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Ceviche: The perfect food

South American ceviche – a yummy summer dish to try!

By Joe Gschwendtner; courtesy photo

Is fresh fish a part of your summer table fare? If so, do it with the flair and fashion of a South American ceviche, a seafood dish for the times. Here’s a primer:

Ceviche, also spelled “cebiche,” is simple, light, and colorful. Make it as a simple cocktail or a salad main course. Ingredients vary only with imagination and the availability of the local catch. Critical contents are mixed chunks of fish, a lime or lemon marinade, sweet onions, cloves of garlic, chili peppers (hot or mild according to taste), and a bit of salt, pepper, and cilantro. Before taste becomes a factor, the dazzling array of colors will have you brandishing your fork.

The ceviche experience is zesty. Serious gusto is unlocked after the fish ingredients are pickled by the citric acid of the marinade. Catch it right from the kitchen and you’ll see chemical cooking before your eyes when flesh goes from pink to white, taking on new textures that are firmer and more opaque. The freshness of the fish can be brilliantly complemented by the flavor of the garden vegetables. Eaten Peruvian style with cold sweet potatoes and large kernel white corn, tastes range from the sweet to lightly salty and tart.

The dish is also a welcome change, tugging our palates away from corn and heavy sauce-based Mexican and Central American cuisines. Many leading chefs view it as the coming of a new sushi. It is nothing, if not healthy.

Ceviche’s origins precede the arrival of Spaniards to the American continents. Indigenous peoples and Incas were the first to use fruit juices to marinate their foods. While Peruvians rightfully lay claim to the original dish, its varieties are global. Ecuadorians will sometimes include orange juice as part of the marinade and serve it with plantains; Japanese prefer their fish mix heavy with scallops and prawns.

Unlike most such foods, there’s an added bonus. If the juice is your favorite part of the dish, it is permissible to order a separate cocktail called tiger’s milk. South American lore holds that next to Excedrin, it’s the quickest way to cure a hangover.



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