Soft shell crabs are a summer favorite of mine. East coast restaurants all during the summer serve them up deep fried, pan-fried or sautéed, as sandwiches or as main dishes. Here, in San Francisco, the soft shelled are not as prevalent as their Dungeness crab cousin, but you can get them at some specialty fish markets and occasionally you will see it on menus other than the popular spider roll in Sushi restaurants.
Sautéed is my favorite way to eat them because you can really taste the flavor of the crab. If you have never had them, you may need to be forewarned that while the shells are soft, they area bit crunchy to eat. Of course, deep fried in batter covers some of this up more so than the sautéed versions, which are a bit more delicate.
This recipe calls for pan-fried soft shell crabs where are placed over a salad of arugula, cannelloni beans and radishes with a lemon vinaigrette dressing and served on top of thinly sliced zucchini ribbons. The zucchini adds a touch of sweetness to the arugula and the lemon dressing provides the right amount of acid for the crab and zucchini.
To make this dish, marinate the beans and radishes in the 2/3 of the dressing and let stand about 20 minutes. I prefer using dried beans and cooking them up before making this dish. The beans taste fresher and they are lower in sodium. Right before you prepare the crabs, thinly slice the zucchini using a vegetable peeler and set aside, then add the arugula to the beans and mix through. Dip the soft shell crabs in the seasoned flour and panfry the crabs 3 minutes on each side. Stand back as the crabs will pop and splatter a bit while the first side is cooking.
While the crabs are cooking, line the plates with the zucchini slices and drizzle some of the dressing over the zucchini. Then top with the salad, and place the cooked soft shell crab on top of the salad. Drizzle the remaining dressing over each of the soft shell crabs and serve immediately.
Soft Shell Crab on Arugula, White Bean and Zucchini Salad
4 soft shell crabs (ask your fish monger to clean them)
1/2 cup einkorn flour
Teaspoon lemon zest
Tablespoon chopped parsley
Salt and pepper
3 tablespoons EVOO
For the dressing:
1/3 cup lemon juice about 3 lemons
1/4 cup EVOO
1.5 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano
Pinch of pepper
2 pinches if kosher salt
For the salad:
1 ½ cups cannelloni beans (freshly cooked or canned)
3 radishes thinly sliced and halved
2 cups arugula
2 zucchini about 1/2 lb shaved using vegetable peeler
Make dressing by adding all ingredients into a bowl and mixing through. Add the cannelloni beans and radishes to a big bowl and mix in 2/3 of the dressing. Let stand for 20-30 minutes. Right before you are ready to make the crabs, slice the zucchini using a vegetable peeler and set the thin zucchini ribbons aside. Add the arugula to the beans and mix through so the dressing coats.
To make the crabs, add the flour to a shallow dish and season it with the teaspoon of lemon zest, tablespoon of chopped parsley and salt and pepper, and mix through. Add the soft shell crabs to coat on both sides with the seasoned flour. You will have flour left over that you can discard. Add 3 tablespoons of EVOO to a pre-heated pan and panfry the soft shell crabs for 3 minutes on each side. While the crabs are cooking, line the plates with the zucchini ribbons and drizzle with a bit of remaining dressing. Add the arugula bean salad on top of the zucchini and then place the soft shell crab on top and drizzle with remaining dressing. Serve immediately.