As spring moves into summer, some of our favorite ingredients start to fade away and we try to enjoy them before they are gone. One of these seasonal ingredients is Dungeness crab. The Dungeness is a medium-sized crab (about the size of a large salad plate) with a red shell and sweet, flaky flesh. Dungeness is very common in the pacific states and is even the “state crustacean” in Oregon (somehow I don’t think Nebraska has a state crustacean). Dungeness crab is considered a “sustainable” delicacy and there is plenty to go around while it’s in season. The Dungeness season lasts while the North Pacific ocean is very cold, from about November to June. And as we are in May, our time with the Dungeness this year is running short. We wanted to be sure to make at least one more good dish with the Dungeness crab.
Happily, Carolyn recently got a copy of Suzanne Goin’s “Sunday Suppers at Lucques” cookbook and it has this great recipe for a Dungeness crab salad. In case you are curious, Suzanne Goin is a James Beard award-winning chef from Los Angeles and Lucques is her flagship restaurant (she is part of four). The cookbook is from 2005, but we just found it and are very pleased with the recipes. As Goin worked under Alice Waters (and a bunch of other serious chefs) early in her career, we see some similarities in their recipes, particularly with salads and vegetables. As we are big fans of Alice Waters’ vegetable recipes, this is a good thing. Many of the Lucques recipes seem like heartier updates to Chez Panisse classics. This is a compliment, trust us.
As for the salad, the recipe combines crabmeat in a flavorful citrus and jalapeño vinaigrette with earthy roasted beets, sweet and creamy avocados and crisp, slightly bitter watercress. A drizzle of crème fraîche and cilantro (if you like cilantro) add brightness to the dish. The salad is very tasty and has that “restaurant quality” of tasting better than the sum of its parts. There are a bunch of good flavors and textures in this dish. Oh, and it’s a pretty healthy dish, too.