Danielle, you know her from my family and friends page, came over for lunch the other day. I had seen Nigella Lawson make this salad a while back on The Cooking Channel and had remembered it, hoping to make it someday. The problem is no one I know loves crab, least of all my husband, who rejects crab cakes on any restaurant appetizer menu. He would eat it if I made him, but If I was going to spend the money on crab, it was going to be served to someone who was going to fully appreciate it. Enter Danielle. Lover of all things from the sea. I think. Actually, she is more accurately just a lover of all food. Period.
We both like seafood. We both like Asian flavors. And we both like fresh food. This salad fit into all three categories nicely. Danielle was the person to make this for. Most of the time I like my salads thoroughly tossed but not in this case. This is an arranged salad. It has to be or else the crab meat would get lost amongst the leaves. You start out by making the dressing which is a snap, providing you have mirin. Take a mental note now and buy mirin on your next trip to the store. And wasabi paste. Buy that too. Next you make the crab salad. You toss the crab meat in a bowl with chilies, cilantro, salt and some of the dressing. Then you toss some peppery arugula leaves in a bowl with the rest of the dressing and put it on the bottom of your serving plate. Next you pile the crab salad into a measuring cup, press down so it will mold and empty it into a gorgeous mound on top of your leaves. Scoop out some avocado, haphazardly with a melon baller and place around the arugula and top it all with a lime wedge for sprinkling. It's simple but looks fancy.
Crab and Avocado Salad with Japanese Dressing
adapted from Nigella Lawson, Nigella Express
serves 2 meal sized portions, 4 appetizer portions
4 tablespoons mirin
1 teaspoon wasabi paste
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
6-8 drops sesame oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 long red chile pepper, deseeded and finely chopped
1 1/4 cups crab meat (or 2 10-oz cans)
Approximately 2 teaspoons lime juice, and 2 wedges for serving
5 cups arugula
1 ripe avocado
2 teaspoons chopped chives or cilantro, plus more for sprinkling
In a bowl that will take the crab meat later, whisk together the mirin, wasabi, rice vinegar, sesame oil and salt. Then remove around 5-6 teaspoons to another big bowl that will fit your salad in later.
To the first, more generous amount of dressing, add the finely chopped chile, chives or cilantro and then the crab meat, and fork through to mix thoroughly.
To the smaller amount of dressing in the other bowl, add the lime juice and then the salad leaves and toss well to mix before arranging on 2-3 plates.
Spoon the crab mixture into a regular metal kitchen third-cup measure squishing down to get it all in, then take it over to a salad-lined plate and unmold in the center of it. just turn over, tap and the crab meat should fall out. Continue with the remaining crab meat and other plate.
Using a rounded half spoon measure, or melon baller, scoop out curls or humps of avocado and dot around and on top of the salady bits. Spritz with a little more lime juice.
Sprinkle some of the reserved chopped chives or cilantro over the mounds of crab and place a lime wedge on top of each.
As always, feel free to play around with the dressing measurements. Make it per recipe instructions, then taste. Want it more acidic? Add more vinegar. Like more sesame oil? Add it in.