There’s something awfully festive about serving lobster for lunch, a little fancy even, and this warm-weather salad is a lovely way to do it. Toss sweet hunks of shellfish with ruffles of crisp-tender butter lettuce, little garden peas and creamy avocado; a bright tarragon dressing (yogurt, white wine vinegar, herbs) and a flurry of tender pea shoots pull everything together. It’s perfect as a light lunch or a (make-ahead!) first course for a dinner party, and if it weren’t so elegant a dish it would absolutely scream for a glass of buttery California Chardonnay. Chard-o-NAY!
If lobster’s too dear where you are, or you find some nice crabmeat at the market (I used Dungeness here in San Francisco, East Coasters might throw in lump blue crab), feel free to make substitutions for some or all the shellfish. (Shrimp, crayfish or crab would all work well here.) I went with lobster tails, which were a little spendy up front but so very easy to steam and clean that it was well worth it to me. (I also, it may be noted, avoided any eye contact with my supper.) To stretch the salad into a stand-alone meal, I might add some crunch by serving it with a plate of crostini of fresh ricotta or an herbed goat cheese.
Spring Lobster Salad
adapted from Very Fond of Food by Sophie Dahl, 2011; serves four
for the salad:
- one head butter lettuce
- one pound English peas, in their pods (or 1 1/2 C frozen)
- 4 small lobster tails (about 3-4 oz each) or one pound chopped lobster meat
- 1/2 pound cooked and cleaned crab meat, crayfish or shrimp
- 2 tablespoons scallions (white and green parts), finely chopped
- one large avocado
- one handful pea shoots (optional)
for the dressing:
- 1-2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
- 1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
- 1/2 tsp agave syrup or mild honey
- 5 tablespoons olive oil
- 3 tablespoons Greek yogurt
- 1 tablespoon + one teaspoon fresh tarragon, finely chopped
- 1 tsp dried dill
- 1/4 tsp each salt and pepper
Shell the peas. Tear the butter lettuce into large bite-sized pieces; rinse well and pat or spin dry. In a tightly-lidded jar, add all the dressing ingredients. Shake to emulsify and adjust the seasonings to your liking.
Fill a large pot with a few inches of water and fit with a steamer basket or small metal colander. Bring the water to a boil; add the shelled peas, cover, and steam until emerald green, about 2-3 minutes. Carry the colander to the sink and run cool water over the peas for a moment. Transfer the peas to a plate or bowl and return the colander to the pot. Return the water to a boil and add the lobster tails. Cover and steam for about four minutes (one minute per ounce) until the shells are bright red and slightly curled. Transfer to a plate and cool to room temperature.
In a large salad bowl, add the lettuce, peas, crabmeat, and scallions. Remove the lobster tails from their shells and chop into bite-sized hunks; add to the salad bowl. Right before serving, peel and pit the avocado; slice into half-moons or 1″ hunks and add to the bowl. Dress the salad and garnish with pea shoots, if using.
Note: to do ahead, prep the dressing and all of the components in the morning (except the avocado, to keep it from browning) and stash them separately in the fridge until needed. Toss together before serving.