Portland’s “French-Arabesque” restaurant Levant serves fine Middle Eastern food for the discerning hummus aficionado. Chef-owner Scott Snyder’s Israeli roots combined with masterful French technique shine in a menu of bright, hearty yet refined cuisine focused on local, seasonal produce. When herbs and peppers take over your garden and you’re grilling seven nights a week, break out the chef’s recipe for Dungeness crab with fiery, flavorful z’houg, a popular (and powerful) condiment.
“The inspiration for this dish came from grilling crabs, oysters and other shellfish as a kid on the Puget Sound,” says the chef. “I spent summers up there with my grandparents grilling all kinds of seafood. I thought our housemade z’houg would be a really natural flavor pairing for grilled crab — it’s really herbaceous and reminded me of a Vietnamese-style wok-fried crab. The grilled oranges add great depth of flavor, and the acidity of citrus complements seafood so well.”
A few tips from the chef:
- The crab cooks faster than you think, so watch the heat carefully.
- Make sure you crack the shells before tossing them with the z’houg so the sauce can get under the shells.
- After you take the crabs off the grill, cover them with a kitchen towel and use a mallet or a heavy knife to crack open each section of the legs.
- 1 cup cilantro, chopped
- 1 cup parsley, chopped
- 3-5 Serrano chilis, minced
- 5 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
- 1 teaspoon cumin, toasted and ground
- 1/2 teaspoon caraway, toasted and ground
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2-3/4 cup olive oil
- salt to taste
- 2-4 fresh whole Dungeness crabs, cleaned
- 1 cup Z'houg
- 1-2 cara cara oranges, halved
- olive oil
- sea salt
For the z'houg
Put all other ingredients in a food processor and pulse to a coarse state.
Add half the oil and pulse to form a coarse paste.
Transfer to a storage container and stir in the remaining oil.
For the crab
Build a hot coal bed in your grill.
Halve the crabs, then segment each half into thirds. Toss crab in oil and season with salt.
Grill 4-6" above coals, turning frequently, for about 8-12 minutes. Grill orange halves till lightly charred.
Crack crab shells with a cracker or the back of a sturdy blade, toss in a bowl with z'houg and serve with charred orange halves.