In Italy, this dish would likely be called Pesce Marinato con Verdure or possibly Carpaccio di Pesce al Lime con Verdurine as there are similar preparations in Italian cuisine. But this recipe has serrano chiles and is finished off with cilantro, both ingredients that give this dish a definite South American imprint and making it very much a Ceviche!
The plan was to save this recipe for the cookbook – did I mention I am working on a cookbook? (whenever that will be ready) – but so many people have asked me how I make my ceviche that I have decided to share it here on the blog. It is such a light, refreshing, satisfying dish, and I love all the beautiful bright colors. I even bought a beautiful, avocado-green bowl especially for it. I saw it at Macy’s last summer and the bowl said: “Hey, I’m perfect for your ceviche! Take me home!” So I did.
I first tasted ceviche at a potluck party about twelve years ago, during my first year in Hawai’i. I was told it was a Tahitian version, as it had coconut milk. The pieces of fish and vegetables were chopped rather large, larger than my preference, but I really enjoyed it. I even made it that way a couple of times. Then I went to Mexico for the first time, where I had REAL Mexican food, and some seriously good ceviches were made with various types of fish or seafood, and each with a slightly different twist.
Mexican food in Mexico is like Italian food in Italy: so totally different and much better than what you get outside of the country! I used to feel ambivalent about Mexican food until I tried the real thing. Now I love it!
My next ceviche experience was at Nobu Waikiki, after which I discovered how popular this dish had become, and have been enjoying versions of it in various restaurants around the islands. My recipe is a blend of all those experiences, adding what I like and taking out what I feel does not belong (like goat cheese, for example). All my friends love this recipe and I hope you will, too. By the way, it is really easy to make even if a little time consuming because of all the chopping. Are you good with a knife?
yield: 8-10 appetizer servings
– 500 gr. (just over 1 lb.) mahimahi fillet – or other sushi grade fish of choice – skinned and de-boned
– juice of 3 limes
– juice of 3 lemons
– 1/2 medium sweet white or red onion
– 2 Japanese cucumbers – or cucumbers of choice
– ca. 250 gr. (just over 1/2 lb.) red cherry/grape tomatoes, ripe but firm
– 1 red chile serrano
– 1 green chile serrano
– 2 small Hass avocados, ripe but firm
– 1 medium mango, ripe but firm
– 2-3 hot Italian chilies in olive oil (you can find these in most grocery stores that carry specialty foods)
– 2-3 Tablespoons freshly and finely chopped cilantro leaves
– 2 teaspoons dried oregano
– extra-virgin olive oil
– sea salt
1. Cut the fish into small cubes (see image above), making sure to remove any residual bones. Place the fish in a deep dish with a flat bottom and cover it with the juice of 2 limes and 2 lemons. Press down lightly with your fingers to make sure all the fish is getting some juice. Cover and refrigerate for about 3 hours, stirring the fish once at about half time.
2. While the fish marinates, you can prep the vegetables. Partly peel the cucumbers, removing the peel in alternate strips using a vegetable peeler. Slice the cucumbers lengthwise, then slice those halves in half again, also lengthwise. Remove the seeded centers and discard. Cut the remaining strips into small cubes and place in a large glass prep bowl.
Cut the cherry tomatoes in half and add to the bowl with the cucumbers. Chop the onion rather small and add to the bowl. I prefer to chop the onion as opposed to slicing it because I do not like large pieces of it in my mouthful of ceviche. The onion is there to add zing, not to overwhelm.
Peel, de-stone and cut the mango into cubes and add to the bowl.
Basically, all the pieces of fish and vegetables need to be of more or less matching size, except for the onion and the Serranos (which autocorrect continues to change into sermons – that would be an interesting ceviche, wouldn’t it?). However, the size is really up to you and your preference.
Finally, slice the chile Serranos lengthwise, trim and remove the seeds. Then cut them into thin strips lengthwise, bundle up those strips and cut them crosswise to obtain what is called a brunoise: tiny cubes, usually of vegetables. Add the chopped Serranos to the bowl. Cutting the chiles into such small pieces will assure a better distribution of heat throughout the whole ceviche, and avoid larger fiery bites. Serrano chiles have heat but are not super hot. Still, you want to make sure to avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth and also avoid touching the same of any family member, including the furry ones, for a while after doing this, even if you have washed your hands.
By the way, I use Serranos because of their moderate heat. If you like your ceviche truly fiery, you can certainly use Habaneros. Just make sure that everyone else can handle all that fire, too.
If necessary, cover and refrigerate until the fish has completed the marinade time. You may find, though, that all this chopping takes some time, and by the time you are done, the fish might be ready.
3. Season the vegetable salad with extra-virgin olive oil and sea salt to taste. Stir and set aside. Remove the marinated fish from the refrigerator and pour into a colander to drain out the juices.
Add the fish to the vegetable salad, season again with salt and extra-virgin olive oil and mix. Place the dried oregano leaves into the palm of one hand and crush it with the other hand right over the bowl and into the salad.
Finely chop the Italian chilies and add to the salad. Stir again. You might want to do the seasoning and stirring in stages, as the longer the ceviche sits, the more flavor it gathers. However, remember that tomatoes and cucumbers absorb a lot of salt. You don’t want to over salt, but you also don’t want to end up with a bland dish.
Cover the ceviche and place in the refrigerator to keep cool while you complete the last step.
4. Peel, de-stone and slice the avocado into pieces that match those of the other vegetables and fish. Place in a bowl and pour in the remaining lime and lemon juice, season with a little salt and stir gently.
Remove the rest of the ceviche from the refrigerator, add the avocado with some of the juice and stir gently, making sure not to smash the avocado pieces. Sprinkle with the finely chopped cilantro to taste and gently mix again. The ceviche is now ready, but because I like mine cold from the refrigerator, that is where I would put it again for another thirty minutes or so before serving it.
After that, just pour it into a pretty serving bowl (or distribute onto single serving plates) and serve with tortilla chips, crackers or toasted bread of choice.
For those who like extra heat, you can have a bottle of your favorite hot sauce ready on the side, or some more of those hot Italian chilies.
I have used mahimahi for this recipe, but you can use any large, firm fish of choice, or even scallops, shrimp and other seafood. You can also mix them up. When mango is in season in Hawai’i, I find that it is an amazing addition to the ceviche, bringing just the perfect amount of sweet to balance out the zing of the onion and lime and the heat of the chiles. However, if mangos are not in season or not available in your area, I have found peaches, nectarines and lychee to be excellent substitutes.
I have even had a ceviche with watermelon once, and it totally worked. I also think that tangerine or clementine wedges would work beautifully, as long as you get rid of the skin. Also, using half lime juice and half orange for the marinade makes for a nice, mellower ceviche.
Leftover ceviche will last 2-3 days covered in the refrigerator.
Have you ever had ceviche? And if you have, where did you have your favorite?
And if you have enjoyed this recipe, here are a few more light and easy ones: