Seafood Salad with Avocado-Buttermilk Dressing

25 05 2011

Shellfish at the market

As the weather warms up, many of us are looking for fresh meal ideas. A simple salad of chilled seafood topped with an easy avocado and buttermilk dressing makes an elegant lunch or light dinner. It can also be served in smaller portions as a starter course. Many fish markets sell lobster, shrimp and crab that have already been cooked which makes this a snap to pull together. Make sure you select an avocado that is very ripe – I often plan ahead and buy my avocados a few days before I need them because the ones at my local store are usually under ripe and as hard as rocks.

About Buttermilk

Traditionally, buttermilk was the liquid that was left after making butter. Today, most buttermilk sold in supermarkets is made by adding lactic acid bacteria culture to pasteurized milk. Buttermilk is tangier tasting and slightly thicker than regular milk. Full-fat and lower-fat options are available in the dairy section of most grocery stores and it is sometimes sold as a powder in the baking section. However, if buttermilk is not available, a decent substitute is to stir one tablespoon of fresh lemon juice into one cup of milk. Let the mixture sit for five minutes and stir until smooth. Sour cream or plain yogurt will also work – mix with a small amount of milk to thin it.

Seafood Salad with Avocado Dressing

Makes 4 light servings

  • About 16 oz. cooked seafood such as lobster, shrimp or crab (or a mix of all three)
  • 4 cups butter lettuce leaves
  • 20 cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
  • Fresh chopped chives as garnish
  • Dressing (see below)

Avocado-Buttermilk Dressing:

  • 1 very ripe avocado
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 6 Tablespoons 1% buttermilk (or buttermilk substitute – see above)
  • 3 Tablespoons Hellman’s or Best Foods style mayonnaise – regular or light
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 Tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 3 teaspoons chopped chives
  • Very finely diced shallot
  • Salt, to taste

To Make Dressing:

  1. Cut the avocado lengthwise through the middle and pull the two halves apart. Remove the pit and discard. Scoop the avocado into the bowl of a food processor or processor cup of a hand blender.
  2. Add the garlic, buttermilk, mayonnaise, lemon juice, cider vinegar and two teaspoons of the chives to the avocado. Puree the mixture until smooth.
  3. Transfer dressing to a bowl and stir in the remaining chives, diced shallot and season with salt to taste.
  4. Use as a dip or dressing. It will keep covered in the fridge for a couple of days.

Plating the Salads:

  1. Place a bed of lettuce on each of four salad plates or one big serving plate. Top with cherry tomato halves. Set cooked seafood on top of the lettuce and tomatoes, arranging it so it looks attractive.
  2. Drizzle with avocado-buttermilk vinaigrette and garnish with fresh chopped chives.
Bon Appétit and Enjoy!

Seafood Salad with Avocado-Buttermilk Dressing

Get updates from The Seasonal Gourmet on Facebook and Twitter.  Join the conversation today!

Copyright Trish Coleman. Please contact the author to obtain permission for republication. This article first appeared on Suite 101.com.

Advertisements




Snow Crab

12 05 2011

Snow crab legs and claw (cooked)

Every now and again something will come to my attention and I’ll become sort of obsessed with it for a while. The current object of my affection is Canadian snow crab. It started with a couple of trips to Montreal I took back in April. The snow crab season had just begun and I enjoyed a starter of cooked, chilled crab at a party I was attending. A couple of weeks later, my husband and I had an excellent meal at Le Filet, a new restaurant from the owners of the much-lauded Le Club Chasse et Pêche. (Lesley Chesterman gave Le Filet a lukewarm review in The Gazette around the same time but the kitchen was on its ‘A’ game the night we were there and our dinner was outstanding). The highlight of our meal was an asparagus and snow crab risotto. When I returned to Toronto, I decided to seek out some of the sweet crustaceans and we’ve enjoyed it a number of times since.

Snow Crab (a.k.a. Queen Crab, Spider Crab, Crabe des Neiges, Crabe Araignée) is harvested off Canada’s east coast from April to November. It is usually found frozen at most fishmongers although last weekend I was fortunate to find cooked, unfrozen claws and legs at The Beach Fish House, a great little seafood shop in my neighbourhood.

To thaw frozen snow crab, you can steam or briefly boil the legs/claws. Extracting the meat takes a bit of time but is well worth the effort. I usually set the crab on a clean folded dishtowel to soak up any liquid. You can use lobster crackers or a sharp knife to crack open the claws. The shells tend to be relatively thin at this time of year so I use seafood scissors (see photo) to cut them open. Most cookware shops sell seafood forks that you can use to extract the meat but I just use the forks from my fondue set – they work perfectly fine.

