Not by Wine Alone….


Fish Ceviche for TwoDSC04449

With the summer coming on hard on British Columbians, red wines yield the right of way to a constellation of whites and rosés. Local brews and imports from all over the world offer endless possibilities to the wine enthusiast. What about food? No one should be too excited about oven-roasting a piece of lamb in a day with temperatures well over 25C. Salads and cold dishes are the order of the day. In hot days like these, seafood, preferably slightly cooked or just plain raw acquires an appeal that is hard to match. One of the tastiest seafood dishes is ceviche, basically strips of fish or shellfish marinated in citrus juice and spiced with hot peppers.

Although it is made in a variety of styles, depending on the country where it comes from, Peruvian ceviche shows the highest expression of the seafood flavour, due to its minimalist approach. Central American, Ecuadorian and Mexican ceviches call for long marinating periods that go from one to several hours. Recipes include tomato juice, tomato, avocado, olives, green onion, celery, capers, onion and a whole array of other vegetables and even spices. In Peruvian ceviche the fish meets the citrus juice only minutes before serving. Once on the plate, there is only the fuits de mer, the condiments and a few plumes of crisp red onion.

The Recipe

Half a pound of white fish fillet of, preferably sole or basa–ideally halibut- is cut into strips 1 cm long by 1/2 cm thick. Salt, ground black pepper and chopped hot pepper (all to taste) are then combined in a bowl with the fish strips. Put away in the fridge for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes or so. The heat will depend on how one likes it. For less hot ceviche, jalapeños works well. Habaneros and red Thai peppers are hotter. Avoid using pre-made hot sauces, as they usually have sugar and vinegar and will overpower the delicate flavours of the seafood.

Bring the ceviche mix out and add lime juice. IThis is a crucial step, because many inexperienced cevicheros over-acidify their dish. Every lime or lemon has different intensity of acidity, so it is better to approach this with caution. Add the juice gradually, stirring the mix. When the juice reaches the level of the fish, add no more. Stir, take back to fridge and let marinade for five minutes, if you are into raw fish (think Sushi) or 15 to 20 minutes if you like it “well done”. The citric acid of the juice will “cook” the fish, turning it an opaque white. Bring the marinade out, stir and taste.

This is the moment to adjust the acidity. Add some more juice if necessary. If it tastes excessively acidic do not panic. Remove some juice with a spoon and replace with cold water. Always adjust the salt after you adjust the acidity. You will find that you need more salt than you would normally use. This is because the intensity of acid and heat numb your taste buds. Adjust heat to taste and return to fridge. Cut very thin slices of red onion and dip in cold, salted water for a few minutes. Take a sprig of cilantro, remove stalk and chop leaves only, very finely. Take ceviche marinade out of fridge, mix in cilantro and serve topped with a handful of (well drained) onion slices. Serve accompanied with boiled and cooled potato, sweet potato or cassava root. Tortilla chips are also an option. Pair with chilled white wine. Torrontés from Argentina, German Riesling (off-dry or halbtrocken Kabinett) and Kiwi or Chilean Sauvignon Blanc are traditional matches. For the more adventurous, a bubbly, like Italian Prosecco or Moscato d’Asti are interesting choices, specially if the garnish is sweet potato. If you like your cebiche really spicy hot, forget about the wine, as your taste buds won’t sense its delicate flavors. Go for a cold beer.

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