Spider crab (Maja squinado) is very highly regarded in and around Venice. It is often served simply dressed with olive oil, but a local fishing captain remembered this preparation from his childhood, and made it for us when we went out on his boat one evening.
- 6 small artichokes
- 7 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 medium zucchini, trimmed and sliced into thin rounds
- 1 scallion, trimmed and minced
- 2 cups fresh bread crumbs
- 2 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves minced
- 1⁄4 bunch parsley, trimmed and chopped
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 lb. jumbo lump crabmeat
- Juice of 1 lemon
Pull off the tough green outer leaves of the artichokes until you reach the tender, mostly yellow leaves. Trim stems and slice about 1" off top of artichokes. Spread open leaves and scoop out fibrous white chokes with a spoon. Slice artichokes lengthwise into thin wedges.
Heat 4 tbsp. of the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add artichokes and cook, stirring often, until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add zucchini and scallions and cook until zucchini is lightly browned, about 3 minutes. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and cook until vegetables are soft, about 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, combine bread crumbs, thyme, remaining 3 tbsp. oil, and half the parsley in a medium bowl. Season to taste with salt and pepper and set aside. Pick through crabmeat, removing any bits of shell, and set aside.
Preheat broiler and set rack about 4" from the heat. When vegetables are soft, increase heat to medium, add crabmeat and remaining parsley, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring gently, until crabmeat is warmed through, about 3 minutes, taking care not to break up crabmeat lumps. Remove from heat and stir in lemon juice. Adjust seasonings.
Divide crabmeat among four individual gratin dishes. Cover each with a generous handful of the bread crumbs, then broil until browned, 1–2 minutes.