Ever wonder why some tubs of crabmeat cost a lot, while for others, the price seems too good to be true? Part of that has to do with the grade of crab (jumbo lump, special white, backfin, claw, etc.), and part has to do with whether the crab is fresh or pasteurized.
The less-expensive, pasteurized kind is what we used to test this recipe, adapted from Joyce Goldstein's new cookbook, "Mediterranean Fresh" (W.W. Norton, 2008). It is fresh meat that has been heated and vacuum-packed. An unopened can of pasteurized crab has a refrigerated shelf life of many months and therefore can qualify as a pantry item, which we appreciate. Lump or flake/white crabmeat, taken from the body, are best to use here.
Goldstein notes that while you may be tempted to assemble the salad dressing in a blender or food processor, it might emulsify too quickly and become thicker than if prepared by hand. So choose the whisk; there will be fewer things to clean up and put away.
Serve with warm bread.
- 1/2 pound haricots verts (thin French green beans)
- 1 cup walnut pieces
- 2 medium lemons, scrubbed
- 1 large egg yolk
- 1 teaspoon Dijon-style mustard
- 1/2 cup canola oil, or a mix of canola and extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 to 2 tablespoons water (optional)
- Sea salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 2 medium cloves garlic
- 1 English (seedless) cucumber (20 ounces total)
- 1 pound pasteurized or fresh lump crabmeat, (drained), cartilage and shell bits removed
- 2 medium heads butter lettuce
- 1 bunch watercress
- 2 to 3 teaspoons walnut oil, plus more as needed (optional)
Fill a large bowl with cold water and ice cubes. Trim the ends of the haricots verts, if desired.
Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the haricots verts and cook for about 1 minute, just until bright green; use tongs to transfer the beans to the ice-water bath to stop their cooking. Transfer them to a clean, dry dish towel, wrap them up and refrigerate until ready to use.
While the haricots verts are cooking, dry-toast the walnuts in a small skillet over medium-low heat for 3 to 4 minutes, shaking or stirring to make sure they do not burn. Remove from the heat; when the nuts have cooled slightly, chop them coarsely and place half of them in a large bowl.
Finely grate the zest of 2 lemons (there should be 1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons), then cut the lemons in half and juice 3 halves (there should be about 3 tablespoons); reserve the remaining 1/2 lemon for another use.
Combine the egg yolk, mustard and 2 tablespoons of the lemon juice in a medium mixing bowl or 2-cup glass measuring cup. Slowly whisk in the oil until the mixture is emulsified and quite thick. Add up to 2 tablespoons of lemon juice; add a tablespoon or two of water if a thinner consistency is desired. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Use a Microplane grater or zester to pulp the garlic cloves, working over the large bowl to catch any juices; then add the garlic pulp. Cut the cucumber into 1/2-inch dice (there should be about 2 1/2 cups) and add it to the bowl, along with the crabmeat and the lemon zest. Add the dressing and toss gently to combine.
Wash and dry the lettuce and watercress leaves, discarding any tough watercress stems; tear the lettuce into bite-size pieces. Place the greens in a mixing bowl and drizzle with the walnut oil and the remaining 1 tablespoon of lemon juice. Distribute evenly among individual plates, then divide the haricots verts evenly and place them neatly on the greens; drizzle them with oil, if desired. Divide the dressed cucumber-crab mixture among the salads. Sprinkle the remaining chopped walnuts over the salads. Serve immediately.
Adapted from Joyce Goldstein's "Mediterranean Fresh" (W.W. Norton, 2008).
Tested by Bonnie S. Benwick.
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