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Spring Crab Salad

Spring seems to have finally arrived here in Portland.  And it’s about time!  I feel as if it’s been months since I saw the sun, even though I know that it has peeked out for as long as a few hours at a time in the past few weeks.

Tomorrow it’s supposed to be sunny and 70 degrees.  I’m not sure how I can contain myself.

One of the first signs of spring, of course, are tulips.  These were given to me by a thoughtful co-worker.

And the other sign of spring?  Farmer’s markets, fresh, local produce, lots of greens and daylight that lasts into the evening and inspires leisurely, light meals.

Today the intermittent sunshine and a big pile of ripe mangoes at the grocery store (and a package of fresh Dungeness crab meat in the fridge)

inspired me to make a crab, mango and avocado salad with micro greens (from the farmer’s market) and a lime ginger vinaigrette.

For such an elegant dinner, the prep was incredibly easy and the flavors a perfect combination of sweet, tart and little bit salty.

Crab, Mango and Avocado Salad with Lime Ginger Vinaigrette

(Serves 2 hungry people as a main course, or 4 as a starter)

For the Vinaigrette

3 tablespoons fresh lime juice

1 tablespoon rice vinegar

2 teaspoons grated lime zest

2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger

1 teaspoon honey

1/3 cup olive oil

salt and freshly ground black pepper

Mix all of the ingredients except the olive oil, salt and pepper in a small bowl and whisk.  Slowly drizzle the olive oil into the bowl, whisking briskly until the dressing emulsifies.  Add salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.  Set aside while you assemble the salad.

For the Crab Salad

2 cups fresh salad greens

2 ripe mangos (I like the Manila variety), peeled and cut into small dice

1 ripe avocado, peeled and sliced into thin slivers

8 ounces fresh crab meat (here in the NW we use Dungeness Crab, but any fresh crabmeat will do)

Red pepper flakes (optional)

Choose a nice plate on which to assemble the salad.  Spread the greens evenly over the plate.  Cover the greens with a generous layer of mangos, saving a few for garnish.  Arrange the avocado slices around the edge of the plate and fill in the middle with the crabmeat.  Garnish with remaining mango, and, if you like a little spice with your crab, sprinkle some red pepper flakes over the whole thing.

Just before serving, drizzle no more than ½ of the vinaigrette over the salad.  Serve with the extra dressing on the side.

Even though we’ve finished dinner, the sunset still seems a long way off.  It must really be spring at last!

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Well, now it’s really fall.  In fact, with snow in the forecast, some might say fall is over and gone.  Luckily there are still some wonderful apples in the markets, and on Saturday while shopping at New Seasons I had a taste of a phenomenal ripe pear.

The other day it was the apples that inspired me, though.  My mother used to make applesauce every fall and the bowl full of heirloom apples on the counter was too good to resist.

Applesauce is an uncomplicated dish, but before I got started I thought I’d look around for some inspiration.  The Gourmet Cookbook had just the thing — a simple recipe with a touch of calvados (brandy made from cider quality apples).  I just happened to have a bottle of Clear Creek Apple Brandy on the shelf, too.

Brandied Applesauce

(loosely adapted from The Gourmet Cookbook)

1 pound assorted firm and flavorful heirloom apples, peeled, cored and cut into 1-inch pieces

½ cup fresh-squeezed orange juice

½ cup brown sugar

½ teaspoon orange zest

1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon

2 tablespoons apple brandy

Combine apples, orange juice, sugar, zest and cinnamon in a heavy saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally.  Cover, reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes.

Remove lid and simmer until most of the liquid has evaporated, 5-10 minutes.  Add the apple brandy and simmer for about one minute more.  Remove from heat and mash with a fork or a potato masher until it is a chunky sauce.  Cool (the juices will thicken as the sauce cools).

Makes about 1½ cups.  Can be stored, covered, in the refrigerator for 3-4 days.

Of course, I had to make a few changes to the original recipe — I used fresh-squeezed orange juice and orange zest in place of water and lemon zest, and substituted brown sugar for the white granulated sugar.  I think it turned out perfectly, let me know what you think.

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I just finished reading a wonderful book — A Homemade Life by Molly Wizenberg.  Molly is the creator of the smart and tasty blog Orangette and the owner, along with her husband Brandon, of the Seattle restaurant Delancey.  I plan to eat at Delancey on my very next visit to Seattle.  I promise.

Anyway, as I was saying, I just finished reading A Homemade Life.  Every chapter tells a story and includes a recipe, and I pretty much want to cook or bake every recipe in the book.

Not wanting to put my exploration of these dishes off too far, I chose to start with one of the simplest — not that most of the recipes are complicated, but this one is particularly simple.  There are only 4 ingredients, and all but the tomatoes are something most of us have in our pantries all the time:  olive oil, salt and ground coriander.

The tomatoes are those Roma tomatoes, the ones that you can find year-round in most supermarkets.  I ran out to get some.

Preparation is quick — slice the stem end off each tomato and cut them in half lengthwise.  Toss them with the olive oil, spread them on a baking sheet, sprinkle with salt and coriander and put them in the oven (which you have preheated to 200 degrees) and let them roast.

The only thing challenging about this recipe is that it takes a while.  The tomatoes roast in a very slow oven for 4 to 6 hours.  Yes, 4 to 6 hours.  The nice thing is that you don’t need to do anything to them while they are roasting, just check in on them now and then.  I roasted mine for the full 6 hours, and honestly, they could probably have even roasted a bit longer.  I think they turned out perfectly.

I’ve used these tomatoes in at least three dishes since making them — we added them to a duck ragu that was tossed with homemade fettuccine, to a saute of chard and caramelized onions, and served them with scrambled eggs, for breakfast.

They even taste good on their own.


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