Crab Toasts with Avocado and Espelette

When award-winning chef Jose Garces opened a new location of his Philadelphia wine bar Tinto this winter in Palm Springs, locals discovered that his Basque-inspired cuisine was equally fit for the California sunshine. Tinto’s menu of modern tapas (or pintxos, in Basque country) includes Serrano-ham-wrapped figs, marinated Mantequilla olives and more substantial small plates like these crab toasts, in which the Iron Chef tops toast rounds with a thin layer of tomato puree, a sliver of silky avocado and a spoonful of creamy crab salad. Serve the dish as a starter at your next dinner party and your guests will be sending their thanks to Spain. 

Makes 8 to 10 appetizer servings

1 medium beefsteak tomato, roughly chopped

1½ pounds jumbo lump crabmeat, picked over

3 small shallots, finely chopped

1 medium red bell pepper, finely chopped

¼ cup flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped

2 tablespoons chives, finely chopped

½ cup mayonnaise

¼ cup crème fraîche

2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

Zest and juice of 1 medium lemon

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 large baguette

¼ cup roasted garlic oil (or plain extra-virgin olive oil)

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, preferably Arbequina

1½ teaspoons sherry vinegar

1 ripe avocado--halved, pitted, peeled and thinly sliced

Piment d'Espelette

or smoked Spanish paprika

1. In the bowl of a food processor, pulse the tomato until it becomes a slightly chunky puree. Transfer the tomato to a sieve set over a bowl and drain for 5 minutes. Discard the liquid and reserve the puree. (This should make about 1/3 cup.)

2. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine the crab with the shallots, red bell pepper, parsley, chives, mayonnaise, crème fraîche, mustard, lemon zest and lemon juice. Mix until just combined. Season with salt and set aside. 

3. Preheat the oven to 425˚ and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Using a pastry brush, lightly brush the outside of the baguette with the roasted garlic oil. Toast the baguette until golden brown, about 3 minutes. Cool slightly, then slice the baguette on a bias into approximately 16 to 20 ½-inch rounds.

4. In a small bowl, combine the drained tomato puree with the olive oil and vinegar. Season with salt and pepper.

5. Top each baguette slice with a thin layer of the tomato puree, a slice of avocado and a generous scoop of the crab mixture. Sprinkle with the Piment d’Espelette and serve immediately.  

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