With so many varieties of salads in style, I am amazed that seafood salad hasn’t become a standby on people’s plates.
Maybe it’s because preparing some of the sea’s finest ingredients can be intimidating. Cleaning squid for calamari, shelling crab, and filleting fish aren’t the easiest tasks. But with a couple of tricks, you will be on your way to preparing a nutrient-rich salad easily.
The average chef doesn’t need to go through the headache of cleaning squid, because many grocers carry already-prepared rings. With these rings, cooking can be difficult, since the meat firms quickly when introduced to heat and then turns chewy. For a tasty salad, your squid should be cooked briefly, and no longer than three minutes.
As you pick fish for your salad, always make sure to look at the eyes if you plan on buying the fish whole. A fish that tastes great and is safe to serve should have clear eyes without a cloudy or muddy appearance. Feeling the fish’s body is also important. The flesh should be bouncy and wet, not soggy or oily. However, the most important factor in buying fresh fish is the smell. Any fish you eat or serve should smell fresh and light, not strong or “fishy.”
Once you have chosen your fish, I suggest allowing a local fishmonger to scale it for you. Some varieties, such as red snapper, have lots of barbs and sharp fins that can seriously cut you. When you are ready to fillet, it is as simple as removing the head with a sharp knife, then placing the flat side of the knife against the backbone of the fish. Next, simply cut along the length of the body while avoiding the backbone. This should give you two beautiful fillets.
Crabmeat is something I love. Many seafood salads use imitation crabmeat, but the real stuff is truly special. Crabmeat should always have a sweet flavor, and the meat should be bright white with a pink or red membrane once it is cooked. Shelling whole crabs can be extremely hard. I suggest buying precooked and frozen crabmeat from your grocer.
When it comes to the dressing, I encourage you to try pairing your salad with flavors such as dill, onion, tarragon, tomato, white wine, cilantro, olive oil, and ginger. Incorporating protein-rich seafood with fresh greens such as spinach, arugula and lettuce will also fill you up, but not slow you down.
A fresh way to incorporate seafood salad into a meal is to place it in a wrap. A thin tortilla or pita can make the perfect accompaniment to this dish.
Seafood Salad with Black Bean and Corn Relish
1 pound shrimp, pre-cooked
1 pound lobster, pre-cooked
1 pound scallops, pre-cooked
1/2 cup lime juice
1/2 cup orange concentrate
1/2 cup low sodium soy sauce
3 tablespoons Worchester sauce
1/4 cup honey
1 tablespoon garlic, finely chopped
Roughly chop the shrimp, lobster and scallops and mix with the other ingredients. Refrigerate and set overnight for optimal flavor.
3 cups tomatoes, diced
1 cup red onion, diced
16 ounces black beans, rinsed and drained
16 ounces corn kernels, rinsed and drained
1/3 cup of cilantro leaves, roughly chopped
1 jalapeno, seeded and minced
1/4 cup lime juice
1/4 cup olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Mix all ingredients together in a bowl. Refrigerate and set overnight.
When ready to serve, place a variety of favorite greens, such as spinach, lettuce or arugula, in a bowl. Next, put a healthy portion of the relish on top of the greens and then top the bowl with the seafood.
Chef Albert DiIeso is the executive chef for Splendido, a resort-style continuing care retirement community in Oro Valley, where he oversees all kitchen operations and menu development for the community’s four dining venues.