A Fresh Take on Seafood-and-Avocado Salad
Say the words "seafood and avocado salad" and you can bet money on the picture that will form in the minds of most people: half of a pitted avocado sitting in a bowl or teetering on a plate, its hollow filled with a big scoop of shrimp or crabmeat, or maybe smoked fish or canned tuna, mixed with some chopped celery and maybe a little onion and herbs, all bound together with lots of mayonnaise.
Isn't that something you've seen, and maybe eaten, so many times that you're likely to pass it over in favor of something lighter and fresher?
So, I'm happy to offer you a lighter and fresher approach to this classic combination. And it may also give you an insight into how to create and cook like a professional chef by looking closely at a recipe, taking it apart, and then putting it back together in a way that reflects your own tastes and how people like to eat today.
Let's begin with the seafood mixture itself. Who says that a seafood salad mixture has to contain great big dollops of mayonnaise? Or, for a change of pace, that it has to be drenched in that old standby, mayo-based
Using a pitted avocado half as a vessel for serving the crabmeat mixture is now a time-honored trick. But, especially for an appetizer, that can be a lot of avocado. So, for my reinvention, I literally turn things upside-down, mounding the crabmeat on a chilled plate and then draping a generous but not overwhelming portion of avocado slices over the seafood.
Fresh herbs are a natural garnish for seafood salads. But, in the past, that all too often meant a sprig of curly parsley placed on top. For this recipe, however, I use a mixture of herbs: fresh, broad-leafed Italian parsley, more flavorful than the curly variety; mildly oniony chives; and brisk-tasting basil. For a final burst of flavor, I also drizzle the finished salad with some Pistou, the southern French cousin to pesto sauce, a quick puree of fresh basil leaves, garlic, and olive oil.
Though simply and quickly put together, it all adds up to a presentation that seems at once familiar and refreshingly new. Seafood and avocado salad, anyone?
CRABMEAT SALAD WITH PISTOU AND LEMON VINAIGRETTE IN AVOCADO HALVES
Lemon Vinaigrette (recipe follows)
Pistou (recipe follows)
12 ounces fresh cooked lump crabmeat
1 tablespoon minced fresh chives
1 tablespoon julienned fresh basil leaves
1 tablespoon minced fresh Italian parsley
3 ripe Hass avocados
Prepare the Lemon Vinaigrette in advance and refrigerate until ready to serve.
Shortly before serving, prepare the Pistou and set aside.
With clean hands, carefully sort through the crabmeat, feeling with your fingertips to remove any pieces of shell or cartilage while separating the crabmeat into large flakes and placing it in a mixing bowl. Add half each of the chives, basil, and parsley, along with 4 tablespoons of the Lemon Vinaigrette. Toss lightly but thoroughly, adding a little salt to taste, if necessary. Cover and set aside.
Halve and pit the avocados. Using a tablespoon inserted between the peel and flesh, carefully scoop out each half in one piece from its peel. Place cut side down on a clean cutting board and, with a sharp knife, cut lengthwise into thin slices. With your palm, gently press down to separate and spread out the slices.
Mound equal portions of the crab salad in the centers of 6 chilled appetizer plates. Carefully lifting the avocado slices with a spatula, drape an equal portion of them over each mound of crab salad.
Lightly drizzle a little Lemon Vinaigrette over and around each serving, refrigerating the rest for another use. Drizzle 1 tablespoon of Pistou over and around each serving, refrigerating the rest for another use. Garnish with the remaining fresh herbs and serve immediately.
Makes about 1 cup
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1 teaspoon sugar
Pinch ground white pepper
3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Put the lemon juice, lemon zest, sugar, salt, and pepper in a sealable airtight jar or other container. Cover tightly and shake until the sugar and salt have dissolved. Open the jar, add the oil, close again, and shake well. Refrigerate until ready to use.
Makes about 2/3 cup
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 garlic clove, peeled
1/2 cup packed fresh basil leaves
Put the olive oil and garlic clove in a blender. Process until the garlic is pureed and fully blended with the oil. Add the basil leaves and salt and turn the blender on and off until the basil is coarsely pureed and thoroughly blended with the oil and garlic. Set aside.
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Crabmeat Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette In Avocado Halves
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