It’s Ceviche Time!

Succulent shrimp and fresh avocados

It was time for Sunday supper in NYC.

The seafood had been chilling in the fridge, soaking up the flavors of a clear, citrus broth. This was my first attempt at preparing ceviche, the classic dish of cured seafood from the kitchens of Peru and Ecuador, and judging from the delicate flavors and textures it yielded, it would definitely not be my last. I caught the last wave of local tomatoes, dicing their bright red flesh and piling them over the succulent seafood that had been marinating for a couple of hours. On top of those juicy cubes, I added crunchy bits of green pepper, finely chopped slivers of white onion, and fragrant cilantro and parsley that turned out to look a lot like kitchen confetti.

We laid out small bowls throughout the dining table, each one filled with thinly sliced plantains, airy popcorn and chunks of crusty French bread. All these garnishes would create a symphony of textures to accompany the cool, clean dish. We bit into the plump pink shrimp, nibbled delicately on the silky mussels and popped the morsels of scallops and miniature clams into our mouths. We sipped on cold white wine, while talking and laughing.

That afternoon I had visited the food markets of the Upper West Side, and after getting home, I turned to The South American Table cookbook for guidance.  The result was a light and flavorful meal: the orange and mustard in the marinade gave the seafood a sweet and tangy note, the toppings gave it crunch and a lemony freshness. The different garnishes added an interactive component that was a hit.

This weekend, a hint of Spring was in the air. It was time to venture into something new.

Shellfish Ceviche Serves 6 (I served it as a meal, but you can also make it as an appetizer at your next dinner party)

4 cups water

1 scallion, sliced

1 lb. medium shrimp, peeled and deveined

½ lb. bay scallops

¼ cup dry white wine

1 lb. mussels, scrubbed and deveined

16 baby clams

MARINADE

1/3 cup lemon juice

1/3 cup lime juice

2/3 cup orange juice

½ cup chicken broth

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

½ teaspoon sugar

½ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon black pepper

Hot sauce

GARNISHES

1 medium tomato, peeled, seeded and finely chopped

1 small green bell pepper, seeded and finely chopped

1 small onion, finely chopped, rinsed with hot water and drained

2 tablespoons fresh cilantro

2 tablespoons fresh parsley

SIDE DISHES

Popcorn, plantain chips (chifles), French bread, ripe avocado

INSTRUCTIONS

In a large saucepan, bring water and scallions to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Add shrimp, remove from heat and let stand for a few seconds until the shrimp turn pink. Remove shrimp and rinse under cold water.

Add scallops to the cooking liquid and bring back to boil. Remove from heat, cover and let stand for 3 minutes. Once scallops are cooked through (their center should be white), drain and rinse under cold water.

Place wine, mussels and clams in large skillet and bring to boil. Cover and continue to boil until shells are open, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove clams ad mussels from their shells.

Make marinade by combining all the ingredients in a large glass or ceramic bowl. Stir in shrimp, scallops, mussels and clams. Mix well, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

Before serving, taste for salt, sugar and spice. Serve with garnishes and side dishes.

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