I'll admit not everyone falls in love with the flavor of shiso at first taste, but it doesn't take long to be charmed by its knack for enhancing certain foods. Traditionally, shiso is added to some types of sushi and used to flavor rice or pickled vegetables. Over the many years that I've cooked with it I've discovered it's the perfect counterpoint to fresh crabmeat.
If you don't grow shiso in your own garden you can find the fresh leaves in Asian grocery stores. There are both green and deep purple varieties. Choose either for this elegant crab cocktail.
1/4 cup finely chopped red onion
1/4 cup seasoned rice wine vinegar (sushi vinegar)
1-1/2 tablespoons finely chopped shiso (perilla)
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
8 ounces best-quality fresh crabmeat, picked over for shells and cartilage
Pulp from 2 ripe avocados, cut into 1/2-inch dice
Freshly ground black pepper
Coarse sea salt or kosher salt if needed
1. Stir the onion, vinegar, and shiso together in a medium mixing bowl and let it sit at room temperature for at least 30 minutes to mellow the onion flavor.
2. Stir in the olive oil and then gently toss in the crab and avocado. Season the salad with a few grindings of black pepper and taste it; add salt if you think it needs it. Some crabmeat is already quite salty so the salad might not need additional salt. Spoon the salad into stemmed glasses and serve cold.
Excerpted from The Herbal Kitchen: Cooking with Fragrance and Flavor by Jerry Traunfeld (Morrow Cookbooks, 2005). © 2005 by Jerry Traunfeld. Used with permission.
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