Recently, I heard a quote from uber-foodie, author, and TV personality Nigella Lawson in which she insisted that entertaining shouldn’t be about your aspirations, but about your personality. That would certainly sober all the people who run to the higher ground of the kitchen seeking solace from the world in the creation of functional art, myself included.
Energized by my pronounced disagreement with Lawson, I dream in the kitchen. As usual, there are guests coming over later, but thankfully a little bit of a forewarning will allow me to present something truly unique.
Ceviche is, at its simplest, marinated fish. This dish migrated northward from Peru to Mexico, not westward from Spain to North America as I had originally thought. The twist is that it’s marinated not to prepare it for cooking, but instead of cooking. The fish or shellfish is bathed in citrus juice, which breaks down its proteins, in essence doing the same thing that heat would do. It reminds me of warm weather, the topic of my dreams lately.
With its tender pink flesh and buttery texture, salmon lends itself wonderfully to ceviche. A little will go a long way, so three-quarters of a pound is all I need from the local fish market. The next stop is La Bodega Latina, a repository of (almost) everything needed for Hispanic-influenced cooking, including ripe produce from warm climates. An avocado, a mango, and two plantains go in the basket. The limes look a little rugged, but they are they essential catalyst for this little culinary experiment, so they make the cut. Easy-to-find corn tortillas will feature in the hand-fried chips (but the thinner ones from the supermarket fry better than those at La Bodega). Surprisingly, the scallion, fresh green chiles, and parsley are not to be found, requiring another stop.
First things first: the salmon needs to start doing its thing with the citrus because this part needs the most time. Skin the filet with a sharp knife, wash it, pat it dry, and then cut it into quarter-inch cubes. Ceviche convention dictates about a half-cup of lime juice for every half-pound of fish, so place it in a plastic container with a lid, and pour in about three-quarters of a cup of the fresh-squeezed lime juice. Give it a shake and refrigerate for two hours.
Meanwhile, it’s fry time. Cut a stack of tortillas into quarters, and fry the chips in one and a half cups of corn or vegetable oil. Once golden brown, remove and let cool on a paper grocery bag. Salt to taste. Next, peel and cut the plantains into thin slices. Fry these in the same oil, watching the sugars caramelize to a rich brown. These will need to cool on a bag as well.
After two hours, the salmon should be ready. Drain most of the juice off, leaving roughly a tablespoon. Add a chopped green chile, scallions, mango, and parsley, then season with salt and pepper. If it's around, throw on a tablespoon of virgin coconut oil as well. Place a slice of avocado and a plantain chip atop the tortillas, arranged on a plate. Then spoon the ceviche in little piles on top.