On scorching days, my fancy usually turns to oysters, ice-cold, lightly briny beauties splashed with tart shallot mignonette. This summer, oysters have been had, but a new seafood favorite has emerged as well -- ceviche.
Just a few weeks ago, I reveled in a bowl of Ecuadorian Shrimp Ceviche at Sunset Park's El Tesoro Ecuatoriano. Unlike any rendition I'd had before, this irresistible ceviche featured tender shrimp floating in a tomato-lime chilled soup, topped with a shower of fresh popcorn and fruity hot sauce.
I was enthralled. Two bites in, and I was officially hooked on ceviche -- and I was on the prowl for more.
Visiting Chimu in Williamsburg a week later with a gal pal, I insisted we order their Peruvian-style Ceviche Mixto. Replete with raw mussels, crab, shrimp, and delicate white fish, enlivened by lime and cilantro, the ceviche was divine.
And, returning to Billysburg this past 4th of July, I joined a few friends in Maison Premiere's enchanting back garden for bracing Sazeracs, live Dixieland jazz, and Sea Bream Ceviche. Pictured above, this shell-plated dish included hints of coconut milk, lime juice, sharp red onion, bright scallion and sweet mango. Not sure if it is an "old New Orleans recipe," but who the heck cares when it's this delicious.
Now, I'm intent on making my own ceviche. Lucky for me my Ecuadorian pal Emi was willing to part with her family recipe. She says that it is best consumed on an ungodly hot day as a brunch or lunch dish with a really cold beer. Sounds good to me!
I'm definitely going to make some soon. But, if you get to it before me, give me a shout and I'll head over with an icy six-pack of Coronas!
Emi's Ecuadorian Ceviche
1 lb of either large prawns or fish (mahi mahi or sea bass are the best)
4 large tomatoes
1 large yellow onion
1/2 can of tomato paste
2 TBSP mustard
Take each tomato and cut it in half. Grate one of the halves and chop up the other one. Do this for all 4 tomatoes. Add to a big bowl. Julienne the onion. Add to the tomato mix. Cut up the seafood. If it is fish, dice the fish, if it is the prawns, devein and shell them and then cut each of them in half lengthwise.
Put about a liter of water to boil in a pot. Once the water boils, blanche the seafood (dip it in the water until it becomes white). The fish should be blanched for about 30 seconds (don't overcook it!) and the prawns anywhere from 30 seconds to about a minute. Put the seafood in a bowl. Turn off the pot when you finish. DO NOT THROW OUT THE WATER.
Add the seafood to the tomato and onion mix. Add the 1/2 of tomato paste to the tomato-onion-seafood mix. Mix thoroughly.Squeeze the eight limes onto the mix. Mix thoroughly again. Ladle in about one or two cups of the water that was left over from blanching the seafood into the mix. Mix thoroughly again. Add salt & pepper to taste, as well as the mustard. Mix again. Squeeze the orange juice onto the mix. Mix thoroughly. Taste. Add limes, salt, pepper and/or mustard if needed.
It should be refreshing, but salty and slightly sweet (only slightly!). The lime flavor should be present but not predominant.Chill for about an hour or hour and a half. Serve.
Serve with sides of popcorn, corn nuts, and plantain chips (the thinner, salty kind) that can be added to taste by the people who will be doing the eating. It is customary to also have a few limes cut into quarters served with the ceviche in case people prefer their ceviche a little more on the sour side.