Messages from the Universe: King Crab, Spinach and Preserved Lemons


For the last five days, I’ve been celebrating my birthday. I’ve indulged myself, and been indulged by friends and husband. My house looks ravaged (indulgence=no cleaning). My blog’s been neglected (indulgence=no writing).

Now it’s Monday, and time to pick up the pieces. The dishwasher’s humming, and a load of clothes is in the washer. I’ve taken out the garbage laden with crab shells from one of my indulgences: live Alaska king crab.

Live King Crab

I’ve only ever seen live king crab in Alaska, which is a pity because it’s the best tasting seafood I’ve had in a life of searching out the world’s finest foods from the sea. When fresh, Alaska king crab tastes sweet and salty, with a firm, meaty texture. Frozen king crab legs don’t do justice to the glorious flavor of fresh king crab.

When I was young, we used to buy live king crab off the dock: $5 for small crabs (5-8 pounds) and $10 for large crabs (8-12 pounds). In those days, boiling up four or five king crabs was one of my favorite company dinners. That was before over-fishing threatened king crab stocks and king crab fishing became a highly regulated industry, as it is today.

Now we’re lucky to find live king crab and rarely pay less than $50 for one small crab. In the old days I used to cook with king crab as an ingredient (and still make crab cakes out of rare leftovers). Now, it’s so expensive I only serve unadulterated crab, perhaps with a little melted butter on the side.

Steaming crabs is a recent innovation in our house. For years, I followed my mother’s lead and boiled live crab (guts and all, for better flavor). Then I read about a lobster taste test in which steamed lobsters beat out boiled, so decided to try steaming crab. As with the lobster I’d read about, steamed crab has better, more concentrated flavor than when it’s boiled. Call me a steaming convert.

After cooking and cleaning my birthday crab, I wanted to chill it. That meant making space in my woefully overcrowded refrigerator. When I jerked a bag of Full Circle Farm spinach from where it was precariously balanced on the top shelf, a jar of preserved lemons came tumbling down on me. I took tumbling lemons as a message from the universe, and successfully used them to dress up the night’s spinach side dish.

Preserved Lemon Recipes

Preserved Lemons, Candied Lemon Peels, and Sparkling Mint-Lemonade (I make preserved lemons, candy the extra lemon peels, and use leftover syrup for sparkling lemonade.)

Moroccan Salmon, Fennel-Preserved Lemon Salad, & Sweet Potato Oven Fries (I deconstruct a Moroccan tagine, and use preserved lemons to make Preserved Lemon Aioli and in a fennel and red pepper salad.)

To find more preserved lemon recipes, Food Blog Search is a great tool.

Be sure to check out the recipes mentioned in this post:


15 Responses to Messages from the Universe: King Crab, Spinach and Preserved Lemons

  1. Happy B’day Laurie! I’m glad you enjoyed your indulgences! I’ve never cooked whole “live” crabs before so this process is new to me and very interesting. Love the spinach with the preserved lemons and as usual you have wowed us with your wonderful cooking knowledge.

  2. Glad you had a nice little birthday “vacation”!

    I love the ideas for preserved lemon. I made some preserved lemons about a year ago, but kept running out of ideas for using them. This one looks lovely!

  3. Sam Sotiropoulos says:

    Ah… live King crabs! I knew there was a reason people choose to live in Alaska, now I know what it is! Laurie, it’s not in my nature to be envious of others but I do think you are a most fortunate soul to have such a bounty of the sea so readily and freshly available!!!

    And what needs be said about preserved lemons…? Bravo!

  4. aforkfulofspaghetti says:

    What a wonderful way to celebrate your birthday! the crab looks the business, and I can imagine that the addition of the spinach made it all rather blissful.

  5. Happy B-day Laurie, a fitting fete with King Crab.

    It’s a pity it’s so expensive…even for you in Alaska.

    You’ve prepared simply, unadultered as most seafood should be.

  6. i love the big huge look of seafood outside greece – i like the taste of greek seafood, but it always seems to be served in morsel size pieces…

  7. Happy Birthday Laurie. No wonder why they call it King crab, maybe because it is food for royalties. Certainly this is something we cannot afford and the only crab I’ve eaten is crab salad in restaurants where you need a magnifying lens to see the crab. However both the crab and spinach sound great.

  8. Happy belated Birthday Laurie!! You are an Aries!! I’m a fire sign too, a Sagittarius…if you believe in astrology that is! LOL

    Onto palatable things…Alaskan Crab…WOW!! If my mother could see this now. I love crab but I’m lucky if I can get canned crab, which is still very pricey in the supermarkets.

    China town often has live fresh crabs but they are small and only seasonal and definitely not Alaskan King crab.

    I have tried boiled crab but never steamed. I’m curious to give it try as soon as I find a supply of fresh crab in my city.

    In Summer when the cost of lemons goes down, I will try the Moroccan preserved lemons. I’m looking forward to it.

  9. Happy birthday! Cooking a fresh king crab sounds like it would be really good. I have only ever seen the frozen variety here.

  10. Such indulgence is a necessary element of creativity. Many happy returns Laurie.

  11. Thank you all for the birthday wishes, and the kind words about my blog!

    Bijoux, it’s funny but my husband and the women I’ve been close friends with longest are all Sagittarious. Not that I believe in astrology, or anything like that.

    And talking about your mother and crab, it reminded me of a story: A couple years ago, I was in the village while my husband was still in Alaska. He sent me a picture of one of our friends with a halibut that was begger than he was. I printed a copy and brought it to show the fishman, who couldn’t believe his eyes. He taped the picture on the wall, where it still was last fall. Then I bought a half kilo of tiny Aegean fishies for my lunch.

  12. I hope you had a great birthday! Glad you got to indulge a bit!

  13. HAPPY BIRTHDAY LAURIE!!!!!! Muchas felicidades 😀

    You are so lucky to be able to find and eat this wonderful king crab! And thanks for the tip about steaming… I’ve always boiled my crabs and lobsters, but I do believe steaming is better…. poor things 🙁

  14. Thanks Kalyn and Nuria! And Nuria, I hope you try steaming crabs/lobster at least once – I’d be interested in your opinion.

  15. happy belated birthday! what a great post, would take king crab over lobster, any day! my dad has a family ritual with a crabfest. we only get the legs down here in new york, but he steams them with all sorts of spices (i have no idea what’s in there, but i do know some allspice and cloves and a dozen other ones). they are delish! hmm, i better go bug him to have another one soon! 🙂

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