I took a much needed beach vacation this weekend. Pensacola was beautiful, but the food was really what made the trip.
Any time my Italian family gets to together, the resulting food is incredible. And I’m talking quantity and quality here. We don’t just do pasta and meat balls either. Everyone has their own style and eclectic taste – probably has something to do with the Italian heritage, growing up in New Orleans, and then moving all over the country. Whatever it is, I love it. I love how at any given moment, someone is in the kitchen making something. Even on a beautiful day at the beach. And how we have to make daily grocery store trips where we buy enough food to last most families an entire week. Somehow we never have any problems with leftovers.
One thing you should know about my family is that everyone is very competitive. About everything. Anything that could possibly prove one family member’s superiority over another’s instantly becomes a contest. I guess that sounds bad, but I promise it’s all for fun. And apparently productive, seeing as this recipe is the result of a harmless family competition.
This all began when my grandmother decided that our family would consume 30 pounds of shrimp during our week-long trip. That is a ton of shrimp even for even for 16 people. This plethora of fresh raw shrimp sparked the ingenious idea to have a shrimp cook-off the following day. The options were limitless, the only constraint was that you must incorporate shrimp. It reminded me of some Food Network challenge – slightly easier, I guess considering we didn’t have to combine 5 unrelated ingredients in 20 minutes to make an appetizer…
By the next day, the enthusiasm for another full day of cooking had died down – most likely due to the gorgeous sun and breeze visible from our beach front house! But I guess I had my heart set on making a fresh fish and shrimp ceviche. It is so healthy and light, I feel like I could live off of it in the summer. Ceviche is one of those recipes that looks and tastes much more complicated than it actually is. Anyone can pull it off with a few fresh ingredients, and it works wonderfully as an appetizer, side, or even a simple main dish with some tortilla ships!
For anyone who is not familiar with ceviche, it is not raw fish. Ceviche is traditionally any type of fresh (this is a key word here, don’t try it with anything frozen) seafood which is marinated in a citrus-based mixture, commonly lemons and limes. Becides bringing a unique and refreshing flavor to the dish, the citric acid causes the proteins in the seafood to become denatured. This is actually how the raw seafood is cooked! Although the “cook time” varies significantly depending on the type of seafood used, ceviche is usually marinated for about 2-3 hours. Because it requires no heat to prepare this dish it is perfect for hot summers – and teaching kids a few things about science!
Fish and Shrimp Ceviche
- 1 lb fresh white fish (I used tilapia), cut into 1/2 inch pieces
- 1 lb shrimp, peeled and deveined, cut in half long ways
- 2 serrano peppers, remove seeds if you don’t want too much heat
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 20-30 limes, juiced
- 1 bunch cilantro, finely chopped
- 2 avocados, cubed
- 2 bell peppers, 1 orange and 1 yellow, diced
- 1 1/2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
- 3-4 tbsp olive oil
- Salt and pepper to taste
Place fish, shrimp, 2 tbsp cilantro, and chopped peppers in a glass bowl. Make sure that all seafood pieces are approximately the same size so that the mixture will marinate evenly. Add enough lime juice to completely cover the shrimp and fish. Cover the dish with plastic wrap and let the dish chill in the refrigerator for 2-3 hours. I took mine out and mixed it up a few times to make sure that the seafood on the top was cooking thoroughly.
When fish and shrimp are fully cooked (fish will be completely white and shrimp will be turning a nice pink color), strain the dish removing the peppers and garlic.
Combine the avocado, bell peppers, tomatoes, remaining cilantro, about 1/4 cup of lime juice, olive oil, salt and pepper in a large bowl. Add shrimp and fish and mix.
Serve on tortillas for a healthy taco, on top of fresh lettuce, or with some chips for an impressive party appetizer!