Wednesday, April 2, 2014

ceviche verde: or how to bring the beaches of Luquillo to your kitchen

Today is grey.
Today is rainy and grey.
The light coming through my window even has a dull grey tint to it.
The world outside is dull and muted.

...But that doesn't mean that your day will be a grey, dull one.
Today could be green.
Today, you could make ceviche.

As I mentioned in my last post, I survived mainly on ceviche during my recent getaway to Puerto Rico.  I ordered it every chance I got, comparing the different marinades and ingredients.  The best ceviche I had was in Luquillo at a tiny beachfront shack called the Ceviche Hut.  They make traditional Peruvian ceviche serving it with sweet corn and baked sweet potato, but added a giant fried plantain on the side just to make sure you hadn't forgotten you're in Puerto Rico.  I ordered their octopus dish, since I had never had one before and it intrigued me - I know that cooking octopus with heat is difficult and it can easily turn tough and chewy if you don't do it right, so I wasn't sure what the acid would do or not do to the texture.  But the octopus was prepared perfectly, tender and light, and full of flavor.  The plain corn and sweet potato worked wonderfully to cut through and balance the acid in the marinade.

A big part of the reason this was my favorite ceviche was because I ate it out of a styrofoam container while sitting right on the sand of Luquillo beach, sipping a mojito and watching the sun set behind the palms.  Might be my favorite meal of the weekend.  If you get the chance, I highly recommend making the trip just for this experience.  However, if you can't eat ceviche on the beaches of Luquillo this week, you can bring the ceviche to you...
Since ceviche deals with raw fish, I didn't want to wing it and screw up this simple, but delicate process.  So, like I do with most things I'm unsure about, I did a bunch of research.  I looked at a ton of recipes online until I found this one for a ceviche verde (green marinade made from lime juice) from the New York Times -it looked easy and incredibly delicious.  While it is very different from the ones I had on the island, I was excited to use a preparation that I hadn't tried yet - plus, it fit in with the green kick I've been on recently. The avocado and fresh radishes take the place of the corn and sweet potato in balancing the acid...though I think next time I'll do a combination - maybe corn, avocado, and sweet potato salad.
A few quick notes -
1) I left out the cilantro from the original recipe because my dad hates it.  So if you're not a fan either, it doesn't completely change the integrity of the dish if you leave it out.  I did add a tablespoon or so of chopped basil to add that fresh, herby greenness.
2) Make sure you get your fishmonger to take the skin off the fish, or have a really sharp filet knife at home.  I did neither, which resulted in a bit of a mess, and hacked, mangled chunks of fish.  Though, while they weren't the prettiest cuts of fish, they still tasted lovely.
3) The recipe recommends serving the ceviche on top of a tostada - a deep fried corn tortilla.  However, I didn't want a greasy, heavy base to weigh down the light, brightness of the fish.  So, I found a recipe for a baked tostada - brush both sides of a corn tortilla with olive oil, then bake on a tinfoil lined baking sheet at 400 degrees for five minutes on each side.  The result is a light, crispy tostada that adds a beautiful crunchy texture without the greasiness of a traditional tostada.