Ceviche: A Recipe

Posted by:
Susan Rooke
September 13, 2018

When I was a teenager, I lived in Panama for several months. Panama City, the capital, is a coastal city with the Pacific Ocean at its door. I’ve never lived anywhere else quite like it. Seafood was abundant and spectacularly fresh, and the city had countless open-air cafés that served it. I still remember the evenings I spent in those cafés: the lively sparkle of city lights, the ocean smell and traffic fumes mingling with the savory aromas of grilling fish and beef, the garlicky chimichurri sauce often on the table as an accompaniment, the endless stream of pedestrians passing by or standing in noisy groups, laughing and flirting, moving to the beat of loud music. In these cafés, eating wonderful food simply prepared and made even more memorable by the raucous parade of life around me, my enthusiasm for the ceviche served there—the style I’m about to share with you—was born.

Which brings me to a confession. The word “ceviche” covers a wide range of possible ingredients and there are scads of recipes out there that make use of them. But I have to say right now that most of them don’t interest me. As much as I like shrimp, scallops, squid and octopus, I don’t want any of them in my ceviche. I also don’t want my ceviche studded with cubes of fruit. No avocado or tomato, please. No mango or melon, and definitely no papaya, which smells to me like a hair straightening product I used to use. I want it left alone. And to be more exact, I guess the version I make would be “Ceviche de Pescado,” (fish) as opposed to, say, “Ceviche de Pulpo” (octopus [nobody asked me, but I think "pulpo" is the most perfect word for octopus in any language]) or “Ceviche de Camaron” (shrimp). Finfish is the star ingredient. That’s it. With onion, lime juice, chile peppers and seasonings in supporting roles. Like this:

CEVICHE

1 lb. firm, white-fleshed skinless raw fish fillets, cubed
4 oz. fresh-squeezed lime juice, plus the juice of 1-2 extra limes
½ c. finely chopped onion
1 tsp. sugar
Tabasco or Cholula hot sauce, a couple of dashes
Fresh chiles, seeded and finely chopped, to taste
Salt and white pepper to taste
Tostadas for serving (optional)

Put all ingredients in a glass bowl (lime juice will react with aluminum and cast iron in vile and disgusting ways) and stir to combine. Cover and refrigerate. For the first 4 hours, stir frequently (about every 30 minutes). Ready to eat in 6 hours.

Notes:

• For larger or smaller quantities, the proportions are 1 oz. fresh lime juice (plus a little extra) and ¼ tsp. sugar to each 4 oz. trimmed fish. Make a quantity that you’re sure will be eaten up within 48 hours or less.
• As for the fish, snapper or grouper is fantastic. But since I didn’t want to pay $22.97 per lb. for grouper, I made this batch with Tilapia (for about 6 bucks) instead.
• I use Persian limes. If you’re using something smaller, squeeze 3 or 4 more limes instead of 1-2. The juice should come up to about ¼” (or a bit lower) below the top of the fish. Bear in mind too, that the fish and onion will exude some juices, adding to the quantity of the marinade in the bowl and creating a delicious blend of flavors.
• For the chiles, I use 2 jalapenos per pound of fish, because that’s what I grow and always have on hand. Serranos are great too.
• Yellow sweet onions are my choice here. They don’t overpower the fish.
• For 1 lb. of fish, I use a scant tsp. of fine sea salt and about ¼ tsp. white pepper.
• Conventional wisdom says to use only fresh fish fillets, but I’ve used (and enjoyed) flash-frozen. We don’t always have a choice in the matter, unfortunately.
• This recipe doesn’t call for cilantro, but I wouldn’t be averse to adding a sprinkling at the end.
• Many recipes for so-called “Classic Ceviche” call for much more lime juice. But then you’re often told to drain it after the fish has set, in order to prevent it from becoming too lime-y and sour. You won’t need to do that with this recipe. As long as you stir the mixture frequently for the first 4 hours, the fish will “cook” with the amount of lime juice I recommend.

Season with traffic fumes, flirting and loud music as desired. Enjoy!

