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Charleston inspired crab dish of roasted peppers, avocado and black bean sauce

March 20, 2010

My love of crab was re-ignited on my trip to Charleston, SC a couple weeks ago. I had fallen out of love with crab slowly. I think it was one shredded, overly packed crabcake after another that made me forget how brilliantly sweet, clean and tender crab can be. The key to enjoying crab is to treat yourself by spending the extra money when you can for lump crabmeat. You want the big pieces of claw and body meat that retain their moisture and sweet, clean flavor of the sea. When you bite into a fresh chunk of crabmeat you taste the most incredible combination of the sea and the deep flavor of the shell of the crab that has permeated the meat. It is important not to stir and mash the crab, which breaks it down into shreds. Adding a lot of mayo is the second mistake. One of the keys to great cooking is knowing how each ingredient wants to be treated. Like we teach our kids “treat others they way THEY want to be treated”. Ingredients are no different.

Crabmeat prefers gentle handling and minimal alteration. Keep it simple. This is my attempt to maintain the integrity of the crab while bringing lots of intense, great flavor to compliment the crabmeat.

Tostada of Dungeness crab with avocado, roasted peppers and a black bean sauce.

I placed creamy, perfectly ripe cubes of avocado in a large bowl. I dropped in slices of roasted red bell pepper and pasilla pepper (blackened on the stovetop, covered with foil to steam and then peeled). The juice of a fresh lime and a few pinches of salt. I stirred those together first to marry the flavors and then gently folded in the crabmeat to keep it intact. The sauce was quick and simple. I heated garlic, toasted ground cumin seed, and Mexican oregano in some canola oil. As soon as the perfume of the garlic was released (I don’t like the strong, toasted flavor of garlic when it goes brown) I added some cooked black beans, the juice of an orange and a touch of chicken stock. Simmer for a few minutes and puree in the blender to a sauce consistency. I fried some flour tortillas for the shell.

Perfect with a habanero spiced margarita! The first bite was a large chunk of crab sitting on top. I dipped it in the pool of black bean sauce and then grabbed a bite of roasted pepper. There was a perfect volley of textures and flavors in my mouth. Creamy avocado against the chewy crunch of the freshly fried tostada. Slightly spicy roasted pepper but not so much to interfere with the sweet flavor of the crab. The black bean sauce was the liaison that brought all the flavors together with the earthy backdrop of cumin and oregano. (Mexican oregano has a mustier, earthy flavor vs. the sweetness of regular oregano). Cheers to you and to the precious crab! Enjoy. Have a great weekend. We are off to celebrate Persian New Year with my mohter-in-law and then to the beach tomorrow to enjoy some family time!

Eat Well, Enjoy life, Be happy

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