Sweet Pea and Crab Toasts with Fresh Herbs

By Chef Geoffrey Zakarian

I was messing around in the kitchen at the Royalton Hotel one day, munching on some leftovers while trying to come up with new hors d'oeuvres recipes. I stumbled on this fantastic combination of fresh green peas (the essence of spring) and briny crabmeat (a hint of the sea). Together, they sang a beautiful, harmonious duet, one ever-so-sweet, and the other just salty enough. If you use one heaping tablespoon of pea-crab salad per toast, you'll need about 18 toasts; if you prefer to use less salad per toast, simply slice and toast more bread. The pea-crab salad also works well as a sandwich filling or the topping for a bed of greens lightly dressed with vinaigrette. Be sure to cook the peas until just tender (al dente) — no more.

Makes about 11/2 cups of spread, for 18 to 24 toasts Servings


The Toast

18 thin slices baguette

1 1/2 tablespoon hazelnut or extra-virgin olive oil

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Crab Salad

1/2 cup (about 1/4 pound) fresh shelled or frozen english peas

1/2 pound jumbo lump crabmeat, picked through to remove any shell fragments

1/2 teaspoon celery salt

1/2 teaspoon hazelnut oil

1/4 cup champagne mayonnaise (recipe follows) or store-bought mayonnaise

Fine sea salt and freshly ground black, pepper

2 tablespoon chopped fresh dill leaves

2 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon leaves

2 tablespoon chopped fresh celery leaves

Champagne Mayonnaise

2 shallots, roughly chopped

1/2 small clove garlic, roughly chopped

1 large egg yolk

1 tablespoon champagne vinegar, or top-quality chardonnay or other white wine vinegar

1 teaspoon honey

1 cup grapeseed oil, or other light vegetable oil

Fine sea salt and freshly ground black, pepper

Ingredient Note: The Champagne Mayonnaise is strictly a fancy option; feel free to substitute regular mayo, either homemade or store-bought (preferably Hellman's).


Prepare the toasts

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Arrange the slices of bread on a baking sheet; drizzle them with hazelnut oil, then sprinkle them lightly with salt and pepper.

Bake in the oven until they are crisp and golden brown, 5 to 8 minutes.

Remove from the oven, allow to cool to room temperature, and set aside.

Prepare the crab salad and assemble the toasts

Bring a medium pot of water to a boil over high heat.

Add the peas and cook until they are just tender, about 5 minutes for large, fresh peas, or 1 minute for frozen.

Drain the peas, refresh them under cold running water, and drain again well.

Combine the crabmeat, peas, celery salt, and hazelnut oil in a bowl.

Add about 1/4 cup mayonnaise and mix gently to coat the crabmeat with the mayonnaise.

Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Arrange the toasts on a serving dish or tray.

Spoon about 1 heaping tablespoon of pea-crab salad onto each toast, garnish with dill, tarragon, and celery leaves, and serve.

Champagne Mayonnaise

Place the shallots, garlic, egg yolk, vinegar, honey, and lime juice in the jar of a blender.

Turn the blender on high speed for 1 to 2 minutes, until the ingredients are well combined.

With the blender still running, add the oil in a slow, steady stream, and continue to run the blender until the mixture attains the consistency of a light mayonnaise. (The mayonnaise can also be made by hand-whisking it in a bowl.)

Season to taste with salt and pepper, transfer to a glass or other non-reactive container, cover, and refrigerate until ready to use (up to 24 hours).