Friday, July 18, 2008

Ahi, Avocado & Crab Tower with Sesame-Cilantro Emulsion & Sesame-Wonton Chips--August Royal Foodie Joust

Its time for the Royal Foodie Joust again and time for my third entry. Although I was very proud of my entry last month East Meets West Pasta with Ginger-Apricot-Turkey Meatballs, (find it here)it did not even come close to winning. (Its rough out there with so many talented people entering some truly amazing recipes!). Hey, I'm not going to lie, winning would be fantastic, between the cool personalized apron, the winner shield on your site and the chance to pick the next three ingredients (oh the power!) but I really enjoy the process of trying to come up with a creative recipe using the three ingredients selected by the previous month's winner. This month the ingredients were chosen by Peter at Kalofagas--Greek Food & Beyond and are three favorites of mine: Cilantro, Sesame (oil, paste or seeds) and Seafood (your choice).

Cilantro is a pretty polarizing ingredient, people either love it or hate it and I am actually surprised at how many people hate it. Lucky for me I am a cilantro lover and pretty much always have some in my veggie drawer. I also love sesame seeds and sesame oil and of course, bring on the seafood! I was torn between doing something with ahi and doing something with crab and finally decided to use both. Since it is summertime (thus making it marginally hotter here in Hawaii), I decided to limit the actual "cooking" and do something cool, easy to put together, full of flavor and a little "showy" that would be perfect to "dazzle" friends at a summer party. I ended up with a tower consisting of a layer of sesame ahi poke to celebrate Hawaii (If you are not familiar, poke, meaning "to slice or cut" is a popular fish salad usually served as a pupu or appetizer here in Hawaii-- learn more about Poke here), a layer of another favorite--avocado, and finally a layer of crisp, cool crab, lime and cilantro salad. The tower, surrounded and topped with a sesame-cilantro emulsion is a medley of flavors and colors, served on crisp sesame wonton chips. The three layers and emulsion go together quickly and a quick baking of the chips in the oven is the only "cooking" required (and that can be done in advance), making it an easy, minimal effort for a big impact dish.

Ahi, Avocado & Crab Tower with Sesame-Cilantro Emulsion & Sesame Wonton Chips

Ahi Poke Layer
5-6 ounces of sashimi grade ahi tuna cut into small cubes
1/2 medium onion, diced finely
1/4 cup chopped green onion (green part only)
1/4 cup ogo seaweed (optional)
1/4 cup shoyu (soy sauce)
1 Tbsp sesame oil
1 tsp sea salt or Hawaiian Red Alaea salt
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
2 Tbsp toasted sesame seeds

Carefully mix all ingredients together.

Avocado Layer
1 medium avocado chopped into small pieces
juice and zest of 1 lime
Carefully mix avocado with lime juice and zest.

Crab Layer

6 oz lump crab, rinsed and picked through to remove any shells and drained well
1/3 cup chopped cilantro
1 Tbsp lime juice
salt and pepper to taste

Carefully combine rinsed and drained crab with cilantro, lime juice and salt and pepper to taste.

Sesame-Cilantro Emulsion
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped coarsely
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp sesame seed oil
salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients in a blender or food processor and puree until smooth. If needed add additional sesame oil or water to get to a thin, pourable consistency.


Baked Wonton Chips
1 package wonton wrappers
1 Tbsp sesame oil
1 Tbsp toasted sesame seeds
1 Tbsp black sesame seeds
sea salt to taste
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Cut wonton skins in half diagonally to form triangles. Spread in single layer on large cookie sheet. Using a pastry brush, brush with sesame oil and sprinkle sesame seeds and salt evenly over wonton skins, lightly pressing seeds into wonton skins. Bake about 10-12 minutes, until lightly crisp and browned. Remove from oven and let cool. Chips can be made ahead, cooled and stored in an airtight container for up to a few days.
To Assemble the Tower:
On the center of a serving plate, place a 3 1/2 inch ring mold. (I could only locate molds that were about 3 inches tall so I used two--one on top of the other)

Using a slotted spoon (to drain any excess liquid), fill the ring mold with about 1 & 1/4 inch of the ahi poke mixture, pressing it gently but firmly into the mold in an even layer.

Next, repeat the process with the avocado layer, ensuring you have an even, firmly packed layer.
Add the top layer of crab following the same process.

Carefully remove ring mold. Pour or spoon the cilantro emulsion around the base of the tower and drizzle some on the top layer. Garnish tower with both toasted sesame seeds and black sesame seeds. Place wonton crackers around the base of the tower. Serve.

My hastily assembled tasting panel was a bit leery about the number of ingredients and different flavors when I brought out "The Tower". (Oh ye of such little faith!) Once they tasted it however, they wouldn't stop eating it. The flavors all worked together, complemented each other and the sesame and cilantro were fully apparent.

Its not an inexpensive appetizer but you should be able to find both good quality crab and ahi at Costco in larger quantities for bigger groups. If you aren't a fan of ahi or crab you could substitute another fish or shell fish and if your friends are scared of "raw" fish--get different friends! (Just kidding!!! I have plenty of friends and family who won't eat raw fish too!), you could certainly sear the fish, or use pieces of a cooked fish and still end up with something good.
Being a poke lover, but always buying it rather than making it, I was amazed at how easy it is to make really fresh, delicious poke at home and will be doing just that often. I would make this recipe again and now that I own the rings, I need to come up with more things to "stack" as it is just so fun and festive!

One thing I would do differently is reverse the order of the layers (I did in the recipe I wrote above). I thought I wanted the poke on top for the bright color but since the crab is so much lighter in weight, it ended up being a bit flatter than it started out and so a bit "lost" due to the weight on top. Structurally, the crab is best on top, so that's how I'll make it next time.

Wish me luck in the Joust! Voting, (done by Foodie Blogroll Members--consider joining if you haven't already--there are a couple of thousand great blogs and wonderful people on it!) begins on August 1 through August 7th. You can check out the other entries here.


  1. I may not add the crab (a little to pricey here), but I think I will try this :) Gonna vote for you :)

  2. Kat--You are so sweet--thanks! Yeah the crab was pretty pricey here too but you know how you get something in your head and then you MUST do it. (or is that just me?!) Just the poke and avocado combo was really good on its own too.

  3. no, I'm like that too. I think I'm kind of OCD.

  4. Deb:
    This is an AMAZING dish. You're cementing my desire to eat at Deb's. You're so right about cilantro-and I'm in the love-it camp.
    Best of luck on the joust, you gourmet guru.

  5. Wow, you have outdone yourself in presentation, deb!
    I love the layers, I want to run right out any find some ring moulds.
    Great entry for RFJ!
    ps, I love cilantro too, yum.

  6. Kat--Can you be part time OCD? I am for some things but others I could care less about the details!

    Prudie--Thanks--you are making me blush! Come on over for dinner! (Don't forget to bring the dessert though!)

    Natashya--Yea to ring molds--I never knew the joy of stacking before! ;-)

  7. I have a feeling you can be part-time, Deb. I think I am too :)

  8. This is a beautiful dish - great presentation, good luck!

    Glad to have found your blog too - wandering off for a read now!


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