Last week, my friend hosted a birthday party, and as lovely as it was awaiting a storm in a lush green backyard, surrounded by funny people, banana trees and hostas, the most memorable part was the food. Coincidentally, the peach nectar vanilla vodka cocktails were also very agreeable. Doesn’t take too much to send me into a tickled oblivion. The reason for this rant, however… theceviche. *sigh* I used to think it was weird because the fish is cold and not traditionally cooked, but I’ve been converted.
Of course I overate, and of course I asked about the recipe. I was told, “Some white fish, a bunch of limes, tomatoes, onion, cilantro, avocado, and salt n’ pepper. And garlic if you want.” No amounts, no solid instructions. This is also how my mom explains her recipes, so I was used to such a loose method. Always spectacular, few variations of a dish are ever identical.
At the market, I ordered the fish by looks. It turned out to be a few ounces over a pound, and the rest of the ingredients just kind of fell into place. Ceviche probably doesn’t even need an exact recipe, but when I make something I really like, I want to be able to recreate it. In the lab, data mean nothing if they’re not reproducible, and I’m all too familiar with the “n of 1″ concept. That kind of nonsense science doesn’t fly in my kitchen.
Materials (serves 5-6)
1 pound fresh tilapia (or cod, or any other white fish), deboned and chopped into small pieces
juice of 15 limes (about 2 cups)
1/2 yellow onion, diced
1/2 red onion, diced
2 tomatoes, diced
2 avocados, cubed
1 bunch fresh cilantro leaves
1/2 tsp coarse salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1. Place chopped fish into a bowl or plastic bag, add lime juice, salt and pepper, and stir. The acid in the lime juice is what’s going to “cook” the fish, so make sure all the fish is covered.
2. Set the dish/plastic bag in the fridge for about 45 minutes. You can let it sit longer, but the “cooking” time depends on the size of the fish pieces. Fish is done when it’s opaque/no longer translucent. Every 15 minutes or so, stir the fish/lime juice mixture.
3. Once the fish is ready, add chopped onions, tomatoes and half the cilantro bunch. I chopped it directly off the stem. Use less if you don’t love it, or more if you do. Stir, return to the fridge, and let sit for another 20 minutes.
4. Just before serving, add avocado, gently stir, and top with more cilantro. You may drain some of the juice if you prefer less liquid.
This ceviche is wonderful atop tortilla chips or tostada rounds, and is best eaten the day it’s prepared (the leftovers were a little too tart for my liking the second day). It’s light, fresh, Summery and it’s absolutely OK to go overboard. But first reassure your mother that you’re not consuming raw beef, or she may flip.