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CHEF'S CORNER

 
Ceviche and Escabeche
By: Deirdre Cooper

 

 

Here we are in glorious July. We have survived the winter storms, the spring cleanup, the planting, the myriad end of school activities and spring party occasions. Now it is time for long summer days, warm nights and easier pace. We eat and cook differently in summer and I am always looking for ways to have meals almost at the ready to spend as little time after work as possible preparing dinner and more time in the pool. Our connection to my husband's South American roots and our time in the islands has introduced us to the world of ceviches and escabeches. There are many, many versions of both and experimenting is encouraged, but for starters, do try some of the recipes below to become acquainted with these wonderful, refreshing, light and healthy dishes.
 
Ceviche (sev-ee-chay) and Escabeche (ess-ka-bay-chay) are both dishes with Spanish and Latin American roots which have become quite popular in recent years. They are both a form of "pickling" food in either citrus or vinegar. In addition to adding flavor, the citric acid causes the proteins in the seafood to become denatured, and appearing to be cooked. (Please note that acid marinades will not kill bacteria, unlike the heat of cooking.) For this reason it is very important that your fish or seafood is super fresh for these recipes. Most dishes are made ahead of time and served cold, making them perfect for summer as either appetizers or a main dish.
 
Ceviche is typically made from fresh raw fish or shellfish cured in citrus juices, such as lemon or lime and spiced with a variety of additional seasonings such as chili peppers, chopped onions, salt, coriander, garlic, oregano, cilantro and many others as you will see from the samplings below. As an appetizer, you can make a pretty presentation in individual glasses or bowls or it can be served from a large platter with crusty bread or nachos on the side.
 
Escabeche is the name for a number of dishes in Mediterranean and Latin American kitchens which usually refer to a dish of either poached or fried fish, chicken or pork marinated in an acidic mixture before serving. The main difference between this and ceviche is that the food is cooked before marinating. It is usually served cold after marinating in the refrigerator overnight or longer.
 

Classic Fish Escabeche
 

 

1/4 cup kosher salt
2 bay leaves
2 mashed garlic cloves
1/4 cup olive oil
1 large onion, sliced into half moons
1 tsp black peppercorns
1/2 tsp cumin
1 tsp dried thyme leaves
1 tbsp dried oregano
1 cup fish or chicken broth
1 cup white wine
1 cup white wine vinegar
1 lb fish fillets cut in 2 – 3 inch pieces
 
Combine the 1/4 cup salt with 4 cups water, stir to combine and brine the fish in this mixture for 30-45 minutes.
 
Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large pan and add the mashed garlic and 2 bay leaves. Cook until the garlic browns, but do not let it burn. Remove garlic and bay leaves and discard.
 
Turn the heat up to med-hi and cook the fish, searing well on each side. It does not need to cook all the way through. Remove the fish to cool, then add the onion and cook until translucent. Remove onion to cool. Now add all the remaining ingredients, turn the heat to high and bring to rolling boil until reduced by half. Turn off heat and let cool. When everything is at room temperature, pour the sauce over the fish and onions and store in refrigerator overnight. The fish will be good for a week or more as long as it is covered by the sauce. Serve cool or at room temperature.
 


 
Chicken in Escabeche
 
Thighs, split or boned breasts or split Cornish hens may be used here.
 
Lay six pieces of any of the above side by side in bottom of pan.
 

 

 

Cut approx. 6 garlic cloves in half. Mix even parts of oil and red wine (or tarragon) vinegar, 6 bay leaves, tbsp. whole peppercorns and 1 tbsp dried oregano in a bowl. (use one cup each of liquid for this recipe, adjust for more or less chicken). Pour this mixture over the chicken.
 
Slice onions paper thin and layer over top. Julienne enough carrots to layer over top. Cover and simmer for approx. 40 minutes until chicken is cooked through, then let stand in liquid all day or overnight. Serve cold or at room temperature.
 
Tilapia Ceviche
 


 

2 lbs tilapia filets, cut in small pieces
1 cup fresh lime juice
1/2 cup seeded chopped tomato
1/2 cucumber, peeled, seeded and diced
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
salt and pepper
Nachos or tostadas
Mayonnaise for spreading
1 avocado thinly sliced
One lime cut into wedges
 


 

Put the tilapia in a medium bowl and cover with lime juice. Cover and chill in refrigerator until the fish is white throughout, about 20 minutes.
 
Remove from the refrigerator, drain off juice and discard. Add tomato, cucumber, onion and cilantro. Season with salt and pepper. Spread the tostadas or nachos with mayonnaise and top with ceviche and avocado slice, garnish with lime wedge.
 
Optional is a dash of hot sauce
 
Shrimp Ceviche
 
1 lb raw shrimp, peeled and deveined (21-25 per pound)
Juice of 2 lemons, 2 limes and 2 oranges
1 cup diced seeded peeled cucumber
1/2 cup finely chopped red onion
2 serrano chilies, seeded and finely chopped
1 cup diced seeded tomato
1 avocado cut in ½ inch pieces
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1/4 cup extra virgin oil
1/4 tsp kosher salt
 
Bring salted water to a boil and add shrimp, turn off the heat and let shrimp sit until just cooked through, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a board until cool enough to handle. Chop the shrimp into 1/2 inch pieces and place in a nonreactive bowl. Add lemon, lime and orange juice. Stir in cucumber, onion and chilies. Refrigerate for 1 hour. Stir tomato, avocado, cilantro oil and 1/4 tsp salt into the shrimp mixture. Let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes before serving. Garnish with cilantro leaves.
 
Note: baby sea scallops can be substituted in this recipe.
 


 
 
 
 
Deirdre is a culinary enthusiast who enjoys traveling, gardening, and needless to say works wonders in the kitchen. Deirdre, a native New Yorker, now resides in Ambler with her husband John, and can often be found entertaining family and friends. Enjoy!
 
 
 
 

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