Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Summer Crab Fuji Apple Salad

In June, Catalina Offshore Products' Collaboration Kitchen--a monthly evening of often wacky BYOB seafood cooking demos with "hosts" Tommy Gomes and Dan Nattrass playing off each other like the car guys, Tom and Ray Magliozzi--went "back to basics." Meaning that instead of featuring a local star chef, it was Tommy and friends demonstrating seafood recipes.

We started with delightful and unusual Mauritian "soul food" from Fazil Osman, who has a blog called Martian Foodie. Wild Mexican shrimp were doused in a fragrant and spicy tomato sauce and paired with crispy "gateau piments," spicy fried little ringlets of split yellow peas, turmeric, and hot chile.

Then Tommy grilled up his white sea bass fish tacos, wrapped in flatbread instead of a tortilla, filled with cabbage crunch.

Tommy's buddy Ken Gardon followed with his first dish, white sea bass picatta--unusual in that it was sans flour. So, you had the pure sea bass flavor with white wine, olive oil, and capers mingling with pan-grilled summer veggies topped by a balsamic glaze.

We did have a couple of professional chefs in the audience--Olivier Bioteau of Farm House Cafe, scoping out the event in anticipation of his appearance in September, and Ryan Studebaker of Gingham, just there to hang out. Tommy pulled Ryan out of the audience and all of the sudden, the prep chefs in the back were quick fire prepping salmon and vegetables for an impromptu demo by Ryan. Kudos to them--and to Ryan--for speed, accuracy, and deliciousness.

The evening ended with what turned out to be my favorite dish, made with one of my favorite ingredients, crab. Ken Gardon's Crab Fuji Apple Salad is the perfect summer lunch. It also makes for a great appetizer. The ingredients are straightforward (you can get a container of pasteurized crab at Catalina Offshore Products, of course) and the dish itself is easy to make--perfect for a 4th of July party. Ken gave me the recipe to share.

Crab Fuji Apple Salad
from Ken Gardon

This recipe will provide 4 servings as a luncheon, or meal salad, 6 as an appetizer, and approximately 14 as an amuse bouche.

1 pound container of Baja Stone Crab meat
1 medium sweet or Maui onion
2 tablespoons golden brown sugar
3-5 celery stalks, tops and butts removed
2 Fuji, or similar apples
2 large lemons
Cranberry walnut or similar bread, sliced about ½ inch thick
Unsalted butter
2 tablespoons mayonnaise (homemade or premium store bought)


Turn crab out into large, non reactive bowl. Break apart lightly with hands, endeavoring to maintain “chunkiness.”

Add finely diced onion, sugar and mayo and combine lightly. Take care to keep mixture as “dry" as possible, adding mayo a bit at a time.

Once combined, cover with plastic wrap, place in coldest spot (bottom) of refrigerator for at least an hour, preferably 3 hours for flavors to combine.

Shortly before serving time, prepare the bread by removing the crusts, cut into desired shape (triangles have least waste), butter lightly both sides with unsalted butter, and toast in a pan on stovetop. A light golden brown color is your goal. Set aside on a tray to cool and do not allow overlap of slices.

Finely dice the celery, make a small julienne of the apples. Place apples in a bowl and squeeze lemon juice over them, tossing to coat.

Remove chilled salad, correct seasoning with sea salt, and fold in celery.

To serve, place a toast on serving dish, use a tablespoon to create a quenelle (football-shaped ball) or a sherbet scoop for a sphere, and place on top. Garnish with a tent of apple “matchsticks” and serve immediately.

Recommended wine pairing: crisp Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc , Prosecco, or of course, Champagne.

Catalina Offshore Products teams up with Specialty Produce for "Collaboration Kitchen" events monthly on Sunday evenings. Follow them on Facebook to learn when they'll be held and to buy tickets. Proceeds support non-profits around town. I'm especially excited about the August event, since Tommy and crew will be dedicating the proceeds to the San Diego Food Bank's Food 4 Kids Backpack Program during our Dollar-a-Dish fundraiser.

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