I’ve really been into seafood lately. I’ve been researching the classic dish of ceviche for a story coming out in our May issue. Ceviche, also known as seviche or cebiche, is a dish that uses citrus, usually lime or lemon juice, to marinate and “cook” the seafood in the dish.
Every Latin culture does their own variation of ceviche, typically served as a small dish, tapa or appetizer. It’s an ancient peasant dish developed by fishermen who only had access to a handful of ingredients and rudimentary cooking tools. It’s disputed whether ceviche orginated from Peru or Ecuador, but most believe Peru. No matter where it originated, ceviche is an easy dish to make your own and so many have.
Last week I got a chance to sit down with Chef Angela Tamura at Zuzu‘s, a terrific tapateria and wine bar in downtown Napa.
It’s a teeny tiny place that has maybe twenty tables. It’s full of rich rustic woods and styled very simply. It’s comfortable and cozy, and has good acoustics for a gathering of friends to sip and nosh, and catch up on each other’s lives.
Zuzu’s menu always has a seasonal “ceviche of the day” and it’s consistently one of their top sellers. Angela and I chatted about her favorite flavor combinations (which citrus to pair with which fish), places to buy fresh produce and how to demystify seafood for the home cook. She made me a couple different ceviches, but the one shown here uses calamari, avocado and tomatoes.
Here’s the deal with ceviche—it’s pretty easy to throw together if you understand the basics. They are:
1) Seafood + citrus juice. Let it “cook” in the marinade for approx. fifteen minutes (and yes, it’ll cook the seafood ALL the way through. Amazing, huh?)
2) Add some thinly cut fresh veggies like cucumbers, tomatoes and sweet onions.
3) Top with an herb like cilantro or mint, toss and you’re done.
Then have some fun with the accompaniments. Fish has a soft and smooth texture and the citrus provides a little bite, so the traditional counterpoint is something crunchy like popcorn or salted corn nuts (traditional) or the yucca chips that are shown here. Angela told me how she makes these incredible chips. She slices yucca super thin and then fries quickly in oil. Sprinkle with some sea salt and they are DIVINE! Oh, Lordy!
So, have some fun with this dish and make it your own. The thing that I love about ceviche is that it’s really, REALLY economical (aka cheap) to make and yet it feels decadent, like a little celebration.
And these days we should celebrate every chance we get. Salut!