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a menu for valentines & a stacked bistro salad

Can I see a show of hands? Who among you would like to spend several hours in the kitchen preparing a beautiful meal for your love on Valentines Day?     Oh. Well that’s surprising.  Alright then, Plan B. Who among you would like to spend under an hour (excluding dessert) preparing a luscious and (well) sort of sexy Valentine dinner? We got some hands on that one!

Let’s talk about the menu then…You with your hands up…this is for you…(the  others, you’re obviously being well taken care of.) What are we looking for in a meal for lovers? Ok, it was already decided that we want it easy. Of course you’re right. After all, where do we want to spend our love and energy?  (That’s rhetorical – thanks, but no need to share.)

Ok. What else? Color? Good! It should be pretty shouldn’t it. Sensuous? Oh, I like that! What else? Not too heavy? Oh that’s a good one, yes! Who’s looking to drift into a coma immediately after pushing their plate back. Anything else? Oh, taste! Of course! It should taste really good!

What do you think of this then?

A Valentine Dinner for Lovers


To whet (& wet) the Appetite:

Passion Fruit Cocktails for Two

Stacked Crab Bistro Salad with Cilantro Lime Vinaigrette


Seared Sesame-Encrusted Ahi Tuna

Snap Peas with Shiitake Mushrooms and Ginger

 oh-so Forbidden Rice


a sweet multitude of options


Tomorrow I’ll post the 3 dinner items, along with how to get it done in less than 1 hour, with just a tiny bit of prep work the night before.  Each is so easy.

I’ll have one more dessert as an option, posted Saturday I think.

Now, for the appetizer:

Stacked Crab Bistro Salad with Cilantro Lime Vinaigrette


  • 3 Tablespoons seasoned rice vinegar
  • 2 Tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 1 Tablespoon honey
  • 1 small garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon minced chipotle chile in adobo sauce
  • Pinch kosher salt
  • 1/3 cup canola oil
  • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro

To make ahead, put all ingredients except the oil & the cilantro in a blender. Process until well blended. With blender running, slowly add the canola oil in a stream, processing until dressing has become creamy.  Refrigerate, and hold until just before preparing the rest of the salad. Return the dressing to the blender and add the cilantro, processing until the vinaigrette is a deep green with small flecks of cilantro throughout.  Set aside as you prepare the salad. (You’ll have extra vinaigrette.)

The salad:

  • 1 ripe smallish avocado, halved, pitted and cut into ¼-inch cubes
  • ½ red bell pepper, seeded, cut into ¼-inch dice
  • ¼ of an English cucumber, peeled, halved lengthwise,  tiny seeds removed, cut into ¼-inch dice
  • ½ ripe mango, peeled, pitted, cut into ¼-inch dice
  • ¼ pound lump crabmeat
  • fresh chives, 1 Tablespoon finely chopped

What else you’ll need: PVC pipe 3-inch diameter x 4-inches tall OR a 15-oz tin can, top and bottom removed, to stack the salad in (if making more than 2 salads, it’s best to have molds for each to facilitate fast construction. These salads want to be served very soon after they’re made.)

Prepare ahead of time if desired: Dice the bell pepper & English cucumber. Put in small bowls, cover and refrigerate. Dice the mango and squirt well with lime juice, toss to coat thoroughly. (To prevent discoloration overnight.) The rest of the salad can be easily assembled day of.

 Pick over the crabmeat, making sure no small shells remain. Prepare the avocado. With each item separate in its own little bowl, toss gently with 1 Tablespoon of the prepared vinaigrette. (DO NOT DRESS the crab.)


Place the mold upright on a salad plate.

Drop about half of the avocado inside the mold and gently press down. Add half the red bell pepper. Gently press. Then the cucumber. Then mango. Last of all the crabmeat. Gently remove the molds by lifting up and away. Drizzly a bit more dressing around the plate. Scatter with chives.

Or perhaps you’d like to adorn with a single orchid blossom (perhaps one that will find its way to the dinner that follows.)

~ ~ ~

for a printer-friendly version of the recipe, click here .


43 Comments Post a comment
  1. Mercy! The finest restaurants in the city have nothing on this beauty of presentation. And the combination of ingredients sounds exquisite.

    February 9, 2012
  2. Reblogged this on 4theloveofearth.

    February 9, 2012
  3. That crab salad is absolutely gorgeous!

    February 9, 2012
    • Thanks for the compliment J! (This, for those of you who haven’t had the pleasure, comes from one who creates an awful lot of gorgeous in her own kitchen!)

      February 9, 2012
  4. This is so pretty and fancy looking.. the only thing I would change is to have my hubby make it for me;) OK, that’s not gonna happen… I would totally make it for him and dinner party guests.. it’s just such an impressive work of art! xo Smidge

    February 9, 2012
    • Aw shucks, Smidge. Tisn’t much to be impressed by. It’s really awfully easy to build! But thank you! 🙂

      February 9, 2012
  5. Wow! The salad looks so beautiful! I love that combination of the lime, cilantro and crab.

    February 9, 2012
    • Well, thank you kindly, Violets!

      February 9, 2012
  6. That salad makes me hungry just looking at it.

