by Vernon Summerlin
It took a little while for me to appreciate eating raw fish (except tuna). Ceviche may seem like raw fish but it’s chemically cooked. Fish pieces are marinated in a citrus based mixture; lemons and limes most commonly used. In addition to adding flavor, the citric acid causes the proteins in the fish fillets (as well as sea foods) to become denatured, appearing to be cooked. Acid marinades, however, will not kill bacteria or parasitic worms, unlike cooking with heat.
Traditional-style ceviche was marinated for about three hours. Modern-style ceviche, popularized in the 1970s, usually has a very short marinating period. With the appropriate fish, it can marinate in the time it takes to mix the ingredients, serve and carry to the table.
Most Latin American countries have given ceviche its own touch of individuality by adding their own particular garnishes.
Place of origin: According to some historic sources ceviche originated in a coastal civilization that began to flourish in the area of current-day northern Peru nearly 2000 years ago. They apparently used the fermented juice from the local banana passion fruit.
Recent investigations show, during the Inca Empire, fish were marinated with the use of chicha, an Andean fermented beverage. Different chronicles also report, along the Peruvian coast prior to the arrival of Europeans, fish was consumed with salt and aji (a species of chili pepper). This theory proposes the natives simply switched to the citrus fruits brought by the Spanish colonists, but the main concepts of the plate remain essentially the same.
The dish is attributed to other places ranging from Central America to Polynesian islands in the South Pacific. Ceviche is not native to Mexico although the dish has been a part of traditional Mexican coastal cuisine for centuries. The Spanish, who brought citrus fruits such as lime from Europe, could have created the dish in Spain with roots in Moorish cuisine. Nevertheless, most historians agree ceviche originated in the area of present-day Peru.
It doesn’t matter so much about how it got here or what we know about its history, the taste is what counts. One bit of caution: keep your fresh-caught crappies cold and clean them well before marinating the cubed fillets.
1 lb. crappie fillets, cut into 3/4-inch cubes
1/2 c. fresh lime juice
1 small purple onion, chopped
2 small jalapeno peppers, chopped
2 tomatoes, chopped
2 Tbsp. fresh cilantro or parsley, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 c. stuffed olives
1/4 c. ripe olives
1/4 c. olive oil
1/4 tsp. cumin
1/4 tsp. oregano
Salt and pepper to taste
Place fish cubes in a skillet with enough water to cover and simmer for 3 – 5 minutes. Drain and rinse in cold water to stop the cooking. Drain and chill; add the lime juice and refrigerate for at least 4 hours. Drain again and mix with remaining ingredients.
You may want a side dish to go with your ceviche. Here’re two using rice.
Game, Rice & Eggplant
2 Tbsp. salt
1 chopped medium onion
1 chopped medium bell pepper
5 small peeled, finely cubed eggplants
2 Tbsp. butter
2 to 3 Tbsp. cooking oil
1 1/4 pounds ground venison, bear, elk, or beef
2 cups cooked rice
Salt and pepper to taste
Dots of butter
Soak eggplants in salted water for 20 minutes. Drain. Sauté onion, bell pepper, and eggplant in butter and oil until tender and wilted. Add ground game and cook until meat is no longer red. Add cooked rice, salt, and pepper. Cook until rice is hot and blended with other ingredients. Place in casserole, sprinkle lightly with bread crumbs and dots of butter. Bake uncovered in preheated 325-degree oven for 20 minutes.
1 cup rice
4 tsp. butter
2 cups Swanson chicken broth
1 package, about 3/4 cup slivered almonds
3/4 cup chopped parsley
3/4 cup chopped green onions
3/4 cup chopped carrots,
3/4 cup chopped celery
Coat rice with melted butter. Place in casserole and add chicken broth. Bake uncovered at 350 degrees 40 minutes. Toss in parsley, green onions, carrots, and celery. Cook 15 minutes longer.