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CRISP CRAB CAKES PERFECT FOR CHATTY LUNCH

SHARE CRISP CRAB CAKES PERFECT FOR CHATTY LUNCH

A bunch for brunch is nice, sure, and a crowd for snacks is always a kick. But today's topic is lunch for two or three - time to really catch up.

Call somebody you want to talk to and create the right setting: a lovely little lunch of Rosti Crab Cakes and Avocado Salsa.Rosti (pronounced RAW-stee or ROOSH-tee) means crisp and golden in Switzerland, we learn from Barron's "Food Lover's Companion." It usually refers to shredded potatoes, sauteed on both sides until crisp and brown.

Here it's shredded potato combined with crab meat, seasoned with capers, scallions, lime and cilantro. Use fresh crab meat for the most exquisite result - although you could stretch the fresh by adding a little bit of well-drained canned crab meat.

The recipe is from "Delia Smith's Summer Collection" (Viking), a brand-new, beautiful book with scads of hot, yummy ideas. Smith is a British Julia Child, (she has sold 8.5 million cookbooks there, her publicists say), about to launch in the United States with this book and a public television series.

Her crab cakes are delicious served with Avocado Salsa - a cross between salad and sauce, she says - combining tomatoes, avocado, red onion, cilantro and lime.

The tomatoes should be peeled, seeded and then finely chopped. To peel them, drop them into boiling water for about 10 seconds, drain, and then the skins will pull off easily.

Here's one more twist for your perfect little lunch: Toasted Corn Salsa. It can be served either instead of or alongside the Avocado Salsa - great, too, with the Rosti Crab Cakes.

To make it: Rub 2 ears of corn with olive oil (perhaps flavored with a little cumin), and place under hot broiler for about 8 minutes. (It'd be great grilled, too.) Turn them so they toast evenly. When they're cool enough to handle, cut kernels off cob with a sharp knife. Mix the corn with 1/2 red bell pepper, chopped finely; 1/2 medium red onion, chopped finely; 2 large tomatoes, skinned and chopped; 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro; 2 tablespoons lime juice; a few drops Tabasco; and salt and freshly ground pepper.

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RECIPES

ROSTI CRAB CAKES

5 ounces firm waxy potatoes

salt

8 ounces prepared fresh lump or backfin crab meat, finely shredded

1 1/2 tablespoons capers, drained, and roughly chopped if large

1 tablespoon fresh lime juice

1 teaspoon grated fresh lime zest

2 finely chopped scallions, including green parts

1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro or parsley

Couple of pinches cayenne pepper

Peanut oil for frying

Wash potatoes and place them in a saucepan of salted boiling water and simmer for 10 minutes only, and then drain. Meanwhile, place other ingredients in a mixing bowl and mix thoroughly.

When potatoes are cool enough to handle, peel off skins and grate the flesh on the coarse blade of a grater, pushing the potatoes all the way down the length of the grater so that strips are as long as possible.

Carefully combine grated potato and crab mixture, trying not to break up pieces of potato. Take rough tablespoons of the mixture and form them into eight little cakes, squeezing and pressing them together. Place on baking sheet, cover cakes with plastic wrap and leave in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours to chill and become firm.

To cook, heat 1 1/2 tablespoons of oil in a skillet until it is very hot, then gently slide in the crab cakes with a spatula. Turn heat down to medium and cook for 3 minutes on each side. Drain on paper towels and keep in warm oven until ready to serve. Serves 2 as main course or 4 as a first course.

AVOCADO SALSA

2 large, firm tomatoes, peeled

1 ripe but firm avocado

1/2 small red onion

1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

A few drops Tabasco

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Cut each tomato in half and gently squeeze to remove seeds. Chop tomato flesh as finely as possible.

Cut avocado in half, remove the pit, cut each half into quarters and peel off skin. Chop avocado into small dice. Finely chop onion. Combine all ingredients in a bowl. Cover and set aside for an hour before serving. Serves 4.