Tomato Crab Salad to Tame a Cruel, Cruel Summer

Cruel summer tomato crab salad. I hope it sounds delicious and not like I’m complaining because a summer tomato crab salad is hardly cruel all on its own. In fact crab is a special ingredient that’s usually reserved for special meals. Special meals take a bit of effort. A bit more effort than I care to exert on a cruel summer afternoon when I’d rather be lounging under a tree or sitting at a picnic table. Which is where the tomato slices come in. Tomato slices make this tomato crab salad with fennel and watercress a special meal.

Tomato Crab Salad

Tomato slices have a lot of nostalgic power for me. First, because tomatoes remind me of summers past– at least the very best of them. Sure most of us can get some version of a tomato all year long. We chop them into salads or puree them into sauces. But when summer rolls around we simply slice them into thick slabs and make them the center of a meal. Crab just makes these tomato slices more special. But really it’s the tomato slices that are special all on their own– and they always have been.

Summers weren’t always cruel. Sure they were hot, but the summers of my youth were defined by a lazy sort of haze. It’s the memory of all that slow space and time that make the busy days and nights of adult summers seem to cruelly mock me as I trudge sweatily through life.

You see, when I was a kid summer was three long months and was stretched out even further by impossibly long days. Days that were often filled with nothing but the expectation of more of the same. As a kid I remember spending whole days underneath the picnic table in our suburban Michigan backyard. It was a rather humble little table. The kind with benches attached and a hole for an umbrella that we never even owned. Purchased at Sears with all the promise of the impending summer and assembled as a family project. It was set underneath a maple tree. The first few cookouts of the summer made that little table the center of family life. But as the summer trickled on, the heat drove my parents inside. The newness of that cheap little table wore off like the fake redwood stain adorning its planks. That’s when the table fulfilled its true purpose as it alternatively became Captain Kirk’s bridge or William Clark’s and Meriwether Lewis’ canoe. I remember my mom brought out plates of sliced tomatoes for me to eat– sometimes that was dinner because the heat made it too cruel to cook. Or at least that’s the way I remember it. GREG

tomato crab salad

Tomato Slices Topped with Crab Fennel Salad 

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 4–6Source Adapted from Susan SpungenPublished
Crab Tomato Salad


  • 1 ½ pound large meaty tomatoes
  • 8 ounce fennel bulb (2 or 3 bulbs) with fronds
  • 2 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • ½ pound lump crab (picked over for shells)
  • 5 ounce watercress (washed and dried)
  • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil (or as needed)
  • ¼ teaspoon fennel pollen (optional)
  • sea salt (as needed)
  • cracked black pepper (as needed)


Cut the tomatoes into thick slices (about 3/4‑inch thick); set aside. Thinly slice the fennel crosswise, bulbs only. Pick through the fennel slices and discard any that are mostly core. Toss the slices with lemon juice. Save the fronds as garnish. Arrange the watercress on a serving plate, and top with tomato slices, lemon dressed fennel and the crab meat. Drizzle the olive oil on top; garnish with reserved fennel fronds and fennel pollen (if using). Season to taste with salt and pepper.