Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Ceviche - Simple, Fresh, Delicious

I love to demystify food, especially food that appears to be exotic and or expensive in restaurants and thus out of reach for kitchen cooks. Ceviche fits that bill to a T.

Ceviche is another one of those foods that is really an ingenious creation by kitchen cooks to use what they had in abundance: fish, seafood, and citrus fruits. Originating in South America (Peruvians claim to be the first) ceviche is created by simply marinating seafood and chunks of fish in lemon and or lime juice with flavorings and allowing the acid of the juice to "cook" the seafood and fish. And it literally does cook it; the consistency of the flesh chemically transforms as it would if exposed to heat.

Once I understood how simple it was to make my own ceviche, I became somewhat addicted to experimenting with my own flavors, which is the beauty of ceviche; there is no "correct" set of ingredients. It is the perfect food for mixing and matching according to your tastes.

As a devote of shrimp, I always include that crustacean in my version, but many recipes only use fish (generally firm, white fish do best.) I also like some heat (fresh or dried hot peppers) and cilantro which is a mainstay of my summer cooking. Feel free to leave out the cilantro if you are adverse to it. Many people add additional vegetables or fruits to the finished product such as cut up tomatoes, cucumbers, mango, avocado (as in the picture above which I've poached from someone's website). I prefer the mouth puckering simplicity of citrus, fish, garlic and cilantro in my own concoction.

Kirsten's Shrimp and Scallop Cervice
(as an entree)

2-3 shrimp per person, deveined and shelled
2-3 small (bay scallops) per person
lemon or lime juice to fully cover seafood (generally 8 juiced fruits will produce this much liquid, unless you only use limes, which render less juice; you may need more)
1-2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 fresh green chili, sliced in half lengthwise (deseeding is optional, making it hotter if you do not deseed) OR dried red chili, broken in two
handful of cilantro, chopped

Place all ingredients in a glass or ceramic container (I use a mason jar) and make sure liquid covers seafood; if necessary, use a weight to ensure seafood is submerged. Cover and refrigerate and allow to marinate at least 12 hours and longer if necessary. The shrimp will turn pink as if cooked and the scallops will lose their opaqueness. If you are using large scallops, cut into halves or quarters or they will not "cook" through and will leave a very nasty feeling in your mouth when you bite into them!

Let me know what other options you experiment with.


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