This week at Fiesta Friday we are remembering Selma, one of our dear fellow-bloggers who recently passed away. Although I did not know her personally, she became a source of inspiration for me not only with her wonderful recipes, but cooking tips and techniques. She was supportive and friendly in her comments, generously giving of her time to help any of us who asked. You can visit her blog at Selma’s Table and read for yourself her stories and recipes from a wonderful life
She and I shared some favourite cookbook writers, one of which was Yotam Ottolenghi whose recipes so often make use of my favourite garden produce with some tantalizing innovative touches. I decided to dedicate to Selma one such dish from his book Plenty, all the ingredients for which I already had either in my garden or pantry. Well, almost. Instead of verjus I used my own version made from unripe blueberries, and I used sunflower seeds instead of pine nuts. Rather than roasting the small beets in the oven with aluminum foil for 45 minutes, I wrapped them in corn husks and roasted them in an iron pan for 15 minutes. I saved on electricity and aluminum! And the beets take on a deliciously smoky corn flavour. Here is how I did it.
The recipe is copied, almost verbatim, with my variations in brackets.
Asparagus, Fennel and Beets with Verjus
1/4 lb mini beets
1 1/3 cup verjus
4 Tbsp grapeseed oil
salt and black pepper
4 to 5 oz fresh pencil-thin asparagus, or normal asparagus
1/2 large fennel bulb (1/4 lb) halved vertically (or 1 very small whole one)
1/4 cup pine nuts (or sunflower seeds)
1 tbsp dill leaves to garnish
Clean and trim the beets. Either bake in an oven-proof dish at 400 degrees F for 45 minutes covered with aluminum foil, or use my method as described above.
Pour the verjus into a small saucepan, bring to a light simmer and leave it to reduce to about 3 tbsps. When cooled, whisk in the grapeseed oil and salt and pepper to taste. Put aside.
If using normal asparagus, cut the spears on a sharp angle into long and very thins slices, or use a potato peeler to make ‘shavings’.
Arrange the vegetables on small serving plates. Scatter with roasted nuts (or seeds). Drizzle on the dressing and garnish with dill.
I think this salad would go very well with many of Selma’s dishes and I hope she would agree.