Joey Altman’s San Francisco television show Bay Café has won 3 James Beard awards and hosted more than 1,000 guest chefs. Originally a restaurant chef, Altman has a knack for showing people how to make restaurant style food at home. In his first cookbook, Without Reservations, Altman provides a collection of wonderful restaurant style recipes that can be made as he says “at home without fear or reservations”.
Starting with advice on shopping and stocking essential ingredients Altman lays the foundations for his recipes which range from cocktails all the way through dessert. Altman calls the recipes restaurant style; this is somewhat subjective.
I found a range of recipes with some of the dishes being more elaborate than others. The Crab-stuffed avocado and spicy citrus-mango salad (recipe below) is one of the more elaborate ones but true to form Altman describes it in detail and makes it highly approachable for a meal at home including pictures detailing just how to get the presentation to appear picture perfect.
Other recipes, such as the stuffed shells with fun-tina and tomato sauce, are less elaborate and similar to things many of us already make at home. This is reinforced by Altman categorizing this recipe as easy-prep. He also has recipes labeled as make-ahead which is really helpful for an at-a-glance clue of the effort involved.
I’m always attracted to cookbooks with lots of photos and this book follows that trend; it’s gorgeous, appetizing color photos really give you a feel for what the recipes are like. Without Reservations also has a great variety of recipes such as avocado salsa with roasted corn, Caribbean grilled lamb skewers with long beans, miso-marinated black cod with sesame spinach and other interesting ‘restaurant style’ recipes.
Crab-Stuffed Avocado with Spicy Citrus-Mango Salad
From Without Reservations by Joey Altman and Jennie Schacht, Wiley 2008
Makes 4 servings
What to Drink: A refreshing Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio, or Riesling is perfect with the citrus and seafood in this salad.
Great-looking food really whets the appetite. This salad is a great way to create something that looks beautiful on the plate without a lot of effort.
Because of its starring role, use only fresh crab or an exceptionally good canned version. Choose avocados that have some give when you press them gently but are still rather firm. When you pull off the stem you should see green underneath. I like Haas avocados for their firm, flavorful flesh. In summer you can often find chive flowers at farmers markets or upscale produce stores, or perhaps in your garden.
- 4 navel oranges
- 1 mango, ripe but not squishy
- 2 red Fresno or serrano chiles, seeded and minced
- 2 tablespoons minced red onion
- 1/4 cup finely chopped chives
- 1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
- 1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
- Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 8 ounces crab meat
- 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
- 2 medium avocados, ripe but firm, cut in half, pits removed
- 1 English or hothouse cucumber, peeled and sliced very thin
- Sea salt
- Chive flower petals, for garnish (optional)
1. Remove the peel and all the pith from one orange. Cut the orange into 1/2-inch rounds, cutting away and discarding the tough center core pieces. Repeat with the remaining oranges. Stack a few orange slices at a time and cut in 1/4- to 1/2-inch strips, then crosswise into dice, until you have cut all the oranges into dice.
2. Peel the mango, then place it on one of the short ends and cut off the large “cheeks” from each side of the pit. Turn the mango and cut off the shorter sides and any remaining flesh. Cut the flesh into 1/4-inch dice.
3. Combine the diced oranges, mango, chiles, red onions, and half of the chives in a medium bowl. Add 1/4 cup of the olive oil, the lime juice, and the vinegar. Toss gently but thoroughly to coat. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Refrigerate 30 minutes or up to four hours to allow the flavors to mingle while you prepare the remaining ingredients.
4. Mix together the crab meat, the remaining chives, the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil, and the lemon juice with a fork in a small bowl. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
5. To assemble, use a large spoon to scoop each avocado half from its shell in a single piece. Lay an avocado half cut-side down at the center of on an 8-inch piece of plastic wrap set on a cutting board. Using a very sharp, thin-bladed knife, slice the avocado crosswise into even 1/8-inch thick slices, being careful not to cut through the plastic.
6. Lay a second piece of plastic wrap on top of the avocado, then gently press with even pressure to fan out the slices as evenly as possible. Remove the top piece of plastic and one-quarter of the crab mixture in the middle of the avocado fan. Gather the corners of the plastic wrap in the center above the crab; the avocado slices will begin to wrap around it.
7. Now lift the package off the cutting board and, cupping one hand around the bottom, gather up the ends of the plastic wrap and twist them to tighten the plastic around the avocado and coax it into a ball. Repeat with the remaining three avocado halves. Refrigerate the wrapped avocado-crab packages for up to 2 hours.
8. To serve, make a ring of cucumber slices on each of four plates, leaving about a 2-inch opening in the center of each ring. Mound the Citrus-Mango Salad in the center of each plate. Carefully remove the plastic wrap from an avocado half and place it seam-side down on top of the Citrus-Mango Salad. Drizzle vinaigrette and juices from the bottom of the salad bowl over and around the avocado and cucumber slices. Sprinkle lightly with sea salt and garnish with chive flower petals, if using.
About Without Reservations
Joey Altman spent the first part of his career as a professional chef, cooking at some of the nation's top restaurants. Nine years ago, he launched a second career as host of a popular, award-winning television food show. But even though he no longer cooks at a restaurant full-time, his family and friends still expect him to prepare restaurant-quality meals. Now, in this fun and inspiring cookbook, Joey shares his secrets for cooking chef-caliber food at home.
Available at Amazon.com.
Disclosure: Review copies of books discussed in this post may have been provided to Project Foodie by publicists and/or publishers.