We are going to round out our February Ingredient of the Month (limes) with a classic: ceviche. It’s finally starting to act like winter here in the Bay Area so what’s a better way to fend off the rain, clouds and cold than a bowl full of ceviche? Much like the key lime pie, something about ceviche screams beaches and summertime. I’m guessing it has something to do with the fresh seafood and the citrus punch that ceviche brings to your table.
For the uninitiated, ceviche is fresh seafood along some vegetables that are marinated or “cooked” in lime juice for an hour or two. I put cooked in quotes for a reason as citrus doesn’t cook fish in the same way that a fire or oven does. I don’t want to go too deep into a science lesson, but here’s what happens when citrus and fish mix together. Citrus, much like heat, has the power to denature – essentially unravelling the protein strands – and to alter its chemical and physical properties. It’s through this process of denaturation that causes the fish to go from it’s raw state to one that is white and opaque, much like if it had been cooked over heat.
One last thing to cover before I detail the ceviche making process: bacteria, germs and microbes. Since we aren’t heating up the fish to 140° or more, food safety is of paramount importance here. I wouldn’t buy fish from a questionable location – and yes – I’m going to put places like Safeway, QFC and other megamarts in this category. Please go to a speciality fish-monger or a place that deals in a high volume of seafood. In addition to buying from a reputable source, ask the person behind the counter what came in that day and has never been frozen. Since we are doing minimal preparation here, taste and freshness are key to a great ceviche.
Veggies & Marinade
The first step in ceviche is to chop up all your fresh veggies, a classic assortment would be red onion, bell pepper, red onion, cilantro and jalapeno/serrano peppers. Which, coincidentally enough, is what I put in my ceviche.
Putting the Seafood in Ceviche
With ceviche, you have some freedom in choosing your seafood. Some options include: scallops, shrimp, mahi mahi, tilapia, sea bass and cod. For four people, I got two pounds of fresh seafood, which turned out to be pretty close to a perfect amount. Mix and match the seafood to your liking. Me? I went with small shrimp and tilapia.
Now, We Marinate
How long you leave your ceviche to marinate is a matter of personal preference. You can let it sit for anywhere from ten minutes all the way up to four hours. I found that two hours was the sweet spot for me. The longer the food sits in the citrus, the more it will continue to “cook” or denature the fish so please keep that in mind. If you are more of a purist, then you’ll probably want to wait only about 30 minutes to an hour before serving. Again, this is 100% personal preference so experiment, taste test and serve when it’s perfect for you.
Now, We Eat
There you have it, ceviche in all it’s glory. We served it with chips and guacamole for an authentic south-of-the-border experience. This is such an easy recipe so don’t be intimidated by the fancy sounding title. As long as you buy fresh seafood, it’s almost impossible to mess this up!
- 1 pound of shrimp (smaller the better)
- 1 pound of tilapia
- 6 limes, juiced
- 1 lemon, juiced
- 2 teaspoons olive oil
- ⅓ cup red onion, diced
- ½ cucumber, peeled and diced
- ½ red bell pepper, diced
- 1 jalapeno pepper, remove the seeds and dice
- 1 serrano pepper, remove the seeds and dice
- ½ bunch cilantro, roughly chopped
- Salt & Pepper to taste
- Chop and dice all vegetables
- Juice the lemons and limes together
- Cut the seafood into small chunks - roughly the size of a fingernail
- Put all ingredients in a large glass or ceramic bowl
- Gently toss to combine
- Cover and stash in your fridge for anywhere from 30 minutes to 4 hours before serving
- Serve with corn chips and enjoy!