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Discovering the traditional dishes of Costa Rica
Ceviche is a seafood dish popular in the coastal regions of the Americas, especially Central and South America, and the Philippines. The dish is typically made from fresh raw fish marinated in citrus juices such as lemon or lime and spiced with chili peppers.
Additional seasonings such as onion, salt, coriander/cilantro, and pepper may also be added. Ceviche is usually accompanied by side dishes that complement its flavors such as sweet potato, lettuce, corn, or avocado. As the dish is not cooked with heat, it must be prepared fresh to minimize the risk of food poisoning.
The origin of Ceviche is disputed. Possible origin sites for the dish include the western coast of north-central South America, or in Central America. Other coastal societies such as the Polynesian islands of the south Pacific are also attributed the invention of the plate.
The origin of the name of the dish is also disputed. One hypothesis suggests that the common Spanish word for the dish, "cebiche," has its origin in the Latin word cibus, which translates to English as "food for men and animals." Another hypothesis, supported by the Royal Spanish Academy, is that the name might derive from the Spanish-Arabic word assukkabá, which itself derives from the Arabic word sakbāj (سكباج meaning: meat cooked in vinegar). Further hypotheses base the origin of the term on escabeche, Spanish for pickle, or that it is simply a variation of the word siwichi, the traditional Quechua name for the dish.
1) Like sushi, make sure your fish is fresh. If your fish is not fresh, it will become mushy and fishy taste. Try and keep it cold; an hour in room temperature and the fish will start to decay, consequently becoming, fishy.
2) Cut out the Red in the fish – The red is the blood line of the fish and some people like this taste. When you see gray areas in the cooked fish, this is the blood that has been cooked.
3) Before slicing and dicing your fish, put it in the freezer for 10-15 minutes (or until fish is very cold to touch), this makes it easier to cut the fish. Like sushi, make sure your knife is sharp.
4) Always cook your fish in a glass bowl or ceramic bowl (non-reactive casserole dish) and cover it tightly when it is cooking in the refrigerator. Do not use Stainless steel, aluminum and plastic bowls; the metal taste will bleed into the fish. And there is something about a good old fired ceramic bowl that adds flavor, this is what the maid in Todos Santos used to cook the fish in.
5) Always mix your cooking ingredients in one bowl, and set stand for a few minutes before mixing it in with the fish. The helps blend the flavors.
6) When the fish/shellfish is cooking in the refrigerator, about every half hour, go in and toss it. This does two things, 1) Keeps the cooking more uniform, and 2) lets you see how the cooking is being done.
7) Check the cooking. When tossing the fish, grab the biggest piece and pull it apart. During the marinating/cooking process the fish/shellfish will change from pinkish grey and translucent, to whiter in color and opaque. Usually for a pound, the process takes 3-4 hours. If it is not ready to serve, drain the lime juice and place back in refrigerator (with tightly sealed lid) until time to serve.
Ceviche it is a simple dish, the process of cutting any raw fish into little pieces and cooking it in the acidity of lime or lemon juice for a few hours. It is a matter of preference, dorado, tuna, cod, snapper, sea bass, tilapia, corvine, swordfish, serria (Spanish Mackerel), marlin*, and wahoo are all good. Shellfish is also used and also lobster, oysters and clams can also be used.
Special note: In Costa Rica, marlin is now protected; recently some hotels have removed marlin from the menu.
Like meat, always try and cut across the grain of the fish. There are three ways to cut the fish:
Cubing – Cutting it in 3/4 x 3/4 cubes and no less.
Strips – The cut in long (1 1/2-2″) and thin (1/4-3/8″) strips
Pancaking – Same as strips (my personal best) but the cut is about 1/2- 3/4 thick, and as long as you can make it. Place the slices on wax paper and another over the top. Now flatten it out with a rolling pin as you would do with making a pizza dough. Make it about 1/8-1/4 thick. This is perfect to drape over a mega tortilla chip and/or line and garnish a salad. This also cuts the cooking time down in half.
Ceviche can be served with any meal as a side disk or appetizer, any-time of the day/evening snack or even a main course like Ceviche Tacos or Burritos (see recipes below). It can be served with corn tortilla chips, crackers, toasted or pita bread, flour or corn tortillas or just in a bowl or cup and eaten by itself. Ceviche and a few ice cold beers go together like peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.
In Latin American countries, especially those cities by the coast, the fish is usually fresher and not frozen as the fish you would get in the US. Plus, the fruits and vegetables are sweeter and have developed more flavor, where in the US, the picking is premature.
Place fish in freezer. Juice the limes and strain to remove the pulp and seeds. Add garlic, soda pop, ½ the cilantro and tomatoes (with all juice) and seasons. Put all into a bowl, mix and let sit for 10 + minutes. Removing fish from freezer cut into cubes and/or strips and/or pancake. Now add fish/shellfish to bowl and mix so all the cooking ingredients have covered the fish. Cover tightly and put in refrigerator. Toss and turn about every ½ hour until fish/shellfish is almost cooked (usually about a ½- hour before its cooked) then add remaining ingredients of tomatoes, onions etc. Total time should be between 3-4 hours. Once fish/shellfish is cooked, remove, strain lime juice, cut avocado/mango into 3/4″ cubes and mix with fish/shellfish. Or slice mango/avocado and use as a garish.
Serve with corn tortilla chips, or crackers or whatever you want.
Follow the Preparation for Basic Ceviche
One thing about Ceviche, it is already cook. So using it as a main dish, all you really need to do is heat it up. Also make sure the Ceviche is drained well from the lime juice. You may want to pat the Ceviche dry with a paper towel.
Heat corn tortillas either by grill and/or place in very hot frying pan and Ceviche and Shrimp Tacosheat both sizes.
In separate frying pan stir fry Ceviche until it is heated ONLY - this only takes about a minute if not less depending on how much to put in. Try not to burn or over cook.
Once heated either smear the inside of the tortilla with your favorite guacamole recipe and/or mix avocado cubes.
Add chopped lettuce and grated goat cheese (or any cheese of your choice), sour cream (optional) and serve open face.
Heat refried beans in frying pan. Once beans are hot, turn heat to low. Add Ceviche and stir until Ceviche is mixed well. The mix should be ½ and ½. The heat from the beans will heat the Ceviche. Be careful to not over cook Ceviche.
Heat flour tortillas either by grill and/or place in very hot frying pan and heat. You can also use a microwave.
Place beans and Ceviche into middle of flour tortilla and spread evenly down centered but keep it a few inches from outside of tortilla. Add chopped lettuce, choice of grated cheese, and avocado slices. Fold tortilla and serve.
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