Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Ceviche. The Perfect Meal to Make When You Forgot to Pay Your Gas Bill.

Are you looking for a refreshingly delightful meal for a hot Saturday night? Then look no further. This popular south of the border seafood dish is a cinch to prepare. Heck, you don't even need to fire up the grill or stove.

Yes. You heard me right.

This dish requires no cooking.

But it's not sashimi.

Many introductions to ceviche recipes will tell you the scallops (or other salt-water seafood) is cooked by the lime. Well, 'cooked' is a misnomer. It isn't cooked because there's no heat applied. Instead the seafood is denatured - the protein molecules are changed by the acid in the lime juice - their nature is changed. Cooking also denatures proteins. As does smoke, salt and even air. We're all familiar with smoked, salted, and air-dried food. Think smoked hams, Germany's Rohschinken, the wide array of Italian cured meats, or that delicacy of the deep Appalachians: road-kill that's been sitting on the pavement for a couple of days.

Okay, enough of the science lesson.

Let's learn to pronounce it. For years I pronounced it as 'seh-VEE-shay, which impressed my friends (who tended to pronounce it as 'seh-vitch') but made me look like a moron whenever I ordered it in a spanish restaurant. So I'll spare you the embarrassment the next time you visit a restaurant that serves it and you'll still impress your friends with the correct pronunciation which is: 'seh-Bee-tcheh'. And no, the 'B' is not a typo.

Okay, enough of the linguistics lesson.

Let's talk about it's popularity.

This dish sort of took America by storm starting in the '80's. I'm almost positive that every major metropolitan area has a restaurant named Ceviche. In Peru, the dish is actually an official part of their natural heritage and even has a holiday declared in its honor. Which is like Maker's Mark and Kentucky, where this glorious bourbon elixir is celebrated and savored with abandon on its national holiday, which just so happens to be any day of the week that ends in the letter 'y'.

But before we dig in, remember, it's still basically raw fish, so it should be avoided by those with liver, stomach, or immune disorders. Pregnant women should probably steer clear, too.

For the rest of us? Pass that ice-filled platter of raw oysters and let's start to marinate these scallops.

PREP: 15 minutes    MARINATE: 8 hours or overnight

1/2 pound bay scallops (or tilapia for those who prefer fish)
4 limes, juiced (about 1/2 cup)
1 tomato, diced
3 green onions, minced, including some green
1 stalk celery, thinly sliced
1/4 cup minced green bell pepper
1 ripe mango, peeled, pitted and diced (optional)
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro
Bottled hot sauce to taste (I like Franks)
Sliced avocado and lime to garnish (optional)
Tostadas or salsa chips (optional)

1. Rinse scallops, pat dry and place in a medium sized bowl. Pour lime juice over the scallops so they are completely immersed (use a smaller bowl if necessary). Place in the fridge and marinate until the scallops are opaque (8 hours or overnight).

2. Pour off 1/2 of the lime juice from the bowl. Add the tomatoes, green onions, celery, green bell pepper, mango (if using), parsley, black pepper, olive oil, and cilantro to the scallop mixture. Stir gently. Serve in chilled margarita glasses with a some cilantro on top or even a slice of avocado and lime hanging over the rim. Serve with tostadas or chips if desired.



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