Tools for extracting crab meat: seafood scissors and fondue forks!

Snow crab is very versatile but I feel that the simplest preparations are usually best – let the sweet crab meat shine! Here are a few simple suggestions for enjoying it:

Garlic Butter

Melt some butter in a small bowl. Finely mince a clove of garlic and stir it in. Add a squeeze of fresh lemon if desired. Dip the crabmeat into the garlic butter and enjoy!

Crabby Spaghetti

In a sauté pan, heat a few tablespoons of butter or olive oil. Add a teaspoon or so of red pepper flakes, two finely minced garlic cloves, a couple of peeled and seeded diced tomatoes and cook for a minute until the garlic is tender and fragrant (you can also add a bit of minced green onion and finely diced red or yellow pepper if desired). Add a cup of crab meat to the pan and stir to combine. Cook spaghetti or other long pasta according to package directions. Add the cooked pasta to the sauce and toss until the pasta is coated. Season with salt and pepper and garnish with fresh chopped chives, if desired.

Spaghetti with Snow Crab, Garlic and Tomato

Crab and Avocado Stuffed Tomatoes

These make a great appetizer for parties. You can skip the avocado to make things easier. Get the recipe here: Crab and Avocado Stuffed Tomatoes.

Crab and Avocado Stuffed Tomatoes

Crab and Avocado Stuffed Tomatoes

Asparagus and Snow Crab Risotto

The perfect spring dish, this was inspired by my dinner at Le Filet in Montreal. Follow the instructions for Basic Risotto but use shellfish stock (see recipe below) instead of meat stock (although chicken stock will work in a pinch). Add about 1-1/2 cups cooked crab meat and 4 oz./113 grams of lightly steamed asparagus, cut into 1-1/2″ pieces. Stir in the asparagus and crab toward the end of cooking. Season with fresh chopped chives and two finely minced fresh basil leaves. Finish with a generous amount of butter and garnish with a crab claw (optional). Note: Italians do not usually serve seafood dishes with cheese but you can add a bit of parmesan if desired.

Snow Crab and Asparagus Risotto, garnished with a crab claw

Shellfish Stock

This makes a great base for all kinds of seafood dishes from risotto to pot pie to chowder. I usually save any shells from shrimp, lobster and crab in a bag in the freezer until I have enough to make a batch of stock. Leftover stock can be frozen.

Makes about 7-1/2 cups of stock

  • 3 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cups shrimp shells
  • 1 lb. / 500 grams crab and/or lobster shells (cooked and empty)
  • 1 medium onion, quartered
  • 2 medium carrots, roughly chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, roughly chopped
  • 1 Tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1/4 cup brandy (optional)
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 8 cups water
  • Cheesecloth, for straining
  1. In a large stockpot, heat the olive oil on medium-high. Add the shells and sauté until they begin to brown slightly around the edges, stirring frequently (they may stick to the bottom of the pot a bit).
  2. Add the onion, carrot and celery and sauté for another two minutes.
  3. Stir in the tomato paste and add the brandy, if using. Add the thyme.
  4. Pour in the water. Cover and let simmer gently (don’t hard boil) for about 25 minutes.
  5. Line a strainer with multiple layers of cheesecloth and pour the stock through it into a large vessel.  If the stock isn’t completely clear, repeat the straining with more clean cheesecloth.
  6. Stock can be stored in the fridge for a couple of days or frozen.
  7. Note: The stock will seem a bit bland because it doesn’t have any salt in it – season it as you use it so you can control the sodium levels.

Bon Appétit and Enjoy!

Get updates from The Seasonal Gourmet on Facebook and Twitter.  Join the conversation today!

Copyright Trish Coleman. Please contact the author to obtain permission for republication.





Mussels with Leek-Cream Sauce

11 11 2010

Mussels make an easy, versatile and inexpensive meal.

A feast of mussels is one of the cheapest and easiest meals you can make.  For less than $10 and 15 minutes of your time, you can have a big pile of tasty mussels to share.  Serve with fresh bread or toast to mop up the delicious sauce.

Preparing Mussels for Cooking

Many of the mussels found in Canada and the U.S. come from Prince Edward Island. They should be easy to find at fish markets and the fish department of most grocery stores. They’re very easy to cook, however, there are a few guidelines to follow for safe handling:

  • Discard any mussels with cracked or broken shells.
  • Rinse the mussles in cold water and pluck off any ‘beards’ that are present on the shell. The ‘beard’ is a moss-like growth that keeps the mussel attached when it is growing in the water. Soak the mussels for about 15 minutes in a large bowl of cold water to ensure they are clean and free of grit.
  • Make sure all mussel shells are tightly closed before cooking. If a shell is slightly open, give it a light tap on a hard surface – if it doesn’t close up, the mussel may be dead and it should be discarded.
  • Mussels need to steam for about 10 minutes to fully cook and their shells will open once they’re done. Inspect cooked mussels before serving and throw away any that do not open. Do not force closed shells open – this is an indication that the mussel is dead and may cause illness if consumed.

