(The following column first appeared in the Oct. 13, 2006 edition of the Clarion.)
Ceviche is a favorite seafood dish at our house. Quick and easy to prepare, we have it as either an appetizer or a light meal.
I like fresh rockfish for ceviche, because it has a nice flavor, but halibut, sole or most any other white fish will do. Small fish are preferable, as the flesh is thinner and more tender than that of large fish. In early summer, when I don’t want to be putting a lot of fish in the freezer, I like to keep an occasional 3- to 4-pound halibut for ceviche. Kelp greenling, plentiful in Kachemak Bay and Prince William Sound, make great ceviche.
The “cooking” in ceviche is done by covering the fish with the acidic juice of citric fruit, usually limes, until the flesh turns opaque. Unlike cooking with heat, this method doesn’t kill parasites. Most of our local fish don’t have parasites that are harmful to humans, but to be on the safe side, I prefer for my “ceviche fish” to have been frozen at 0 degrees or colder for at least three days.
There are countless ways to make ceviche. A simple recipe: 1-pound of white fish cut into ½-inch cubes, ½ cup lime juice, 1 cup chopped tomato, ½ cup chopped onion, salt and pepper to taste. Place cut up fish in a small bowl or reclosable plastic bag. Add lime juice. “Cook” in the refrigerator for 6 hours or overnight. Drain fish in colander. Rinse lightly with cold water, but not enough to wash out lime juice. Return fish to bowl. Add tomato and onion. Add sea salt and fresh-ground pepper to taste. Refrigerate for 30 minutes to allow flavors to blend. Serve with crackers or tortilla chips. Makes 6 servings.
The above recipe is a good one to use when the ingredients are as good as they can be: fresh fish, freshly squeezed lime juice, flavorful tomatoes and sweet onions of the Maui, Vidalia or Walla Walla kind. That’s sometimes do-able on the Kenai Peninsula, especially if you live in Homer and have a greenhouse, but more often, one of the ingredients is less than perfect. When that happens, I usually add red salsa. In the above recipe, ¼ cup of La Victoria “Thick ‘N Chunky” salsa helps compensate for bland-tasting fish and tomatoes by adding a little spice. Whether you add “mild” or “hot” salsa depends on your ability to suffer pain. I usually go for the “medium.”
In Latin America, people often add local varieties of peppers to ceviche. ersonally, I think the fish-onion-tomato blend is plenty, when those ingredients are fresh and flavorful.
Additions to the basic recipe are only limited by your imagination. For something different, add fresh herbs, say, chopped basil or cilantro. Toss in a few pre-cooked, “cocktail” size shrimp. Serve it on a bed of lettuce, like a salad. Substitute lemon juice for the lime, or use half lemon, half lime. Add a little fine-chopped celery. Whatever suits your taste.
If you eat ceviche with crackers or tortilla chips, you’ll notice that some flavors of these tend to overwhelm the ceviche. I’ve found that the chips and crackers that are fairly bland do a better job as a delivery mechanism for ceviche than the ones with robust flavors.
A final tip: I said the above recipe would serve six, but I’ve seen two hungry fishermen wolf down the whole thing in one sitting.
Les Palmer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.