With the heat of summer around the corner, and sort of already here in South Florida, (though it is raining today) I decided it was time to make ceviche. Ceviche is probably the quintessential summer (read “hot weather”) dish. But, the thing is, it is barely springtime, so I thought some spring fruit might be a nice addition. Maybe even some diced sugar snap peas or asparagus….Ceviche is a rather odd word, isn’t it?. I doubt if there’s any hard and fast root for the word. Siwichi, in the spoken Quechua, one of the native languages of the region, may be the root for the word, “ceviche”. Or it could be from the Spanish, “escabeche”, which simply means “pickled”, which is pretty much what happens with ceviche. But, it matters not what we call it. What matter is that we make it and enjoy it…frequently.
Several South American countries, Ecuador, Chile, Argentina and though New World, Mexico, all have their version(s) of ceviche. But, no country is as synonymous with ceviche, as Peru. There is even some archaeological evidence indicating that the indigenous Peruvians were eating a very similar version of ceviche, as far back as 2,000 year ago. At any rate, you’ll generally find versions of ceviche in the countries that have a vibrant coastal region.
And there’s a good reason for the relationship between the sea and ceviche. Ceviche is about fresh, fresh, fresh. The fish truly needs to be just dead-fresh! And, generally speaking, you want a non-oily fish, such as this corvina, but sea bass, snapper, tilapia or halibut all work well, too. You can use cod, but I prefer a slightly firmer textured fish (and I’ll post a ceviche using fresh tuna tomorrow–yeah, I know tuna is an oily fish, but hey, it’s good). I don’t use the shrimp in their raw state, but actually cook them briefly, as I think the texture is better in the end. But, “briefly” is the operative word here; no more than 2 minutes in a “hot water bath”. The reason shrimp gets rubbery, is over-cooking. So, let’s not do that.
Ceviche is very simple to prepare, and makes a terrific after work dinner. But, there are few things to think about. First of all, keep everything frigid cold. I did cut the fish earlier in the day, hence the ice cubes. But it is really best to purchase the fish and use it as soon as you get it home. This is a good, general rule of thumb when working with fish or seafood of any kind. Next, it’s important to submerge the seafood in the citrus juices; the pieces of fish should be covered with the juices. (It isn’t terribly important that the shrimp be covered, as they are already cooked.) This is essential to evenly “cook” the fish. I like to place the fish cubes and shrimp in a deep glass bowl, as it makes it easier to submerge them in the citrus juices. I find that a glass measuring cup works well. Cover and chill, but don’t “over-cook” the seafood. Thirty minutes should do it; I check after 15 minutes. More than half an hour and the texture of the fish is compromised. It will begin to get mushy and at one hour, the fish falls apart. As to everything else, feel free to combine the fruits and vegetables a bit ahead of time (or in the morning before work). Cover and chill the mixture. But, combine the fruit/veggie mixture with the seafood just before serving, about 5 minutes. I add the herbs and avocado, just before serving, along with the seafood. This approach keeps the flavors sharp and pure, allowing you to taste every layer of flavor individually, as well as all together. Let your taste buds do the mixing! I usually serve ceviche either in a dish with cucumber and tomato wedges, or like this, on a plate with slices of the same. If I intend to add some lovely, diced summer tomatoes, I add them with the fish, as we NEVER refrigerated a garden tomato, do we? We want all those nuanced flavors that a garden tomato offers us and cold is their enemy. These little red tomatoes are from the patio tomato plant on our back steps. Those little guys have some really nice flavor. I also garnished each portion with some of these little Peruvian Sweetie Drop Peppers. I get them on the salad bar at one of the area Whole Foods™, but you can purchase the on-line, too. If you can’t find these or don’t want to mess around with mail order, I’ve used the Peppadew Pickled Peppers® instead. But, they really aren’t as cute, are they?
For the purposes of clarity and honesty, I used less fish. It was a choice, as I wanted the sweetness of the fruit to be more forward. The Spicy Honey tends to prefer things less sharp than The Goddess, who likes things that are so sharp they bite back! We’re a mixed marriage. By the way, feel free to use substitute well-trimmed bay scallops for part or all of the fish. They are lovely and are handled exactly like the fish. And the shrimp can be omitted and replaced by an equal amount of fish. There are all sorts of options here. Octopus and calamari can also be used…options!
- 1/2 pound shelled, deveined shrimp, tails removed
- Water with ice cubes
- 1 pound fresh white fish fillet (Mahi Mahi, Cod, Halibut, Sea Bass, Corvina)
- 1 clove garlic, grated (optional)
- 5 limes, juiced (about 1/2 cup)
- 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1/3 cup very thinly sliced (or finely diced) red onion
- 1-3 tablespoons very finely minced jalapeño or Serrano chile
- 1-2 avocados, peeled and diced
- 1 cup cooked corn kernels, about 1 ear (frozen corn is not acceptable)
- 1/2 ripe mango, peeled and diced
- 1/2 cup diced fresh strawberries
- 1/2 cup diced jicama (optional)
- 1 teaspoons finely grated orange zest
- 1 orange, peeled and cut into sections
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro
- 2-3 teaspoons finely chopped fresh mint leaves
- 2 tablespoons good fruity olive oil (optional, but not necessary)
- 1-2 teaspoons honey
- salt and pepper
- English cucumber slices, for service
- Tomato slices, for service
- Shards of Matzo crackers, for service
For the shrimp: Bring 1 quart of water, salted with 2 teaspoons kosher salt, to the boil. Add the shrimp; cook for 1 minute to 2 minutes max, depending on how large the shrimp are—over-cooking the shrimp can make them unpleasantly rubbery. Remove shrimp with a slotted spoon; plunge immediately into a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking.
For the fish: Remove the skin, pin bones and blood vein from the fish filet. Cut the filet into 3/4-inch cubes. Place the cubes in an airtight container, along with the cooked and chilled shrimp.
Combine the lime and lemon juices; add the grated garlic, if using. Stir until combined. Pour over the seafood; stir gently to combine. The seafood should be submerged in the juices. Cover and refrigerate for 20 to 30 minutes or until the fish becomes opaque.
Meanwhile, in a glass bowl, combine the onions, chile, strawberries, mango, avocado, corn, orange zest, orange sections, and fresh herbs; toss. Set aside in the fridge.
To Serve: Drain the juices from the ceviche. Add the fish to the bowl with the fruit mixture. Drizzle the oil and honey over; toss very gently just until combined. Let stand for 5 minutes; stir again. Arrange cucumber slices decoratively on each plate. Top with a large mound of the ceviche. Serve with saltines or thinly sliced, toasted baguette.
NOTE: Use the freshest fish and shrimp available. I pop an ear of sweet corn, in the husk, in the microwave and nuke it for about 2 minutes. Remove the husk and silk. Let cool and slice the kernels from the cob; you’ll need about an ear of corn. If frozen corn is all you have available, omit the corn completely. If you wish, add some olives, when serving.
Touch-of-Spring Ceviche Recipe©Marcia Lahens 2017. All rights reserves.
I have seen a recipe that suggests cooking the shrimp in coconut milk. I haven’t tried it, but damn! I’ll bet it’s really nice. Fortunately, it’s early in the year, so there will be many opportunities to try it! Tomorrow, Tuna-Avocado Ceviche.