Mussels in a Leek Cream Sauce

Makes about 50 mussels

This recipe should make plenty for two to four people (depending on whether it’s a starter or main).  You can easily double or triple the recipe if you have a big enough pot.

  • 2 lbs. (907 g) mussels, cleaned and inspected (see instructions above)
  • 4 medium or 3 large leeks, white and light green parts only
  • 2 Tablespoons neutral oil, such as canola or safflower
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 1 Tablespoon chopped fresh thyme or 1-1/2 teaspoons dried
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 2 Tablespoons tomato paste
  • ½ cup whipping cream
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Chopped thyme or parsley to garnish – optional
  1. Trim the leeks of any roots and tough green tops. Slice them lengthwise down the middle and run under cold water to ensure any sand is rinsed from their layers. Pat the leeks dry and cut into thin ‘rings’, about ¼” thick.
  2. In a large stockpot with a lid, heat the oil on medium-high heat. Add the chopped leeks and let cook until they begin to soften, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and thyme and let cook for another minute, stirring occasionally.
  3. Pour in the wine and stir the tomato paste into the mixture until thoroughly combined. Dump in the cleaned mussels.
  4. Put the lid on the pot and let the mussels steam for 10 minutes. Check on them after 10 minutes and if a lot of the shells are still closed, let them steam for another 2 minutes.
  5. Remove pot lid and stir in the cream. Discard any shells that haven’t opened. Season with salt and pepper and pour the mussels and sauce into a large bowl. Garnish with chopped parsley or thyme if desired.
  6. Serve the mussels with fresh toast or bread to mop up the sauce or with homemade frites, if you’re feeling ambitious.

Bon Appétit and Enjoy!

This article first appeared on Suite 101.com.





Oysters

15 01 2010

 

Prince Edward Island oysters at St. Lawrence Market, Toronto

Prince Edward Island oysters at St. Lawrence Market, Toronto

 

Oysters tend to be a ‘love them or hate them’ proposition.  However, for those who do love them, they’re the perfect thing to serve at a cocktail party or as a first course at dinner.  I also think that a lot of people who claim to hate oysters have never really tried them – they just think they look ugly and slimy (which they do, truth be told). Freshly shucked oysters and their sweet, briny liquor go well with a squeeze of lemon, horseradish, cocktail sauce, hot sauce and mignonette sauce (see recipe below).

Finding Oysters

Oysters are in season right now and there should be a wide variety available at good fish markets.  The traditional wisdom was that oysters should only be consumed during months with an ‘R’ in their names (ie. the colder months, September to April), however, these days oysters can usually be found year round.  A few years ago, I was on Prince Edward Island for a family reunion and my husband and I were wondering if we’d be able to get oysters.  We were staying not far from Malpeque so of course we could!  We drove a few minutes down the road and found a small dockside fish shop selling fresh oysters for less than a dollar each.  We bought a couple dozen, stopped at the liquor store for some sparkling wine and returned to our cottage to feast with my parents (who had never really eaten oysters, despite living in the Maritimes their entire lives). Luckily you don’t need to live on the coast to enjoy them – oysters are shipped around the world and are readily available at most fish counters. Some of my favourite restaurants to order oysters ‘inland’ include: Joe Beef (Montreal), Rodney’s Oyster House and Rodney’s By Bay (Toronto), Starfish and The Ceili Cottage (Toronto).

I happen to be partial to oysters from Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick (Malpeques, Caraquet, Raspberry Points, Colville Bay, Lucky Limes, etc.) but oysters are harvested around the world, including in Japan, the Pacific Northwest, Ireland, the Gulf Coast of the U.S. and New England. 

How to Shuck an Oyster

A shucked oyster and oyster knife

 

Shucking oysters is not difficult but it does take some practice.  An excellent video from Chef Rich Vellante of Legal Sea Foods gives step-by-step instructions for shucking and preparing oysters: How to Shuck Oysters.  Oyster knives can be purchased at most kitchenware shops and cost as little as $10.           

Serving Oysters

To serve oysters, place ice in a large serving bowl or platter.  Shuck the oysters (see above) and arrange on the ice.  Accompany with fresh lemon wedges and small bowls of seafood cocktail sauce, fresh grated horseradish and mignonette (see below). When selecting a wine to go with oysters, choose a crisp, dry white such as riesling, muscadet, sauvignon blanc or champagne. Beer also works with oysters – try them Guinness for a delicious pairing.

