remove peels and white pith with a knife. Cut fruits into thin rounds, about 1/8" thick.
Using a mandoline, cut very thin slices of fennel and celery. Toss with half of vinaigrette until vegetables are well coated. Taste and add more salt accordingly. Let sit for 5 to 10 minutes, fennel and celery will soften slightly.
Divide dressed fennel and celery among plates. Top evenly with citrus and crab meat. Drizzle more vinaigrette over the top of each salad. Garnish with fennel fronds and celery leaves.