Satellite Magazine's June food column
America has its burger and fries, Germany its schnitzel, Russia its borscht and vodka. Regions, too have their assocaited dishes. The American south has its okra, corn bread and ribs. New England has its clam chowder, and Texas and the American Southwest their Mexican-influenced cuisines. This is how we can travel--through food--and expand our horizons. Feel like crossing the Atlantic? Avail yourself of some traditional bangers and mash, French cassoulet, or Spanish paella. The Pacific? Traditional Japanese sashimi might be the way to go.
This summer, we're going to travel through food, and we'll begin our jouney with a small hop to South America. Peru, specifically, and we'll get there via ceviche.
Ceviche is considered Peru's national dish, though a traveler can find variations up and down the pacific coast of South and Central America, from the trailing tip of Chile all the way to Baja, Mexico. Each variation comes with subtle regional differences in ingredients and preparation. What I bring you this month is a fairly traditional preparation (except for the pita chips), but don't be afraid to experiment with various citrus juices, different types of fish and your favorite vegetables. Just keep in mind that ceviche should be light, bright and refreshing, so steer clear of the broccoli and cauliflower.
Ceviche with pita chips (appetizer, serves 2)
- 10 Shrimp
- 2 palm-sized portion of sweet white fish (halibut, tilapia, whittig or the like)
- Juice from 6 limes or more (you need enough to cover the fish)
- 1/2 medium red pepper, diced small
- 1/2 medium green pepper, diced small
- 1/4 cup diced red onion (start with this amount and adjust to suit taste)
- 2 teaspoons fresh chopped parsley
- 1 teaspoon kosher slat
- 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (increase for more heat)
- black pepper (to taste)
- 2 pieces of pita bread
Cut the fish into bite-sized pieces, and peel and devein the shrimp. You might want to remove the tails, but that's a personal preference. Place the fish, shrimp, salt and red pepper flakes in a glass or ceramic bowl and cover with lime juice. Give it a good shake, and then let it marinate for 2 - 3 hours. When the fish has turned opaque, you’re ready to continue.
A note about cooking with acid: the process the fish goes through during the marinade (check spelling) is called denaturation. In essence, the acids in the lime juice "cook" the proteins in the firsh and shrimp It's a technique similar in many ways to pickling.
To make the pita chips, tear or cut the pita bread in half, and separate the pockets, top from bottom. Each piece of pita bread will yield four pieces of the eventual hard toast. Line the pita pieces on a baking dish, brush them with olive oil, and bake at 400 for about five minutes. You want them to be toasted and slightly crispy. Bring them out of the oven and cut them into triangles. You can also serve the ceviche on lettuce leaves or as a simple seafood salad.
Once your fish has finished soaking, stir in the the remaining ingredients and give it a taste. Add salt or red pepper as necessary to bring up the flavor or heat. If you'd like it be a little more savory, you can add a dash of cumin or garlic. Remember, however, the flavor of ceviche should be bright and refeshing, just the thing on a hot summer day in Gainesville.