COLD FISH: From crudo to ceviche and aguachile, 'cooking' seafood with citrus

It's summertime and hot in this hemisphere — so just like those in Mexico, Peru and points south, we're turning off the stove and enjoying our fish cool and spicy.


Cool Halibut Ceviche with Tiger's Milk is on the menu at AURA restaurant in Victoria

By CINDA CHAVICH


There's definitely something magical about marinated fresh fish.

Whether a soy-shot pile of tuna poke, a posh appetizer of scallop crudo, the Mexican specialty of aguachile, fresh prawns with cilantro and cucumber, or the Peruvian ceviche with creamy "tiger's milk," I've enjoyed variations on this theme around the world.

The central theme is "cooking" the delicate seafood in an acidic mixture, usually with citrusy lemon or lime juice and serving it cold. Peruvian ceviche is scooped up with plantain or sweet potato chips. Aguachile is perfect with crisp corn tortillas. And poke — the Hawaiian soy-marinated tuna — is most often served with a bowl of rice, deconstructed sushi style.

My last encounter with ceviche was a beauiful version made with fresh local halibut at AURA restaurant at the Inn at Laurel Point in Victoria. They also created a starter of tender scallop crudo, drizzled with orange oil and green pistachio foam and served in a one-bite spoon.


Scallop crudo at AURA to start

SIMPLE STEPS TO MAKE CEVICHE


While on a food writing trip to Lima, Peru, I had a chance to learn to make my own ceviche from scratch at Embarcadero 41 Fusion — a quick and simple dish of lean fish combined with a slurry of salt, lime juice, cilantro and chile.


We added 1/2 teaspoon of salt to a small bowl of diced raw tuna, then a teaspoon of minced cilantro, 1/2 teaspoon of chopped chile pepper (the hot Peruvian limo or Ají Limo) plus 3 tablespoons of lime juice, red onion and 2 tablespoons of fish broth (a fumet made with fish bones, celery, garlic and onion).


We also stirred in a tablespoon of creamy green sauce, (a pureed mixture of white onion, celery, garlic, cilantro, lime, green chile and mayonnaise), to finish the ceviche.

In 10 minutes, the 'cooking' was complete and the ceviche ready to serve.



Learning to make ceviche at Embarcadero 41 Fusion in Lima, Peru


RECIPES:


When I was in San Blas, Mexico, I learned to make a kind of ceviche they call aguachile. This is a simple combination of their coastal shrimp with green chilies, lime, cilantro and chopped cucumber.

If you can get fresh Canadian spot prawns – they are in season in May and June but can also be found frozen — I think this would be the ideal way to enjoy their sweet flavour. Otherwise, go to a good fish store and ask for their highest quality shrimp for this dish.

It also works well with sliced sea scallops. If you’re using fish, ask for sushi grade fish, and tell them you’re planning to serve it raw.

Ceviche is super easy to make – just marinate the ingredients together for 15-20 minutes and serve. It’s all about the quality of the seafood when you are making ceviche. So only make it if the fish is super fresh.

Then make yourself a margarita, sit back in the sun with some fresh corn tortillas, and enjoy a feast. Just like they do on the beach in Mexico!



MEXICAN AGUACHILE

Make sure to use extremely fresh, sushi-grade shrimp (preferably Canadian spot prawns) for this dish – tell your fish monger you’re planning to serve the shellfish raw.


1 pound very fresh large shrimp, deveined and butterflied (fresh B.C. spot prawns, if available)

3 serrano chilies, seeded, deveined and finely chopped

½ cup fresh lime juice

1 teaspoon sea salt

¼-1/2 cup slivered red onion

1 medium hothouse cucumber, peeled, seeded and chopped

1/3 cup fresh cilantro, chopped


For serving:

Tostadas (crisp corn tortillas)

cubed avocado to garnish


In a glass bowl, combine the deveined shrimp with the chopped chilies, lime juice, sea salt and onion. Stir and marinate in the refrigerator for 10-15 minutes. Just before serving, stir in the cucumber and cilantro. Chill. Arrange on a serving plate and garnish with avocado. Serve with tostadas or crispy corn tortillas.




CEVICHE

This is a recipe that I received from Chef Betty Vazquez of Garza Canela, a small family-owned hotel in San Blas, Mexico. Make sure you ask your fish monger for sushi grade fish.


