August 29, 2011

Seviche (or Ceviche)

I've always spelled it Ceviche, but this is a picture of my friend Omar's Seviche, and that's how he spells it.

I first heard about Omar's seviche when his wife Paola mentioned that they were going to a book party because Omar's seviche recipe had been published in this book.

(In the "small world" dept., also in this book are some recipes by the manager of the soccer monster's former soccer team, a man who was once unspeakably rude and mean and awful to us. Imagine my surprise when, looking through to find Omar's recipe, I came across this man's name and recipes. Oddly enough—or perhaps not so oddly—knowing he could cook improved my opinion of him.)

I've always had a funny relationship with ceviche (or seviche). I'm often not thrilled with the idea of eating it, and when I see it, it doesn't really look that appetizing to me. But then, when I take the first bite, it's usually unfailingly—and surprisingly—delicious. It's like rediscovering that I like ceviche, every single time.

Anyway, when I discovered that Omar's seviche was good enough to be in a cookbook, I was of course very intrigued and started dropping obvious hints about getting invited over for some waiting patiently to be invited over for some. I figured that a) it would be delicious and b) it would finally cure me of my ceviche problem.

But you know what? When I eventually did get invited to their lovely home to eat Omar's seviche, it was the same as ever. I looked at the seviche, all beautifully plated like this:

And I just thought, "Wow, I'm not going to like this much!"

Boy was I wrong!

Omar's seviche is, I can say fairly unequivocally, one of the best things I have ever put in my mouth.

It's just a totally harmonious combination of ingredients—the sourness of the lime and lemon juice, the bite of the raw ginger, the crunch of the celery, the smoky hotness of the roasted jalapenos. All of these combined with  the chewiness of the clams(he doesn't always put clams in, but he did this time) and the tenderness of the fish (he used tilapia) just made for amazingly happy mouthfuls. I couldn't stop eating it. We had the seviche on a gloomy, rainy sunday and the taste of it on my tongue just made the whole room seem bathed in sunshine. It's that good. Really.

As you can see from the picture above, he serves it with sweet potatoes and corn (and bread) which really turns it into a meal. And he also plates it beautifully on a piece of romaine lettuce. But you don't have to do either of those things. You can just make the seviche, leave it to marinate for a while (the longer the better) and then dig right into the bowl with a fork, transporting yourself directly to flavor heaven.

Not that I know anyone who would do such a thing.

Omar's Seviche
(serves 6)

2 pounds of tilapia or flounder
3 lemons
5 limes
salt to taste
2 stalks celery
1 2-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled
1 red onion
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
2 jalapeno peppers
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large can whole clams or 2 dozen shucked fresh raw clams or 3 dozen cooked and shelled Manila clams (optional)
3 sweet potatoes (optional)
3 ears of corn, (optional)

1) Slice the fish into 1/2 inch strips and put into a bowl. Add clams if using.
2) Squeeze the juice from the lemons and limes and pour over the fish.
3) Add some salt. (Go easy at first and add more later if you need it.) Let the fish "cook" 30 to 40 minutes in the refrigerator.
4) Finely dice the celery and red onion. Grate or finely dice the ginger.
5) Roast the jalapenos over a flame until the outer skins blacken and burst. Let sit 10 minutes, then slide the burnt skins off and thinly slice the peppers.
6) After the fish has marinated, add all the other prepped ingredients and mix. Let sit an additional 20 to 30 minutes before serving. The longer you wait, the richer the flavor gets.
7) If using sweet potatoes and corn, boil them while the fish "cooks." Cut the sweet potatoes and corn cobs in half and serve the seviche accompanied by half a sweet potato and half an ear of corn.

Eat and swoon!

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