Crab and Lime Dinner Salsa: How to Turn a Favourite Snack Into Dinner for Two
What’s for dinner? A protein-packed, zesty crab and lime salsa, that's what.
I love salsa. I love tortilla chips. They are my so-called guilty pleasures. Although, to be perfectly honest, I never feel guilty about food at all. I thank my wise and body-positive mum for that.
Anyway, until a few years ago I was happy with the watery salsa you can pick up in the savoury snack aisle. Or even the long-life, jarred stuff you grab whilst tossing a few bags of tortilla chips in the trolley. Despite the gloopy texture, and lack of any discernible zing or freshness, it felt like a treat. I think this is because of my south Florida upbringing.
Along with a neighbourhood Cuban restaurant, one of my favourite restaurants in early adulthood was a Mexican one, near our closest shopping mall. In a land of highways, thickly populated with fast food joints, this simple eatery was akin to eating in heaven - honestly! As soon as you sat down the wait staff would offer a big basket of freshly fried tortilla chips to snack on while you peruse the menu.
My friends and I always knew what we wanted. For me it was a cheese and bean burrito with guac and pico de gallo. But we cannily hemmed and hawed so they would refill the tortilla basket while we dawdled and debated about what to get. The servers were not stupid; they knew what we were up to, but probably also knew that we were good tippers. Margaritas will do that.
I still remember the gorgeous, slightly minerally taste of proper Mexican masa harina flavour, indicative of real tortillas. It’s a flavour that you don't get much anymore, at least not here in the UK.
And I think I loved the pico de gallo as much as - if not more than - the crunchy, salty corn chips. Thick with fresh, vibrant vegetables (we could see someone chopping the vegetables in the open, pass-style kitchen) and heavy with lime and jalapeños, we all loved this freshly prepared dip. I’m willing to bet that you like this style of fresh salsa, too.
What if salsa could be upgraded from cravable snack to satisfying dinner? I would bet even more money (that I don’t have) that you might just like it even more.
Recently I was at the supermarket, mask on and trolley wiped down. In a state of semi-hunger I walked past the reduced bit and had a visual rummage. Normally I wouldn’t even look at on-its-date fish, but the white meat looked so plump atop the creamier, more strongly flavoured brown. Irresistible. I knew I was looking at dinner. And I immediately thought I would make what you see above: crab and lime dinner salsa.
Actually it is more of a pico de gallo rather than a salsa, the latter being much more liquid and smooth - but I think our Google overlords prefer the word salsa.
Making Crab and Lime Dinner Salsa
Preparing the crab and lime salsa is super easy. Chop the vegetables uniformly small, but not veering towards mush. Do not, I repeat not, put them in a food processor. You really want some texture: chopped enough to make for comfortable eating and easily scooped up by the all important tortilla chips.
I bought a dressed crab which, if you don't know, has all of the meat taken out of the crab and all bits of shell removed. It's then stuffed back in the shell, brown meat on the bottom, and the more attractive white stuff on top.
If you are lucky enough to get all white crab meat fairly cheaply, that's the best option. It's often in little tubs. It will still be on the pricey side though. The brown meat is normally really quite strong and, to be honest, isn't my favourite. But happily in this instance the brown part doesn’t intrude at all. Lime juice and spice will help with that. If you wish to make this quick and healthy recipe with tinned crab, go for it. Frozen and defrosted crab would be fine as well.
As the blog post title tells you, I use lime juice. Quite a lot. Lime and crab are excellent partners. I also use a fab US-made spice blend called Old Bay Seasoning, thinking that it would make an interesting change from the usual Mexican flavourings. Old Bay was invented just for crabs, so why not add it to this salsa?
The spices in this blend are not in the least bit hot - no chilli. There are recipes online offering a good approximation of this spice blend, as well as UK sites selling it. I use it in lots of fish recipes, as well as on hot, buttered popcorn and in tomato soup. You can also use ground cumin and allspice instead.
Also in this zesty jumble of a recipe are chopped pickled jalapeño pickles (found in the Mexican section of the supermarket), but you can also use chopped fresh jalapeño, or even some chilli flakes or powder as your heat source. The lime juice or lemon balances the spices and sweet crab out nicely.
BEYOND TORTILLA CHIPS
If you don't fancy this glorified dip with tortilla chips (?!), how about adding it to hot pasta, stuffing it into an omelette, scooping it up with homemade pita chips, or filling a soft tortilla or lettuce wrap with it? I bet it would be amazing in a soufflé, too.
See the recipe below for even more ideas!
Vegan Option? Really?
Well, it isn't quite the same thing of course, but tinned jackfruit would be a suitable swap, albeit one without much protein. It wouldn’t be terribly filling as a dinner, but great as a healthy snack. White beans, very lightly mashed, would be a more protein forward call.
CRAB AND LIME SALSA RECIPE
Serves 2 for a light meal
Mix up this dinner-style salsa, grab a bag of tortilla chips, and dig in!
- 250g crab meat, picked and all bits of shell removed
- 4 medium, ripe tomatoes, cored and diced - keep the juice if you wish
- ½ medium or small red onion, peeled and diced
- 1 red and 1 yellow pepper, chopped
- ½ ripe avocado, pit and skin removed, flesh chopped
- Small bunch coriander, chopped (chop stem very finely)
- 2 tbsp chopped pickled jalapeños and a bit of the tasty juice
- Juice of 1 lime, more to taste
- 1 tbsp Old Bay seasoning OR ½ tsp ground cumin, ½ tsp paprika, and ½ tsp allspice
- Salt and pepper, as you desire
- Plain tortilla chips, to serve
- Green leaves, to serve
Gently mix everything together, and either cover tightly and refrigerate or serve right away. This will keep for about 24 hours.
Serving suggestions: With deeply-toasted sturdy bread (sourdough is fab here), tortilla chips or pita chips; wrapped in lettuce leaf or in gem lettuce cups; on a larger leafy salad; in an avocado "boat"; tossed through hot or cold pasta or quinoa; folded into an omelette.
Vegan option: Use jackfruit or beans in place of the crab meat.