With my ITP thesis ready to go, I finally got a chance to do some creative cooking again. Tonight I made a fried soft shell crab salad with a curry aïoli dressing. I improvised through this one (like most things I cook), so no exact measurements. I got the soft shell crabs (which are currently in season) from FreshDirect, and they were already cleaned, which saved me the scary task of cutting off the eyes of live crabs as demonstrated here by Mark Bittman of the NY Times.
Start with the aïoli dressing. Put in a blender:
1 raw egg (without the shell, silly!)
1 clove of garlic
2 chopped up cornichons
1 generous spoonful of Dijon mustard
1 shake of curry powder
1 dash of soy sauce
1 dash of Tabasco
1 heaping teaspoon of apricot jam (the sweetness offsets the intensity of the other flavors)
2-3 teaspoons of vinegar (I used a combo apple cider and rice wine vinegar that has been infused with jalapeños. I like to live a little on the wild side, so I chucked in a couple slices of the pickled jalapeños too
2-3 generous glugs (I know, this is hardly scientific) of grapeseed or other neutral oil
Blend everything together and season to taste. It should come out more like a thick salad dressing and less like a mayonnaise. If it’s too thick, add some water or more vinegar to taste. This makes a lot of dressing, so these measurements would be enough for 4-6 servings.
Now for the crab. Clean the crab if it didn’t come cleaned already. Rinse in some cold water and pat dry with some paper towels. Make a tempura-style batter by mixing flour, ice cold water, freshly ground black pepper, Tabasco, and fish sauce (plain old salt would work here too). The batter should be really cold and rather thin. Don’t over mix. Dip the crab in the batter and deep fry. It takes 2-3 minutes per side. When done, drain on some paper towels.
Tonight I served the crab on some heirloom tomatoes and Boston lettuce with the dressing drizzled on top. I had a glass of vinho verde to go with my delicious dinner, but an off-dry Riesling or Gewurztraminer would also probably work well with the curry flavor.
‘Good’ fat and umami overload!
Peel and slice one ripe (but not too soft) avocado and arrange on a plate. Top with anchovy filets, chopped parsley, cilantro and scallions, and shaved Parmesan cheese. Season with lemon juice, extra virgin olive oil and salt and pepper to taste.
Arugula Persimmon Pear Salad
1 teaspoon of Dijon mustard
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 shallots, minced
1 small pear or 1/2 of a regular sized pear
2 handfuls of lightly toasted walnuts
1 bunch of arugula
Salt and pepper to taste
Mix mustard, lemon, olive oil and shallots in bowl. Add sliced persimmon, pear, walnuts and arugula, mix until uniformly distributed. Shave Parmesan cheese atop, season to taste with salt and pepper.
This salad is one of my current obsessions. I just can’t get enough of this stuff. It’s a real orgy of flavors, with tangy, creamy blue cheese gettin’ it on with the nutty walnuts, peppery arugula, sweet fig preserves and crunchy croûtons. (Recipe below)
Ingredients (serves 2):
- Two handfuls of a baguette or other crusty bread cut into 1-inch cubes (This is a great way of using up your day-old leftover bread)
- One handful of raw walnut halves
- One clove of garlic, finely chopped
- Three or four handfuls of arugula, washed and thoroughly dried
- One or two green onions, thinly sliced
- One handful of blue cheese, crumbled, or cut into little cubes
- Extra virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt & pepper to taste
- Fig preserves (I used the sun-dried fig jam preserve from Mymouné)
- Put the bread cubes, walnuts and garlic in a mixing bowl. Season well with salt and pepper. Mix in some olive oil to lightly coat the bread and walnuts.
- Transfer the mixture to an oven-proof baking dish and bake in a 425 degree F oven (220 Celsius) for 10 minutes, or until the garlic is cooked through and the bread is crunchy. Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly.
- Mix together ingredients 4 to 6 in a bowl. Add the bread and walnut mixture. Season with a bit more salt and pepper, and dress with a bit of olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Toss.
- Transfer the salad to a plate and top with some dollops of fig preserve. Serve immediately