Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Dinner with Sandra

Sandra's Chilled Avocado-Buttermilk Soup with Crab Salad
Nacho, served with our take on watermelon agua fresca
About a year ago, I took a class on Latin Street Food offered at a Williams-Sonoma store. I expected to be served samples of what was demonstrated but was surprised to be served a memorably delicious and generous meal.

It was the first time I'd eaten food prepared by Sandra Gutierrez, a Cary-based chef who mentioned that night that she was working on  her first cookbook. Today, with The New Southern-Latino Table in hand, I plan to enjoy many more meals with her help.

I was fortunate to receive a preview copy of her book, from which I made a delicious summer dinner on Sunday, a few weeks before its official release by the University of North Carolina Press. While filled with temptations, I noticed the recipe for Chilled Avocado-Buttermilk Soup with Crab Salad Nacho when I first flipped through its pages. Except for the crab, I had most of the ingredients on hand, making it an ideal first try.

I can't quote ingredients, but suffice it to say the soup is a completely no-cook affair that should be prepared at least an hour before meal time. I will say that it called for a pinch of cayenne, which I was surprised to discover absent from my spice rack. We substituted about a half-teaspoon of Peruvian Chile Lime Seasoning. After tasting just before serving, we decided it needed a bit more zip and added a splash of hot sauce.

Tim made the soup and the crab salad, which exemplifies Sandra's signature of blending Southern and Latin flavors. We also made a substitution here: while she recommends claw meat only, we opted for less costly backfin instead. The larger chunks will deliver a more handsome presentation, but we were satisfied with the tasty results.

At showtime, the creamy soup is topped with a fresh-made torilla chip that serves as a sort of float for a dab of crab salad. I'd never made my own chips before, but I will again. I used corn tortillas made by Tortilleria Calientitas, which has one of those automated tortilla-makers common to Mexico but a rare and welcome sight in Raleigh. A baker's dozen, wrapped in paper while still warm, was just $1. The shop, which hopes to open a small restaurant in coming months, is located in the Walmart plaza at 1725 New Hope Church Road.

The combination, served with remaining chips and crab salad on the side, was as tasty as it was pretty -- and we made it even prettier with an agua fresca made with a lovely orange-fleshed watermelon Tim scored at the State Farmer's Market. Made with just pureed melon, lime juice, a little sugar and ice, it was the perfect accompaniment to a delicious meal -- just the thing to raise to toast to a local chef sure to become a national name.

1 comment:

  1. Beautiful introduction to a soon-to-be-buzzed-about book. I see the words "Best-Selling..." attached to mentions of Sandra's debut cookbook, don't you? This post invites us into the book in the most tempting and delicious way, your real-life 'test-drive' of her soup recipe. This local cook is thrilled to know of the tortilla shop, and ready to cook SG's lovely book.