Deconstructed California Rolls


Feel free to hate me for what I’m about to tell you: we have too much crab. I did work for them, though; with late-night runs down to the dock in the cold rain to haul up the trap in the pitch dark, with a dead flashlight, chasing the spidery little beasts across the slippery dock and coaxing them out of the trap doors into the pink Easter bucket covered with butterflies that has become the Tofino crab bucket. All the while completely freaking myself out and trying not to get pinched. Have you heard the sound crabs make when piled on top of each other in a bucket and strapped to the passenger? Sort of half hissing, half clicking, claws creeping up over the edge in an attempt to pull themselves out. The sound I imagine giant bugs or aliens might make. But hey – for the price of a fishing license and package of hot dogs, I’m not complaining.

This week I’ve become an expert at determining the sex of a crab – a skill I never thought would come in handy. (You can only keep the males.) I also learned, with my friend K, that crabs love hot dogs, and that if you drop the trap off the dock (with aforementioned dogs dangling in an empty water bottle strung up with wire and jabbed with a pocketknife) when the tide is out, as it comes in the crab will come with it, and stop in for a delicious all-you-can-eat buffet.

Too much crab isn’t quite as dreamy as it might sound – the glut of shellfish brought back Mike’s gout, and the excessive melted butter that served as dip has not helped my pants fit any better. After two nights of steamed crab legs, it occurred to me that one could do more with fresh crab than make a mess of the kitchen table with crackers and pots of garlicky melted butter. What do I love that contains crab?

California rolls. I’ll be the first to stand up and admit I’m a wimp when it comes to sushi. I scrape off the roe (it reminds me of the time my uncle dangled the smelly, bright red giant fish egg bait at me on a fishing trip, making me throw up) and I don’t venture beyond at best a slab of raw tuna or salmon. You can forget the eel and abalone and urchin – I’m happy with a nice safe California roll. Or a dynamite roll, if there is the option of crispy tempura shrimp.

Of course I have no sushi mat, but when I stopped in at the teeny Beaches grocery store I bought a bag of jasmine rice and a perfectly ripe avocado; I had bought a bag of toasted sesame seeds at a wee Asian shop in Ucluelet, just because it seemed such an odd thing to be able to buy in a town with only one grocery store and (I think) no traffic lights. I thought I’d deconstruct the whole mess – which is what happens when I try to eat one anyway – and do a sort of layered salad of sorts.

Poking around to make sure I wasn’t forgetting what went into a California roll, I discovered I wasn’t quite as originally brilliant as I had thought for the previous five minutes. I found a couple sushi roll salad recipes, which was fortuitous as I took their advice to season the rice with a mixture of rice vinegar and sugar, which made all the difference. Beyond that I added grated carrot, chopped cucumber, sliced avocado and a mound of crabmeat, moistened with a little mayo. Feel free to add some sliced nori, if you’re into that sort of thing. I’ve been crawling around on far too many seaweed-covered rocks lately.


Deconstructed California Rolls

Recipe link


April 12, 2010

If you're starting with fresh crab legs, steam them for 7-8 minutes in a covered pot with an inch or two of water. (Make sure your husband gets rid of all the bits of shell when he picks out the meat.)

  • Makes: Serves 4.


1 cup long grain white or sushi rice

1/4 cup rice vinegar

2 Tbsp. sugar

1 carrot, grated

2 green onions, thinly sliced

1/4-1/2 English cucumber, diced

1 ripe avocado, peeled and sliced

1/2 lb. (or as much as you want) lump crabmeat (cooked)

1 Tbsp. mayo

salt to taste

toasted sesame seeds, for sprinkling (optional)

chopped fresh cilantro (optional)


1Cook the rice however you would normally cook it, then spread it out while still hot on a rimmed baking sheet. Bring the vinegar and sugar to a simmer in a small saucepan, then pour it over the rice, tossing it about to coat.

2When the rice is cool, put it into a bowl and add the carrot, green onions and cucumber. Divide among 4 wide, shallow bowls. Top with avocado. In a small bowl, stir together the crab, mayo and salt; divide between the bowls, and sprinkle with sesame seeds and cilantro.

Makes: Serves 4.

One Year Ago: Green Pea Hummus and Pink Popcorn


About Julie

You May Also Like

21 comments on “Deconstructed California Rolls

  1. Jaclyn
    April 12, 2010 at 10:24 pm

    Wow that looks fantastic. Sounds like you’re having a great trip!

