A good many years ago, a work colleague from my radio days shared with me about his unusual mental habit of assigning colors to the months of the year—not surprisingly, several of the months were given colors that matched a holiday within the month, such as green for March (St. Patrick’s Day). My buddy gave July deep red, for its blazing summer heat. Orange was obviously the color of October, reflecting Halloween pumpkins and fall foliage. But January? You guessed it. Gray.
He’s right about that. The whole month of January looks and feels gray and lifeless, with the Christmas decorations down, no leaves on the trees, no flowers to enjoy. Gray is bland and boring, the color of a steak cooked in the microwave.
As many millions of other Americans, I let go an enormous exhale this week as our battered country took its first steps forward toward what we hope is a new chapter of compassion, cooperation and unity. The installment of a new president has me feeling hopeful for the first time in years, as if gigantic gray clouds have parted to allow sunshine and color back into our lives. I’m not naïve about politics, and I have seen enough in my years to know that smooth-sailing government is a goal rather than a given, but attitudes and intentions must be positive for progress to happen, and we are overdue. I’m ecstatic and proud about the historic swearing-in of our nation’s first-ever woman vice president (I’ll be raising a toast to her in a day or two here), optimistic about making up lost ground in our relationship with the rest of the world (and the planet), and relieved at the promise of giving science a louder voice than ego in our battle against this wretched virus.
Things are looking up, and I’ve needed something to be excited about after so much gloom.
And so, here begins a fun and color-filled parade of recipes to brighten up your plate. Nutritionists will tell you about the benefits of “eating the rainbow,” for all its varying vitamins, antioxidants and whatnot, and it’s undeniable that bright colors in general make people feel happier. I’m determined to bring that color!
To kick things off, I’m chasing away the gray with a mostly classic Cobb salad, authentic in the sense that it has all the key Cobb ingredients—avocado, bacon, hard-boiled egg, bleu cheese and tomatoes. In step with my recent celebration of seafood, I’ve swapped out the usual chicken breast in favor of a homemade artichoke-crab cake. I love the flavor of artichokes, with their slight lemony tang, and the pairing with crab has been a favorite for years. To pull the flavors together, I’ve punched up the vinaigrette with fresh lemon juice and a few shakes of lemon-pepper seasoning.
The end result is fresh, bright and cheerful. The flavors all work great together, and the colors are breathing some much-needed sunshine into gray and gloomy January. Enjoy!
Serves: 2 dinner salads with extra crab cakes for another meal
Leftover idea: crab cakes benedict, with poached egg and english muffin, topped with sauce of your choice
1 1/2 cups lump crab meat, drained and picked over for shell pieces
1/2 cup marinated artichoke hearts, drained well and chopped fine
4 Tbsp. mayonnaise
1 large egg
2 tsp. Dijon mustard
1/4 cup cracker or panko crumbs (I used seasoned crackers)
1/4 tsp. lemon pepper seasoning (or more if using bland crackers)
Small handful fresh parsley
Lemon wedges for serving
Mix it up!
- Combine all ingredients except crab and mix with a fork until mixture is completely blended.
- Add crab meat and fold gently about 6 times, just enough to fully incorporate the mixture.
- Cover mixture and chill about 2 hours.
- Shape crab mixture into 6 equal-sized cakes*, then cover and chill again 2 hours until ready to cook.
- Preheat oven to 350° F. Bake crab cakes about 25 minutes, until set but not dry.
*I misjudged my portions and ended up with a smaller seventh crab cake. Better than trying to re-shape them!
2 Tbsp. Trader Joe’s orange muscat champagne vinegar* (or substitute any light or citrus-y vinegar + a pinch of sugar)
Juice of 1/2 fresh lemon
1/2 tsp. Dijon mustard
3 or 4 shakes lemon pepper seasoning (I used McCormick, which already contains salt)
1 Tbsp. expeller-pressed canola oil + 2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
- Whisk together vinegar, lemon juice, Dijon mustard and lemon pepper seasoning in a small bowl or measuring glass.
- Slowly drizzle canola oil into the mixture, whisking constantly to create an emulsion. Repeat with the olive oil. Cover and allow mixture to rest to “wake up” the seasonings. I typically make my dressings several hours or even days ahead, then bring to room temperature for serving.
1 full romaine heart, washed, dried and chopped
1/2 cup finely shredded red cabbage (for color :))
1 small shallot, chopped (or substitute red onion)
8 baby tomatoes, halved
1/2 medium avocado, cubed
1/4 cup bleu cheese crumbles
3 slices uncured, smoked bacon, chopped and cooked crisp
1 hard-boiled egg, peeled and chopped
Want to make this colorful salad?
If you’re a fan of the crab-artichoke combination, check out my easy recipe for Creamy Crab and Artichoke Dip!