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Cornelius Cooks

Prepare this dish ahead to leave time for romance

Rich Rutsky is a self-taught chef and something of a gourmet.

“I’m sure that I was affected by Julia Child and her antics on ‘The French Chef’ as much as anyone and I suppose my joy of cooking was an evolutionary process that began and progressed with our enjoyment of eating good food and experimenting with some of the great dishes we have enjoyed over the years,” Rutsky says.

He lives in the Antiquity neighborhood with his wife Lyn. The couple moved here in 2011 from the Baltimore/Washington area, having lived there some 40 years.

Just down the street in Antiquity are their daughter and a 10-year-old grandson and 6-year-old granddaughter. The Rutsky’s have another granddaughter, 23 years old and living in Charlotte, as well as another grandson, 15, who still lives in Maryland with the Rutsky’s other daughter. “So, the total tally for me is one wife, two daughters and four grandkids,” Rich says.

Rich was born and raised in a small mill town in Southwestern Pennsylvania called Charleroi, about 25 miles south of Pittsburgh. Growing up with his parents and one brother in an ethnic community—all of his grandparents immigrated from Poland and Slovakia—exposed him to some interesting culinary offerings, ranging from stuffed cabbage and pierogi to chicken feet—a rare treat in light of the fact  that there’s only two per bird.

Rich served in the US Air Force; was an intelligence analyst at the National Security Agency; was a field engineer for Unisys Corp.; and an Information Technology Management Specialist for the Administrative Office of the U. S. Courts in Washington, DC. The couple got to know Washington and Baltimore inside out, including good restaurants and fresh seafood.

Indeed, Rich’s recipe for Crab Salad with Mango, Avocado and Fruit Puree was inspired by the great chef Patrick O’Connell, proprietor of The Inn at Little Washington, a world-renowned country inn and restaurant in the town of Washington in Virginia horse country. The Inn is the Rutsky’s favorite getaway; this recipe reflects Rich’s love of crab.

It’s a special dish, fresh and vibrant, and makes a good presentation.

“It requires no cooking, can be made ahead of time and, if used on Valentine’s Day,  allows for more free time for more romantic pursuits,” Rich says.

The Rutsky’s have been happily married 45 years.

Crab Salad with Mango, Avocado and Fruit Puree

For Crabmeat:

2 Cups Jumbo Lump

1 1/2 tablespoons fish sauce (found in Asian aisle of grocery store)

2 tablespoons lemon juice

2 tablespoons cilantro leaves (rough chop) – (note; my wife finds cilantro too pungent so I use parsley.)

1 1/2 tablespoons minced jalapeno

1/4 cup diced fresh mango

1/2 cup diced fresh avocado


1 small cantaloupe

1/2 fresh pineapple

2 tablespoons lemon juice

2 tablespoons fresh cilantro (see note above about cilantro.)

Sugar to taste


Puree the melon in a food processor and pour mixture in a medium bowl.

Puree the pineapple and add it to the melon puree.

Tie up the cilantro (or parsley) in a square of  cheesecloth and add it to the puree.  Add the lemon juice and mix thoroughly.

Cover and refrigerate for at least 1/2 hour or overnight.  Before serving remove cilantro and add pinch of sugar if necessary.

Combine crabmeat, jalapeno, lemon juice and fish sauce in medium bowl, folding carefully to prevent breaking up crab lumps.

Using a ring mold about 2 inches in diameter (I use a piece of PVC pipe), place about 2 tablespoons of avocado in mold and pack down lightly with back of spoon.

Place 1 tablespoon of mango on top of avocado and gently press down.

Place a final layer of crabmeat mixture, smoothing down the top and carefully lift off the mold.

Repeat the process on remaining three plates.

Ladle the fruit puree around the edge of the molded tower and serve chilled.