Smoky Soft-shell Crab and Watermelon Salad

The smoky tones in this recipe come from a Spanish spice called Pimentón de la Vera, which gets its flavor when pimiento peppers are dried over a hardwood fire before being ground into paprika. It's available in small cans at specialty-food stores in sweet (pimentón dulce) and hot (pimentón picante) versions. You may substitute regular paprika, but add 1/2 teaspoon of ground chipotle chile, if available, and omit the black pepper in the recipe.


Makes 4 servings

Recipe from

Coastal Living


8 cups baby arugula
5 cups seedless watermelon chunks (1 1/4 inch)
1 cup diced red tomato
1 cup diced green tomato or tomatillo
1 yellow bell pepper, cut into thin strips
1 small red onion, cut into thin strips
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 tablespoon smoked sweet Spanish paprika (pimentón dulce)
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 large egg whites
1/2 teaspoon sea salt or kosher salt
8 jumbo soft-shell crabs, dressed
1/4 cup canola or safflower oil, divided


Combine arugula, watermelon, tomatoes, bell pepper, and onion in a bowl; set salad aside.

Whisk together flour and next 3 ingredients in a shallow dish until blended; set aside. In a shallow bowl, whisk egg whites with salt until blended.

Dip crabs into egg whites, then coat in flour mixture, patting off excess.

Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. When oil is hot, add half the crabs, top-side down; sauté 2 to 3 minutes per side, until golden, adding more oil to skillet, if needed. Drain crabs on paper towels, then transfer to a baking sheet in a 200° oven to keep warm. Repeat with remaining oil and crabs.

Toss salad with 1/2 cup Smoky Tomato-Balsamic Dressing, and divide among 4 plates. Cut crabs in half, and top each salad with 4 halves.

"Let's take inspiration from the color of this dish's paprika and watermelon and opt for similarly pink-hued dry rosé. But color is not the only justification for this underappreciated summery wine. A good rosé, such as Château Routas Rouvière ($9) or Bonny Doon Vin Gris de Cigare ($8), will have plenty of red berry charm to complement this meal's fruity freshness. And if you use the spicy version of paprika or ground chile, these chillable rosés will soothe any sting you may sense." --Mark Oldman

Frank P. Melodia,

Coastal Living

April 2005
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