June 28, 2010
Grocery shopping is, at once, one of my favorite activities of all time and a total pain in my ass.
On a free and uncrowded early Saturday morning, with the promise of a full day of cooking ahead…I love the grocery store, I love everyone in it, each charming item on the shelf, each employee and fellow patron. In fact, on mornings like those, I pretty much love everyone and everything everywhere.
But when I’m rushing home post-gym, sweaty and with a million things on my to-do list, only to realize that I’m missing an ingredient in the cookies I agreed to bake for a work party the next day, and then the self-checkout machine freaks out because it thinks I haven’t properly scanned an item, and there’s nary a blue-shirted employee in sight to assist me…well, let’s just say that my mood turns just as sour as it was kite-flying in the previous scenario.
There are times, though, when someone or something pushes me out of my “I am so busy and important” annoyance mode and forces me to relax, interact, connect, even grin. On the day I was buying ingredients for this salad, the man behind the seafood counter took my order for picked claw meat, then winked at me and said, “I haven’t seen you around here for a while. How you been?”
My default was to resist his attempt to engage—I’m in a hurry, I’ve got to get to the check-out, I’ve got to get home, I’ve got to—but his openness and unhurriedness disarmed me, and so we started to chat. Nothing monumental, just polite conversation with good feeling behind it. He asked me what I was making—I described the salad for him. “Oh, a real cook! Well, then—“ and he ducked into the back to grab the freshest meat for me.
I still think of this and other “close encounters of the grocery store kind,” not as profound moments that evidence my own awesomeness, but as reminders that if I pull my head out of my ass every once in a while, it feels pretty good.
slightly adapted from this recipe
As my friend the seafood man says, “Most people think they should buy that jumbo lump stuff because it’s so expensive. But the flavor’s in the claw.” He’s right, and this salad is a light, delicious summery thing—perfect as a lunch or a first course.
for the salad:
½ to ¾ of a head of Napa cabbage, sliced
14 oz. crab claw meat
1 avocado, sliced
½ cup of matchstick-cut carrots
½ cup sliced cucumbers
½ cup each of fresh mint, basil, cilantro, roughly chopped
optional: toasted sesame seeds (for garnish)
In a large bowl, toss together all ingredients except crab. Portion the salad out into individual bowls, then top each bowl with a generous serving of crab meat. Sprinkle with sesame seeds, if desired. Drizzle with dressing and serve immediately.
for the dressing:
½ cup rice wine vinegar
2 T sugar
1 clove garlic, minced
1 Serrano pepper, minced
Bring the vinegar & sugar to a boil in a small saucepan until the sugar dissolves. Remove from heat, then stir in garlic & pepper.