  2. Adrienne
    April 12, 2010 at 11:18 pm

    What a great meal for spring/summer. Hardly have to “cook” anything, but how gorgeous and flavorful.

  3. Laurie in Burnaby BC
    April 13, 2010 at 1:25 am

    I’m a sushi wimp, too. I love Japanese food, except for anything raw. So I order just about anything except sushi and sashimi. This salad looks like a winner to me.

    My favourite way to eat crab is in crab cakes.

    I also like crab salad sandwiches – similar to chicken salad sandwiches, only with crab.

    What about omeletes with crab?

  4. bellini valli
    April 13, 2010 at 5:37 am

    I remember walking the streets in Jamaica and collecting crabs as they crossed the road and putting back the females. The thought of the crabs in the bucket is too reminiscent of the movie Alien..throw them in the pot quickly!!

  5. Sharlene
    April 13, 2010 at 6:02 am

    That salad looks so delicious! While I love the raw fish, I have no qualms with eating a well-made California roll. If I ever get my hands on some fresh fresh crab I’ll definitely make this. Also, to comment on Laurie’s comment, my grandmother used to make the BEST crab omelets with the leftover crab after a big crab dinner. She’d sit for an hour picking apart the bodies for the sweet meat but after all the hard work it was truly a treat. Lots of crab and a little egg go a long way in the belly!

  6. julie
    April 13, 2010 at 6:58 am

    What a great idea for an excess of crab….. a problem with I hope to have sometime in my life. Haha… and yes, I feel weird having just typed that :)

  7. JulieVR
    April 13, 2010 at 9:41 am

    Oooh yes! This was one of the best omelettes I’ve ever eaten – made with leftover crab and artichoke dip – YUM! http://www.dinnerwithjulie.com/2008/11/25/day-330-crab-spinach-and-artichoke-omelets/

  8. Elaine
    April 13, 2010 at 9:46 am

    gout sucks, but yeah, having an excess of crabs is something that probably will inspire a little hatred. Crab would also be so great in risotto, a seafood pot pie, and–my hatred is rising even as I say this–mac and cheese.

  9. JulieVR
    April 13, 2010 at 10:06 am

    MAC AND CHEESE!! Why didn’t I think of that?? I have a ton of cheese to use up, too. Damn. We pulled the trap up in preparation to leave, but may have to drop it again…

  10. Avery
    April 13, 2010 at 12:55 pm

    I love sushi, and ALL sushi (I’m the one eating the roe and eel and octopus and everything else)… but I’m pregnant! So no raw fish for a while… this post is killing me with sushi cravings. However, crab is ok to eat and I love avocadoes, so I may have this make this soon…!

  11. Theresa
    April 13, 2010 at 1:11 pm

    Oh this looks beyond heavenly!!! All of my favourites!

  12. JulieVR
    April 13, 2010 at 1:20 pm

    Avery – WOW, congratulations!! More babies on the block!!

  13. Beverley M
    April 13, 2010 at 4:02 pm

    “(Make sure your husband gets rid of all the bits of shell when he picks out the meat.)”

    That cracked me up. So matter-of-factly informing the husbands that they’re to do the annoying part of the crab preparation :)

  14. Shelley
    April 13, 2010 at 5:35 pm

    Hmm….too much of any kind of seafood…is that possible?

  15. Cheryl
    April 13, 2010 at 6:25 pm

    Not good for Mike or the waistline, but isn’t that what vacation is for? Besides, how cool is it that you are catching your own crab?!

  16. Laurie in Burnaby BC
    April 13, 2010 at 8:15 pm

    Oh, Sharlene, I was afraid it would be that good. Darn. Now I’ll be forced to get some crab and try it. Life on the left coast is so hard!! 😉

  17. Debra
    April 13, 2010 at 8:58 pm

    Julie, get Mike to eat cherries, canned, frozen, juice etc. Can’t really remember why – duh -but they are great for gout. This really works.

  18. robin
    April 14, 2010 at 1:22 am

    gorgeous! i would love to eat that anytime :O)

  19. Agnes, Glenside PA
    April 15, 2010 at 9:41 am

    I made a “deconstructed” sushi dish myself, thinking I was the only one and it’s great to someone post a “deconstructed” recipe! Keep the “deconstructed” recipes coming!

  20. Barb
    April 15, 2010 at 1:14 pm

    Excellent idea! I love the comment about having your husband pick the meat out of the shells! Mike’s the greatest. You are truly a lucky woman.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.