Wednesday, June 3, 2009


I can’t think of better dishes for summer entertaining than ceviches. They are light, refreshing and can be made the day before or a few hours ahead. It is the ideal first course to have while waiting for the meat to come off the grill.

Ceviches (also spelled as cebiches and seviches) are marinated foods that can be found in most Latin American countries, but the ceviches from Ecuador and Peru are justly the most famous in South America, definitely the most varied and unusual. Ceviches made with fish and shellfish are the most popular, but in Ecuador and Peru a variety of vegetables are also used to make different variations of ceviches. The fish must be absolutely fresh in order to make fish ceviches. The raw fish is “cooked” in the marinade and some shellfish like scallops are also used raw. Shrimp, chicken, mushrooms and other vegetables have to be pre-cooked before adding to the marinade. The ceviches from Ecuador are soupy because they are served with the marinade, while the Peruvian are more like a salad. Ceviches from Mexico are also famous and better known in the U.S. This is one kind of specialty that captures the heart and the palate of anybody who has traveled to the Latin America countries.

Ceviche de Camarones y Palmitos
Serves 6

One of the most popular ceviches in Ecuador is Ceviche de Camarones, usually made with shrimp or langostinos (prawns). Also popular is the Ceviche de Hongos and the Ceviche de Palmito. Sometimes I combine two of these ingredients like in this case, to give an extra dimension. Ceviches in Ecuador are always served with maíz tostado (toasted dry corn) or popcorn, plantain chips and French bread on the side, along with a bowl of ají (hot sauce), for those who like their food more fiery. This citrus marinade can be used as a basis for different types of ceviches, such as Mushroom Ceviches, Hearts of Palm Ceviches or others that use shrimp with a mixture of vegetables.

12-ounces medium or large frozen, raw peeled shrimp
1 14-ounce can hearts of palm

Citrus Marinade
2 large ripe fresh tomatoes, about 1 pound (or 1 cup tomato juice)
1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
3/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1/2 cup ketchup
1 teaspoon olive oil
1/2 tespoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon hot pepper sauce (or to taste)
2 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro or parsley leaves
1/2 recipe Cebollas Encurtidas (see below)

1/2 recipe Cebollas Encurtidas
Sprigs of parsley
French bread
Plantain chips (optional)
Hot sauce

1. To cook the shrimp, bring 4 cups water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add shrimp, remove from the heat, let stand for a few seconds until shrimp turns pink and starts to curl. Drain and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking and make the shrimp crunchy. Cut each shrimp in half across and transfer to a covered plastic or glass container. Refrigerate until needed.
2. Drain hearts of palm, rinse and cut each piece into 8 rounds Reserve with the shrimp.
3. Cook tomatoes in 1/2 cup boiling water for 5 minutes. Drain, rinse with cold water, skin, seed and puree in a blender or food processor. Pass through a sieve.
4. In a glass bowl mix tomato puree, lemon and orange juice, ketchup, olive oil, salt, black pepper and hot pepper sauce. Taste and add a little lemon or orange juice to balance flavor, if needed. None of these flavors should be too pronounced and you might have to add a little sugar if tomatoes are too acidic. More hot sauce is provided on the side for people who like hot ceviches. Marinade can be made the day before and kept refrigerated. Two to four hours before serving mix cilantro, cebollas, shrimp and hearts of palm with the marinade, taste and add salt or sugar if needed. Chill.
4. Serve in small bowls or stem glasses, garnished with a teaspoon of the remaining onions and a sprig of parsley. Bowls of popcorn and hot sauce are served on the side to be added to the ceviche by the guests. French bread and optional plantain chips are also served in bowls.

Per Serving 127 Calories; 2g Fat (13.7% calories from fat); 13g Protein; 16g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 86mg Cholesterol; 525mg Sodium
Rich in vitamin C, with good amounts of Vitamin A, Potassium, Iron and Niacin.
Garnishes not included.

Cebollas EncurtidasRed onions prepared this way are a must for Ecuadorian ceviches. Prepare them about 4 hours before serving. You will need half of them to add to the ceviche 2 hours before serving.

1 medium red onion, cut in half lengthwise and thinly sliced
1 cup boiling water
1 lemon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup freshly ground black pepper

Pour boiling water over onions and let stand for 5 minutes. Drain and rinse with cold water. Toss with lemon juice, salt and pepper, cover and refrigerate until needed. This should be done about 3 hours ahead to give time to the onions to turn pink.

A variety of Ceviches can be found in my book The South American Table

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