Pairing Sauvignon Blanc – Asparagus and Fennel Salad with Beets

Wine and food paring comes with a little understanding of “profiling.” Our taste buds acknowledge that Sauvignon Blanc pairs well with shellfish, tomatoes, young cheese, and green vegetables. The wine itself has aromatic flavors from grapefruit to melon and even mineral or grass.

What elevates dishes created to pair with a particular varietal are an accumulation of weight (lighter, brighter foods with the same wine), mood and balance. The icing on the cake is the addition of “bridge” ingredients. What that translates to is taking main ingredients and adding something special to coax out flavor compounds present in the wine. Being open to that involves experimentation and tweaking recipes.

So, let’s take my beloved Sauvignon Blanc. I love its acidity, freshness, and clean flavors. Regardless of time of year, it’s nice to experience a little coolness on our palate. Some of the volatile compounds in SB are in the same family as fennel, mint, lemongrass, and basil. So, if you create a dish with any of those menthol-like flavors as a bridge ingredient to the main attraction, you get that “wow!” factor.

The recipe below illustrates how a main ingredient with the addition of a complimentary food in the same family as wine itself works so well.

                          Asparagus and Fennel Salad with Beets

                                                                                                                                  Serves 6

                       4 golden beets, trimmed
                       1/4 cup olive oil 
                       3 sprigs fresh thyme 
                       1 lb. asparagus, blanched in salt water 
                       1 minutes & cooled in ice bath 
                       1/2 large fennel bulb, halved vertically, cut into paper thins sliced on a mandolin
                       1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted 
                       1 tablespoon mint, cut into chiffonade
                       1 orange, cut into supremes (zest & juice reserved for vinaigrette) 
                       Golden Beets 

Preheat the oven to 400F. Put beets in oven proof baking dish. Drizzle 2 tablespoons oil over beets, salt & pepper as well as thyme. Cover with foil, Bake 45 minutes to 1 1/2 hours until beets are cooked through. Cool and remove skin. cut into wedges. Cut asparagus on diagonal and place in bowl with beets. Add fennel and citrus segments. Drizzle remaining olive oil, citrus zest and juice to bowl. Toss gently, taste and add salt & fresh ground pepper.

Finish dish with toasted pine nuts and mint. 

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