10 comments on “Ceviche: A Recipe”

  1. Susan, you have supplied us with a delightful and useful recipe, which will be filed immediately in the "must try" file. Now, of course, you have not mentioned the libations of choice. Your adoring followers demand to know. Best, John

    1. Hi, John! For that question, I turned to the family libation expert, The Daughter. After giving it some thought, Katie suggests a fruity white wine or a pineapple margarita. I've enjoyed fruity white with ceviche (with this batch, in fact, and it was delicious), but I've never even tasted a pineapple margarita. Sounds scrumptious! And it makes me wonder if a pineapple daiquiri would be good too?

      I hope you do try this ceviche and let me know what you think!

  2. Put it on the list for Christmas! I feel constrained to point out, however, that the post is titled "Ceviche: A Recipe," which I thought might encourage people to make it for themselves. *ahem* 😉

  3. Oh Nita, this recipe sounds perfectly scrumptious, delectable, wonderful, and dare I say easy? I hope it can come with some steel drums and an attractive reggae singer. And how about a beach while I'm at it. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Jean!! So good to see you here! You, my dear, can have anything you like with this ceviche. The recipe is the easy part, for sure. The rest of your menu is up to you to acquire!

  4. I love the scene you describe of the cafe by the ocean- so relaxing and uplifitng! Sitting outside by the ocean seems to make things taste better, I've found. Thank you for sharing this recipe. It sounds delicious, and I will give it a try. I will probably have some guacamole somewhere in the vicinity, along with maybe a Caesar salad.
    I always enjoy hearing about cooking from a cook who has strong opinions about how things should or shouldn't be made, those who are not easily distracted by shiny, whimsical, internet food trends.
    I am curious about whether you ever make chimichurri at home? I have made it a few times and I just love it on everything, and could eat it with a spoon. We must discuss this in more detail at some point!

    1. "Shiny, whimsical, internet food trends"--I love it!! You and I have always been on the same page there, Claire. I hope you enjoy this ceviche!

      I tried making chimichurri a long time ago, once, when the memory of what I'd eaten in Panama was still fresh. It didn't even come close. The recipe I tried purported to be the Argentinian version, so maybe it's just different in Panama. I would love to make it again now that I'm not trying to duplicate a flavor long-vanished from my recall. Would you share your recipe with me, please ma'am? I look forward to our discussion on these matters!

      1. Well I am afraid I don't have a recipe. I've made both chimichurri and also an Italian salsa verde, and I love both of them with equal passion. Both of these sauces came into my life when I became determined to find a use for leftover herbs, especially those huge bunches of parsley that you buy in a grocery store. As I recall I just started looking up recipes online, and when I came across one that included mostly ingredients I had on hand I went with it, and improvised as needed. And that is still how I approach it, with a healthy does of whatever, impatience, carelessness. I think for the chimichurri I used the recipe I found on the Bon Appetite website as a reference point, and it might be based on the Argentinian recipes. It includes the ingredients below. I gave it a few pulses in a food processor, which is not the recommended technique, but I did it anyway (recipes can be so bossy, but it's my life and I wasn't in the mood for chopping).

        1 shallot, finely chopped
        1 Fresno chile or red jalapeño, finely chopped
        3–4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced or finely chopped
        ½ cup red wine vinegar
        1 tsp. kosher salt, plus more
        ½ cup finely chopped cilantro
        ¼ cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
        2 Tbsp. finely chopped oregano
        ¾ cup extra-virgin olive oil

        The Italian salsa verde is also a winner: parsley, olive oil, capers, anchovies, vinegar, lemon juice, garlic, and lemon zest And I also just discovered i have a recipe for Peruvian green sauce, also known as Aji Verde, in my files as well. Who knows where that came from? I have never used it, but it also sounds delicious.
        Clearly more research is needed, and some discussion! I will be back in touch when I have more concrete data to share.

        1. Thank you, Claire, this sounds delicious!! And a little different from other chimichurri recipes I've seen. I need to make the Italian sauce as well. That 's one I've never made. (It reminds me, though, that I used to buy large jars of anchovies at Mandola's Italian Market. I LOVE anchovies! Since I don't live anywhere close to Mandola's now, maybe World Market would have some?) Discussion of all these green sauces must take place over a warm, nourishing breakfast soon!

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