This Crab and Balsamic Strawberries Salad has so many layers of flavour – savoury, sweet and sour – the perfect salad on a hot summer’s day (Antipodeans, don’t despair, I’ll bring you a winter salad soon!) In fact, I’m a huge fan of crab salads generally, I just love how flavour friendly the crab meat is; you can pair it with just about anything – spices, herbs, oils, cereal, bread, potatoes, fruit and so much more!
Do you find that you’re quite happy to have just a salad for lunch some days, and certainly during hot days? I do, crab salads rank high up there in my list of salads. In fact, on cooler days, I do warm salads with crab meat much like how many toss boring pieces of cooked chicken breast into their salads.
This combination of crab and balsamic strawberries in a salad came about one day when I couldn’t decide between raspberries and strawberries. When I was going over the dressing I fancied that day, I had a lightbulb moment (again, yes) – balsamic vinegar dressing, what about balsamic strawberries? You see, up until then, I’d only used balsamic strawberries in desserts, using it in a savoury dish and making it work was an interesting concept. So, I put on my lab coat (no, not really) and decided to experiment. Definitely a worthwhile experiment!
How to get the best out of this Crab and Balsamic Strawberries Salad
As much as is possible, I like to use fresh crab meat for this, whether cooked at home or bought cooked. However, despite living on an island, I don’t always have access to great seafood and definitely not at a friendly price. So I always have a some tins of crab meat in the pantry.
I shall leave the choice up to you. If you use canned crab meat, needless to say, go for meat in water, not brine, and with no unnecessary additives. If all you can get is brined crab meat, but you’d still like to try this recipe, rinse the meat and leave to drain while you get the vegetables done.
Have you tried them? They are just out of this world! The naturally sweet and sour character of the strawberries is deepened and enhanced by the sharp, pungent, tart and sweet balsamic vinegar. The strawberries become sweeter and take on a piercing yet subtle tang that cuts right through all the other sensations and flavours but always plays nicely, without dominating. So many places I could have gone with that last word…!
Usually, when I make balsamic strawberries, I let them soak in the vinegar for about 30-60 minutes. For this recipe, I’m going for 20 minutes for 2 reasons:
- I don’t want the strawberries to overpower the salad if marinated long
- I wanted to keep to a fairly short time scale for this recipe
A “proper” Balsamic vinegar is an artisan product, made in Modena, Italy, from reduced grape juice, fermented, then left to mature for 12 years in barrels that get progressively smaller as the years go by. The real deal is always expensive and marked “tradizionale” and/or DOC, and is characterised by a deep and sweet flavour.
There are however, good quality cheaper options, “aceto balsamico di Modena” as opposed to “di tradizionale”. These aren’t matured as long, in fact, the minimum period is only 2 months, and they often have additional flavourings.
As mentioned, the first one is very expensive. The second, while more affordable, ranges from very good to not worth the bother in terms of quality and taste. So what does one do? If you can’t afford the real deal, get the best one you can afford of the “di Modena” version. I have both. I use the traditional one sparingly and the other one, which still costs me about £20 per small bottle, a little more generously.
The avocado is a must in this salad, its creaminess is the perfect foil to the piquant balsamic vinegar.
The other vegetables, you can mix and match, according to what you like. Rocket (arugula) leaves are a fantastic contrast to the sweetness of the crab meat as is watercress, which I’ve used here.
You might want to check out my other salad recipes.
- 240g/8.5oz white crab meat
- 10 balsamic strawberries (recipe below)
- quarter cucumber
- large handful small tomatoes
- 1 avocado
- 1 tbsp lemon juice for the avocado
- 2 handfuls salad leaves of your choice (see above) like watercress, lamb's lettuce
- 4 basil leaves
- 10 strawberries
- 3 tbsp good quality balsamic vinegar
- quarter tsp sugar
- Balsamic vinegar from the strawberries
- 3 tbsp EV olive oil
- 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
- large pinch of salt
- freshly ground black pepper
- red chilli flakes
- sesame seeds
- Hull and slice each strawberry into 6 little pieces, if you have large strawberries. If they are small-medium, quarters will do.
- Place them in a bowl. If they are wet from rinsing, dry them with kitchen paper as much as you can.
- Drizzle the balsamic vinegar all over, add the sugar and toss the strawberries in the vinegar. Leave aside to soak for a good 20 minutes while we get our salad going.
- Break up the crab meat slightly, if you have them in large chunks.
- Slice the cucumber up into 4 long sticks, then slice these up into bitesize pieces. We are going for small quarter slices. See the pictures if you're not sure.
- Halve the tomatoes.
- Slice the avocado and cut up into bitesize pieces and mix with the lemon juice to stop it oxidising (going brown).
- Tear up the basil leaves into 2-3 parts.
- Pour out the balsamic vinegar from the strawberries into a small jug or bowl.
- Add the rest of the dressing ingredients in and whisk to mix.
- Mix the crab meat, all the salad vegetables and the strawberries in a salad bowl.
- Pour the dressing on the salad in the bowl and gently toss everything to coat.
- You could either serve the salad in the large bowl for everyone or dish up on individual plates.
The prep time includes 20 minutes for the strawberries to marinate in the balsamic vinegar. Actual active time is about 5-7 minutes to chop everything up and then to mix.