Ceviche, fish "cooked" by pickling it in citrus juice, may be considered the quintessential Mexican beach food but here in L.A., I love to serve it in the summer, especially when we're dining alfresco.
Usually, I wing it by cubing some firm raw white fish, squeezing some limes over it, and adding chopped onion and serrano chiles. But last week, I consulted the Rick Bayless cookbook "Mexico, One Plate at a Time". My friend Hope, the only gringo I know who can whip up a homemade mole without a recipe, gives Bayless props so I thought I'd give him a spin. I think Hope's on to something because Bayless' recipe for traditional ceviche was stellar.
Here it is:
serves 8 as an appetizer
1 pound fresh skinless snapper, bass, halibut or other ocean fish fillets
cut into ½ inch cubes or slightly smaller
About 1 ½ cups fresh lime juice
1 medium white onion chopped into ¼ inch pieces
1 pound ripe tomatoes (2 medium-large round or 6 to 8 plum)
Fresh hot green chiles to taste, stemmed, seeded and finely chopped (2-3 serranos or 1-2 jalapenos)
1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro, plus a few leaves for garnish
1/3 cup pitted green olives (choose manzanillos for Mexican flavor)
Note: I skipped the olives
1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil, preferable extra virgin (optional, but recommended to give a glistening appearance)
3 tablespoons fresh orange juice or ½ teaspoon sugar
1 large or 2 small ripe avocados peeled, pitted and diced.
Tostadas or tortilla chips or saltine crackers for serving
1. Marinating the fish
In a glass or stainless steel bowl, combine the fish, lime and onion. You'll need enough juice to cover the fish and allow it float somewhat freely. Cover and refrigerate for about 4 hours until a cube of fish no longer looks raw when broken apart. Pour into a colander and drain off the lime juice.
2. The Flavorings
In a large bowl, mix the tomatoes, green chiles, cilantro, olives and olive oil. Stir in fish and then season with salt to taste (about ¾ teaspoon), and add the orange juice or sugar. Cover and refrigerate if not serving immediately.
Just before serving, stir in the diced avocado, being careful not to break up the pieces.
The fish can be marinated a day in advance; after about 4 hours, when the fish is "cooked", drain it so it won't become too limy. For the freshest flavor, add the flavorings no more than a couple hours before serving.