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french fridays with dorie: crab and grapefruit salad

I’m a Maryland girl. Though I don’t live there anymore, I grew up in Rockville, a D.C. suburb. Maryland is synonymous with crab, or at least it used to be, so I was happy to see this week’s choice for French Fridays with Dorie was a crab and grapefruit salad.

For this salad, lump crabmeat is gently tossed with a confetti of tiny chopped vegetables. I loved the colorful array of red pepper, cucumber, scallions, and jalapeño pepper. I went with the bonne idée and added some diced avocado too. And, of course, there was grapefruit, both segments of the fruit and grapefruit juice for the acid.

A handy-dandy grapefruit spoon, with its serrated edge, made quick work of cutting the grapefruit into segments. I’ll have to remember this inspired trick when I make winter fruit salad.

The avocado made me think of Mexican, so I added some chopped cilantro and garnished the salad with cilantro leaves instead of the suggested mint.

As I’ve mentioned before, my husband doesn’t like fruit mixed with a savory course, but he made a rare exception and agreed to try out the salad (he really likes crab). He thought it wasn’t bad, even if fruit was one of the ingredients.

Overall, I’d call this recipe a success, though I’m not really sure where it fits in the calendar for seasonal eating. With the crab, it’s more of a meal salad, but, in winter, when grapefruits are plentiful, a cold meal is not as enticing as in summer when citrus feels out of place.

In any case, the salad was a lovely light supper. I served it with a delicious new kind of lavash chips I found at Costco. It would make an even lovelier elegant lunch. The leftovers weren’t bad for a brown bag lunch at work either.

You can read about the other bloggers refreshing salads here. We don’t post the recipes, but I found it here (look at recipe 11 of 21). Or, you can always find it in Dorie Greenspan’s book Around My French Table.

By the way, I ordered a used copy of Baking with Julia. It’s on its way, so I’m hoping to join up with Tuesdays with Dorie, another social cooking adventure, starting in April, depending on when the book arrives.

Time for Book Group

My book group met this week at my house to discuss our latest selection, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot. This highly readable book is about an African-American woman from 1950’s Baltimore, whose cervical cancer cells turned out to be incredibly virulent and prolific. Her cells, HeLa cells, have been widely used in scientific research for 50 years. The book tells about her personal history and covers a range of bioethical issues . Howard, my molecular biologist husband, gave a brief lecture about some of the science we didn’t understand. The book provided great food for thought for lively discussion.

What would you provide for snacks that have some sort of loose connection to book’s theme? It was a stretch. Initially, I thought I’d serve a variety of twisted food, like cheese straws and some kind of cookie twists. The twists were meant to be reminiscent of the double helix of DNA. OK, I know, it’s a stretch.

In the end, I went in a different direction, drawing on Baltimore as the inspiration.

Baltimore = Maryland = Crabs

When I visited my Maryland sister a couple weeks back, we had an amazing warm crab dip for an appetizer before dinner at Mick’s New American Bistro in Frederick. It was creamy and crabby with a hint of sherry and a cheesy topping like French onion soup. That seemed like something to try to replicate.

It’s hard to find actual Maryland crab, so used Southeast Asian crab. I would have used lump crabmeat, which I can find at Costco, but I shopped at Trader Joe’s. They only had claw crabmeat. It worked fine, though lump would have been even better.

My dip was popular with the book group. I served it with Stacy’s pita chips, but it would be good on any sturdy crackers. It would probably be good on vegetables too. This made more than we needed for half a dozen ladies, so making a half recipe for a smaller group would be a good idea.

Crab Dip

8 oz cream cheese, softened
½ cup mayonnaise
½ cup sliced scallions
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1 Tbsp sherry
1 tsp Old Bay Spice
½ tsp Tabasco
1 lb crabmeat, drained
½ cup grated Gruyere cheese

Preheat the oven to 350F. In a medium bowl, combine all the ingredients except the grated cheese. Transfer to a 1 quart baking dish. Sprinkle the cheese over the top.

Bake 30 minutes, until dip is bubbly and cheese is melted and golden brown.