Fresh and light, this is a salad to be enjoyed all summer long, especially because you can replace the crab with scallops, shrimp or thin slices of grilled beef.
The dressing can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 3 days.
- For the dressing
- Juice of 9 limes (about 1 1/2 cups)
- 1 1/8 cups palm sugar or brown sugar
- 1 small jalapeño pepper, stemmed, seeded and coarsely chopped
- 2 basil stems with leaves
- 2 sprigs mint
- 2 kaffir lime leaves (optional)
- 2 tablespoons coarsely chopped (not peeled) ginger root
- 1 stalk lemon grass, trimmed of outer leaves and bruised with the blunt side of a knife, cut in half crosswise
- Dash fish sauce
- For the salad
- 1 pound jumbo lump crabmeat, picked free of cartilage and shells
- 1 medium seedless (European) cucumber, peeled and cut into thin strips (about 3 cups)
- 1 green papaya, peeled, seeded and cut into very thin strips (julienne; about 6 cups)
- 2 scallions, white and light-green parts, cut thinly on the diagonal
- 1 to 2 small red chili peppers, stemmed, seeded and cut into julienne (for a hotter mixture, leave the seeds in)
- 1 cup packed cilantro sprigs (not the stems)
- 1/4 cup packed mint leaves
- 1/4 cup unsalted cashews, toasted
- 1/3 cup canned Asian fried shallots (see TIP), for garnish
- 4 small limes, cut in half, for garnish
For the dressing: Bring the lime juice to a boil in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Remove from the heat and add the sugar, stirring until it dissolves (return it to the heat, if necessary). With a mortar and pestle, lightly crush the jalapeno pepper, herbs, lime leaves, if using, ginger and lemon grass. Transfer the mixture to the saucepan (still off the heat) and allow to infuse for 1 hour. Set aside to cool, and season to taste with the fish sauce. Strain before using, discarding the solids.
For the salad: In a large mixing bowl, combine the crabmeat, cucumber, papaya, scallions, chili peppers, cilantro sprigs, mint and cashews. Add just enough of the dressing to moisten the ingredients, and toss lightly to coat.
To serve, divide the lightly dressed salad among individual plates, making a mound in the center of each plate. Drizzle with some of the remaining dressing, if desired. Sprinkle with the fried shallots and place 2 lime halves on each plate.
Adapted from Inn at Easton chef-owner Andrew Evans.
Tested by Walter Nicholls and Annie Groer.
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