1 cup raw fish fillet cut in small cubes 1/3 cup lemon juice 1/4 teaspoon salt and pepper 3 Tablespoons minced white onion 1 orange, segments for decorations and 3 tablespoons orange juice 1 tablespoon rice vinegar 1 teaspoon minced jalapeño pepper 1 teaspoon jalapeño vinegar 1 Tablespoon minced fresh coriander (cilantro) Marinate the fish in the lemon juice and vinegars in a bowl in the refrigerator for about 20-30 minutes. It will turn white and look cooked. Add the remaining ingredients. Season with salt and pepper. Serve immediately with crisp corn tortilla chips.



PERUVIAN CEVICHE

Ceviche (and ceviche restaurants) are also popular throughout Lima, Peru, and I had a chance to learn how to make it there. Peruvians marinate a variety of raw fish in citrus juice with cilantro, red onion and chilies (the Tiger’s Milk that ‘cooks’ Peruvian ceviche is also enjoyed after you’ve eaten the fish). Scoop it up with fried plantain, sweet potato or casava chips as they do in Peru.


1 pound white fish (mahi-mahi, halibut or albacore tuna), cut into small cubes

Lemon juice

Lime juice

1 small red onion, minced

1 red chili pepper, seeded and minced

¼ cup chopped cilantro

Bit of grated ginger

Salt to taste

Plantain chips or corn chips


Cut fish into cubes of a similar size, making sure to remove any bones or skin.

Squeeze lemon and lime juice over the fish – you will need about ¼-1/2 cup in total, enough to “cook” the fish in the acidity. Cover and refrigerate 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until fish becomes white and opaque.

Combine with chopped onion, chili, cilantro, ginger and salt to taste. Cover and refrigerate about 10 minutes longer. Serve cold with chips.


TUNA POKE WITH AVOCADO

Serve raw tuna in a light soy and rice vinegar sauce with crispy wonton chips or lettuce cups for an easy appetizer.


8 oz. sashimi grade albacore tuna, chilled

2 teaspoons light Japanese soy sauce

1 teaspoon rice vinegar

1 teaspoon lemon or lime juice

1 teaspoon sesame oil

2 green onions, thinly sliced

1 small avocado, peeled and diced

1 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds (or black sesame seeds)

wonton chips or cristp romaine lettuce hearts


Cut the cold tuna into ¼-½-inch cubes. Refrigerate.

In a serving bowl, combine the soy sauce, vinegar, citrus juice, sesame oil and green onion. Add the tuna cubes to the bowl and mix gently to combine.

Fold in the avocado. Sprinkle with sesame seeds.

Scoop the poke up with wonton chips or lettuce. Serves 4.


BC COHO POKE

This upscale recipe for BC salmon poke was shared with me by chef Tyrone Tutt, when he was sous chef at the Tofino Resort and Marina. Tutt says his poke recipe was originally designed for tuna but works perfectly with freshly-caught coho salmon, too. He serves his salmon poke with a drizzle of pineapple consommé as an individual appetizer, but it’s just as good to pile on crackers for a casual starter.


1 pound (500 g) salmon or tuna, 1/4 inch dice

toasted macadamia nuts and micro-greens for garnish


Poke Vinaigrette:

1/2 cup finely diced shallots

1/4 cup finely chopped green onions

¼ cup grated fresh ginger

½ cup shirodashi (or tamari)

1 tablespoon sesame oil

1/2 teaspoon crushed red chili flakes


Pineapple Consomme:

1 large tin pineapple juice (46 oz.)

¼ cup white rum

1/3 cup fresh lemon juice

¼ cup tarragon leaves

1 tablespoon chopped cilantro

¼ teaspoon black pepper

salt and sugar to taste

3 tablespoon mirin


Combine the vinaigrette ingredients and reserve.

To make the pineapple consommé, combine all of the ingredients and refrigerate for the flavours to infuse, at least 2-3 hours. Strain and reserve.

For the poke, in a bowl, combine the diced fish with just enough of the vinaigrette to coat it well. Set aside in the refrigerator to marinate for 1 hour and 20 minutes (Chef Tutt says this produces the perfect texture for salmon though you can marinate other fish longer, up to 3 hours).

To serve, mound portions of poke in individual soup plates using about 60-75 g per person (Tutt uses a square mold for the poke, set in a round dish).

Garnish with macadamia nuts and micro-greens, then drizzle some of the pineapple consommé around the edge.

Serves 6.


TIP: Any leftover poke vinaigrette and pineapple consommé can be kept in a covered container in the refrigerator for two weeks. Chef Tutt says the vinaigrette can be used in salad dressings or to marinate other proteins, while the pineapple consommé makes a nice addition to a rum-based cocktail.