Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Scallop, Citrus & Avocado Ceviche: Stay-at-Home Fishing

Scallop, Citrus & Avocado Ceviche - almost Carpaccio-style.
I assume it's obvious by now that one of my favorite parts about getting together with family (and people in general) is what we eat.  I especially enjoy going to Matt's parents' house for this reason because his family loves food and makes very different dishes than the ones I grew up with.  We inevitably have large pieces of meat every single day paired with American-bounty-esque side dishes like homemade mashed potatoes or potato salad.  It's all always delicious and in that regard I feel very spoiled by my in-laws.  But inevitably, by the end of the weekend I am seriously (ravenously) craving Mexican food.  Rice... Beans...Limes...Tortillas...Avocados...Please!

On that note, I haven't had many chances to cook for my in-laws, so when I do have the opportunity I try to make something they don't usually eat at home themselves but that is also representative of me as a person and the way Matt and I love to eat at home.  While our style of eating could theoretically, to the outside observer, seem like a haphazard, borderline-schizophrenic jumble of random ethnic dishes I've picked up here and there, there is some method to my madness.  I cook dishes from places I've been and love.  Not just places I've been.  Places I've been and love.  And I don't cook things that I just kind of like.  I only cook the foods that had me at hello.

Growing up, one of those "had me at hello" dishes was ceviche.  When Matt announced to me that July day that he and his brother would be going fishing with his dad - no-girls-allowed-style - aside from being slightly bitter about the whole thing (because I love to fish!), I decided it was time to stage a stay-at-home-fishing experience by making ceviche with fresh scallops for all the girls.  My recipe is below.  But first, the list for this post:

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Ceviche: The Who, What, Where, Why & How
because raw fish & citrus go together like a wink and a smile

5. The WHO:
It is a highly debated topic - who invented ceviche.  Lots of people say it was the Peruvians.  There are those who would say some place in Southeast Asia, or even the Moors in Spain.  All I know is that it was my dad that first made ceviche for me, his seafood-addict-child.  I can remember constantly sneaking to the fridge to watch it marinate and impatiently waiting until the lime juice had cooked the shrimp just long enough for me to clandestinely steal a chunk.  It was a love-affair, I tell you.

4. The WHAT:
Mexican ceviche, or at least the one I've always seen and eaten, is predominantly made with octopus, white fish and/or shrimp in a tomato, cilantro, and lime-based marinade, usually with avocadoes added and garnished with tortilla chips or crackers.  But ceviche can be any raw-fish and citrus combination and can be as elaborate or simple as you wish to make it.  Some people love to pair sweet with sour by adding fruits such as oranges and jicamas to the mix.  The great thing is that ceviche, by definition, is a dish that celebrates the delicious flavor of fresh fish cooked by the acids in citrus juices.  The possibilities are endless.

3. The WHERE:
Ceviche is most popular in South and Central America, where there is a culture of both good, fresh seafood and a great use of citrus as a condiment.  I once had a student from Ecuador who told me it was their national food.  You can find it served on beaches everywhere in Mexico, usually cocktail-style.  I find it's great to serve at dinner parties either as a group appetizer or light individual starter.

2. The WHY:
For me, the why of ceviche is simple: it's a technically easy dish to prepare.  It requires very little work up front and then no further work until you serve it.  And if done correctly, it offers a variety of delicious flavors that nobody can argue with (unless they hate seafood, in which case you are SOL).  And even if you have someone in the party who is picky or squeamish about raw fish, you can sear the fish or cook it and serve it with the marinade over it (though it wouldn't be true ceviche anymore).

1. The HOW:
It's easy.  Check out the recipe below. :)

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Scallop, Citrus & Avocado Ceviche

Serves 4-6


You can make ceviche in many ways.  I prefer to do it carpaccio-style, slicing the fish extremely thinly and layering it on a large platter.  It makes for a pretty dish and is also less sloppy-looking.  This is ideal with scallops since they are already a pretty round shape.

Ingredients
10-12 Large King Scallops (not those tiny little ones)
2 large Hass Avocados
3-4 juicy limes
2 navel oranges
1/4 cup orange juice
1/2 medium onion sliced into half-rings
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp chopped cilantro
1/2 - 1 jalapeno pepper, chopped (optional)
1 tbsp olive oil
2-3 tbsps red wine vinegar
pinch of sugar
salt & pepper to taste

Method
1. Make sure the scallops smell and look fresh and clean.  Slice them lengthwise into thin rounds.  You should get 3-4 slices out of each king scallop.  Set aside.

2. Slice your onions, chop your cilantro, jalapeno (if you're not a wuss) and mince the garlic.  Set aside.

3. Take out your large, flat platter (make sure it has a high enough edge that the marinade will not run off).  Cut the avocados in half, then into thin slices - enough to cover the bottom of the platter.  Arrange evenly.

4. Next, using your knife, peel the oranges and delicately cut the wedges out of the orange, leaving any peel and pith behind.  Arrange the thin orange slices all over the platter with the avocado.  Save the orange juice and pith on the cutting board.

5. Next, arrange the scallops and onion slices on top of the avocado and orange, making sure the surface level is even and attractive.

5. In a separate bowl, squeeze the orange remains to get any juice out.  If you have 1/4 cup already doing that, don't add extra orange juice.  Otherwise, add the 1/4 cup in the recipe.  Then squeeze the juice of all the limes into the bowl.  Add the garlic, cilantro, jalapeno, sugar, vinegar, olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste.  Whisk the dressing until emulsified.  Then pour over the scallop platter, making sure that the scallops are covered with enough dressing to be under it (otherwise they won't cook).  If there is not enough dressing, push the scallops down into it and rearrange the avocados / oranges so that the fish is covered.

6. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 6-8 hours.  Serve with tortilla chips or saltine crackers (my favorite).  You will know the scallops are cooked once they turn an opaque white, but they will probably still be rare on the inside.  Delicious. :)

Mental Note: I have to say I think this would be delicious with some fennel thrown in as well.


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1 comment:

  1. Crazy!!! I made the ceviche for James last week, he was not sure of what it was at first, but ended up loving it just the same. I did a little twist by serving it over a bed of fresh baby spinach leaves.
    Simply delicious and very healthy! Loved every bite!

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