Once spring/summer arrives bringing with them warm weather and sun, New Yorkers really embrace outdoor dining. For the next four months or so, sidewalks outside restaurants become cramped with tables and diners enjoying an al fresco dinner in the warm summer air. I love walking through the West Village on Saturday and Sunday afternoons, people watching (and puppy-watching – outdoor dining is pet-friendly after all!) at all of the brunch spots in the neighborhood. D and I are no different in this respect – as soon as it becomes nice out, we try to eat any dinner we prepare on our roof deck. This gave me this idea to write a series of posts this summer on Outdoor Dining. These posts will be grill-friendly and/or refreshing meals for when you’re eating outside (read: no heavy pastas or super hot meals). They will also be focused on ingredients that are freshest in the summer months (think corn, watermelon, tomatoes, etc.). For my first post in this series, I wanted to make crab cakes with two refreshing summer sides: spicy-sweet corn and a watermelon salad. Two recent blog posts inspired me in coming up with my recipes and also meal combination. (You can see their posts here and here.) These are “healthy” crab cakes because they use less breading, light mayo and are not deep fried. I pan fried mine in a skillet, but you could also bake them in the oven if you wanted to be even healthier. For those watching their sodium intake, crab meat IS high in sodium so this is something to be mindful of.) In addition to the spicy-sweet corn and watermelon salad, we also served this meal with a refreshing campari cocktail (recipe here). This was one of my favorite meals I’ve made recently and D agreed – he told me this meal was in my “top five” if not the best and has requested that I make this meal on a weekly basis. Fortunately, the crab cakes and the corn both taste great cold so it won’t be that difficult to make extra and then have a second helping later in the week. That is, if there are any leftover from your original batch – there weren’t when I made them! :)
Healthy Crab Cakes
1 egg, beaten
1/4 cup skim milk
3 tbsp. light mayonnaise
1 tbsp. all-purpose flour
1 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
1 tsp. fresh dill, chopped
1/2 tsp. Old Bay seasoning
1/4 tsp. dried tarragon
1/4 tsp. chili pepper flakes
Zest and Juice from 1 lemon (do the zesting first!)
3 green onions, chopped
1/2 cup bread crumbs (I used panko)
3 tbsp butter, divided
1 pound cooked crab meat OR 3 cans (6 oz. each) of white crab meat (Note: I used canned because Whole Foods was out of fresh and rinsed the crab meat with water to try and remove some of the sodium brine)
Arugula (for crab cake bed/garnish)
1. In a large bowl, whisk together all ingredients except for last four (bread crumbs, butter, crab meat, arugula).
2. Fold crab meat into mixture.
3. Place bread crumbs in a shallow dish.
4. Gather approximately 1/6 of the crab meat mixture and form into a ball in your hands. Roll in bread crumbs until covered. Then press/form into a 3/4″ to 1″ thick patty.
5. Repeat with remaining crab mixture. You should have six crab cake patties when you are finished.
6. In a large skillet, melt 2 tbsp. butter over medium-high heat. Place all six patties in skillet and cook for 3 minutes. Don’t touch them once you put them in the pan!
7. Flip crab cakes over and cook on other side for three minutes. If the pan is starting to burn, add remaining 1 tbsp. of butter.
8. While the crab cakes are cooking, rinse some arugula and place a small amount on six dinner places. When the crab cakes are finished, place each crab cake on top of a bed of arugula. Serve immediately with citrus avocado cream (recipe below).
Citrus Avocado Cream
Adapted from Texana’s Kitchen
Note: I would recommend making fish tacos later in the week and using this as a garnish instead of guacamole. It would taste great with mahi mahi!
1 ripe avocado
Juice of 2 Naval oranges (a little more than 1/2 cup)
Juice of 2 limes (about 1/4 cup)
2 tbsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 clove garlic
1 tbsp. agave syrup
1/2 tsp. salt
1. Mix all ingredients in a food processor until smooth.
2. Set aside. If preparing in advance, chill in refrigerator. Take out 30 minutes before serving so the garnish can reach room temperature consistency.
3. Drizzle on crab cakes or on side of plate before serving. Try with fish tacos!
Spicy-Sweet Fried Corn
Adapted from Texana’s Kitchen
2 tbsp. butter, divided
4 ears fresh corn, cut from the cobs
1 jalapeno, finely diced
2 green onions, sliced
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
3 tsp. sugar
1. Heat 1 tbsp. butter in a medium skillet over medium-high heat.
2. Add corn, jalapeno, green onions, salt & pepper.
3. Saute for about 10 minutes. If corn begins to burn, add an additional tbsp. of butter.
4. Add sugar and stir well. Continue to cook until the corn begins to caramelize (about two minutes).
5. Reduce heat to simmer and keep warm until ready to serve. Note: I would consider adding diced red peppers and/or tomatoes to this dish next time around.
Feta Watermelon Tomato Salad
About 10 watermelon cubes or balls
About 10 cherry tomatoes or 1/2 large tomato, roughly chopped
Feta cheese, crumbled
Fresh basil, chopped
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1. Combine watermelon and tomato in individual serving bowls.
2. Immediately before serving, drizzle with extra virgin olive oil. Then top with crumbled feta.
3. Serve immediately.