Mignonette Sauce

Serve in a small bowl alongside a platter of oysters and spoon a small amount of sauce over each oyster before slurping it down.

Makes a scant 1/2 cup

  • 2 Tablespoons finely minced shallot (about 1/2 of a medium sized shallot)
  • 3 Tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 Tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • 1 Tablespoon water
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
  1. In a small bowl, whisk together all ingredients.  Let sit for at least 15 minutes before using.

Bon Appétit and Enjoy!

A platter of oysters with (from left to right) horseradish, lemon wedges and mignonette sauce. The wine is a Melon de Bourgogne from Norman Hardie Winery in Prince Edward County, Ontario.





Allan’s Linguine alle Vongole

15 09 2009

P1010079

My husband Allan loves pasta with clams.  He has always enjoyed various pasta and seafood combinations but one night in Italy, he had the ultimate version of his favourite: Lingine alle Vongole (linguine with clams).  We were at Ristorante Romano, a Michelin-starred seafood restaurant on the Tuscan coast.  The seafood at Romano’s was fresh and impeccably prepared with typical Italian simplicity.  When we returned home, we decided to develop our own version of this classic pasta dish.

The key to this dish is using high quality ingredients.  Choose small, live clams in their shells and be sure to discard any that don’t open when cooked.  Fresh parsley, oregano, garlic and hot peppers are preferable over dried and keep the dish fresh and light tasting.  Sautéeing the whole garlic and peppers in the oil and then discarding them gives the pasta a hint of garlic flavour and heat without overpowering the dish.  However, if you prefer a bit more punch, feel free to mince some of the garlic and peppers and leave them in the sauce.  Although I usually prefer fresh pasta, this is one dish where dried works better.  If linguine isn’t available, substitute spaghetti or bucatini instead.

I guarantee that this recipe is simple to prepare: Allan doesn’t normally cook (aside from the occasional crème brûlée) and he can put this together in no time.  The pasta and clams cook at roughly the same time so everything should come together at once.

Allan’s Linguine alle Vongole (Linguine with Clams)

Makes 4 to 6 servings

  • Approximately 18 small clams, in their shells (such as baby clams, littlenecks, etc.)
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil + 2 Tablespoons to finish the dish
  • 2 small hot peppers, such as Thai bird chiles OR 1/4 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
  • 2 whole garlic cloves, peeled and lightly crushed
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh parsley + extra for garnish
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh oregano
  • 1/4 cup reserved pasta cooking water
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 lb / 500 grams good quality dried linguine
  • A large deep skillet with a lid (or some way to cover it, such as a large plate)
  • A large pot to boil pasta
  1. Rinse clams in cold water to ensure the shells are clean and free of grit.  Make sure all of the shells are closed tight and discard any whose shells have opened.
  2. Heat a large pot of salted water to cook the pasta.  Bring to a boil on high heat.
  3. In a large, deep skillet, heat 1/4 cup of the olive oil on medium-high heat.  Add the garlic cloves and whole chile peppers. Sauté for about 5 minutes or until they turn golden brown, watching carefully so the garlic doesn’t burn.  Remove the garlic and chiles from the pan but keep the oil in the bottom of the skillet.
  4. Place the clams (in their shells) in the skillet and add the wine, chopped oregano and 2 teaspoons fresh parsley.  Cover with the lid and let simmer on medium heat.  
  5. Place the linguine in the pot of boiling water.  The clams and pasta will take about the same amount of time to cook, about 9 to 10 minutes.  Set a timer for 9 minutes.
  6. After 9 minutes, check on the clams.  The shells should be wide open.  If a few are still closed or partially open, give them a couple more minutes.  Any that do not open in that time should be discarded.   Test the linguine – it should be al dente.  Reserve 1/4 cup of the pasta cooking water before draining the pasta and set it aside.  Drain the linguine.
  7. Add the cooked linguine to the skillet with the clams.  Toss to coat, adding a bit of the reserved pasta water if it seems dry.  Drizzle with remaining 2 Tablespoons of the olive oil and stir thoroughly.
  8. Season to taste with salt and pepper and garnish with a bit of fresh parsley.
  9. Serve with crusty bread and a glass of dry white wine.

Note: Italians don’t usually eat cheese with seafood pasta so if you want to keep it traditional, refrain from garnishing with grated parmesan.

Bon Appétit and Enjoy!

 

Linguine with clams + a glass of wine = the perfect meal!

Linguine with clams + a glass of wine = the perfect summer meal