    February 9, 2012
  7. Ali #

    This salad will take me from valentine to rockstar goddess bff. The mister and I thank you in advance!!

    February 9, 2012
    • Hard to imagine the mister lovin’ you any more than he already does! But you’re both so welcome! xoxo

      February 9, 2012
  8. For just ONE day, can I be YOU??? I want culinary genius to be able to put a miracle like this together! ♥

    February 9, 2012
    • I’d dearly love to trade places with you for a day Cyndi. Let’s see what we can do! 🙂

      February 9, 2012
  9. Really beautiful post, Spree. Your menu sounds fantastic and that crab appetizer is nothing short of spectacular! You are obviously in your element and I’m looking forward to the next course.

    February 9, 2012
    • Thank you John! (This will be a bit of an odd day – here I am putting on my apron to fix dinner and I’ve barely swallowed the last bite of breakfast. By the time it hits your table in Chgo, it may be just about right.)

      February 10, 2012
  10. peasepudding #

    I love that stacked crab, looks delicious. I have my parents staying so no romantic dinner at home. Might take a picnic to the beach after work though so a bit of peace :0)

    February 9, 2012
    • ahhh, well THAT sounds like a lovely place to eat a stacked crab salad! Enjoy the peace, peasepudding!

      February 11, 2012
  11. It´s a work of art! I was putting my hands up until I read your post. Now I think I´d just like to pop over to yours with Big Man and sit at the end of your table. We´ll be ever so quiet (apart from slurping and licking our lips appreciatively) you won´t even know we´re there!

    February 10, 2012
    • Chica Tanya – I could do you one better than that. Spreesgratefulguineapig will be gone on Valentines night. (who’s brainy idea to have a convention on Valentines Day? Not his!) but anyway, how ’bout you and Big Man have the table all to yourselves, and I’ll just light the candles, quietly bring the food and tiptoe away? xo!

      February 10, 2012
      • Now wouldn´t that be fun…but no, think we´d want your company in that case!

        February 11, 2012
  12. Wow, the salad is absolutely stunning. It sounds delicious. I believe I’ll be giving it a try this weekend. Thank you.

    February 10, 2012
    • Well thank YOU for such kind words!

      February 10, 2012
  13. Darlyn #

    Simply wonderful! Can’t wait for the main course!

    February 10, 2012
    • It’s on it’s way! 🙂

      February 10, 2012
  14. jim callas #

    That salad looks delicious! I just showed this to one of my co-workers and now we’re both hungry!

    February 10, 2012
    • Aww, Jeem I should have warned you not to open it so far before lunch! xo!

      February 11, 2012
  15. This is fantastic. I love that you’re doing this all weekend. What a menu.

    February 10, 2012
    • Thanks Greg! I hope not to do it alllll weekend though…I’d love some time with my love.

      February 11, 2012
  16. Deb schneider #

    Love the looks and sounds of this combination. When I make it, i have my doubts it will look like yours, photographed so beautifully! I think we could make a meal of the starters, and of course one of your desserts. Thanks for the simply elegant ideas.

    February 10, 2012
    • Deb – do you remember? This is much like a salad you and I had at the Heathman one night. We loved it then – and here, you will again. Besides, this is easy to make, and it makes itself pretty! You’ll see! xoxo

      February 10, 2012
      • Deb schneider #

        I knew it was familiar – yes, a lovely memory!

        February 11, 2012
  17. Spree, I’m so jealous of you photography. This looks incredible – what a lovely menu 😀

    February 10, 2012
    • Thank you so much, Nick! 🙂 I’ll be checking in on you to see what you’re fixing your love! (that is, if you’re telling.)

      February 10, 2012
  18. Is it too late to book in?
    That looks awesome!

    February 10, 2012
  19. That is simply a work of art!
    I truely love how elegant yet easy it is.

    February 11, 2012
  20. That is just fantastic, though the last shot looks like a large dragonfly has landed!! (laughter) I adore this, you guys must be having a fabulous evening.. c

    February 14, 2012
  21. I’ve had (and seen) plenty of beautiful stacked bistro salads and crab salad combinations, and I do not exaggerate in the slightest when I say this is hands-down the most exquisitely presented and alluring I’ve yet seen. I would expect nothing less from you, but still! Sheer heaven, my dearest. Ohhhhh, for some sweet fresh Dungeness right now! Well, at least we get to go out to the coast in early summer for the Berkeley Early Music Festival, so perhaps then . . . . In the meantime, thanks for giving me the vicarious thrill. 😀

    February 19, 2012
    • Thank YOU dearest Kathryn! With your string of eloquent comments, and your abundant and enthusiastic encouragement I am floating somewhere far above this earth…in fact, there’s blue sky and sun up here where I am now! Thank you, deeply, Kathryn. Your words mean so much to me!

      February 19, 2012
  22. I had the great fortune to watch Spree on AM Northwest this morning, where she stacked this work of art salad in 6 minutes. “Salad” just isn’t quite enough of a word to contain this dish. It is simple to compose and stunning to look at. The combination of crab, chipotle, mango, avacado, and crunchy veggies is the drive-you-crazy- kind of food. You will LOVE it.

    February 22, 2012
  23. Michelle #

    Looks yummy!

    July 15, 2014

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