Ceviche of Scallop, Squid, Kumquats

Ceviche has not caught on like sushi yet. Not sure why. South and Central Americans love it. It's fast, it's healthy. It probably passes for raw and paleo and all that. Certainly it's low carb. It's loaded with vitamins and good clean protein. You can serve it over shredded romaine and radicchio in a martini glass for an elegant brunch or dinner starter. You can serve it as a main course.

It's as refreshing in Winter as it is in Summer. The "Tiger's Milk" or the juices leftover once the seafood is consumed is reputed to be a sure-fire hangover cure.

The main question you get when you mention ceviche is "...but isn't that raw?!" Even from folks who eat sushi!

The extent to which is is "cooked" by the citrus seems to me to be enough that you wouldn't liken it to sushi, but not cooked enough to make it part of a pregnant woman's regular diet. Now, if you're pregnant and you eat canned goods from BPA-lined cans or a burger from nearly anywhere but a clean local farm with an impeccable slaughterhouse -- I'd argue you're safer with this ceviche, but hey, I'm not a doctor.

 

What is ceviche?

Simply put, it's a quick pickle involving citrus juice for the acid (typically lime) and seafood (most often shrimp, scallops, squid or thin white fish fillets.) Shrimp is so problematic and dirty, I mostly avoid it. You have the insane by-catch (up to nine pounds of wasted unintended catch for every single pound of shrimp harvested on traditional equipment), and you have the imported toxic crap. A few exceptions to be sure, but in the main, not so great.

The good news is that scallops can be harvested locally and with little damage (or a lot, ask your fishmonger) and squid is a great choice. Once prepared in this way, both become velvety and firm and not at all "raw fish" tasting.

 

Recipe: Simple Ceviche - Scallops, Squid, Kumquats


Ingredients:

  • 1 lb scallops (diver scallops, dry pack; rinsed, patted dry and cut into thirds, cross-wise)
  • 1 lb squid (sliced into rings)
  • 2 C freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 1 C freshly squeezed lemon and lime juice
  • ~ 1/3 C poblano pepper, minced
  • ~ 1/3 C red onion, minced
  • ~ 1 C sliced kumquats, organic please
  • ~ 1C chopped cilantro
  • 1 TBSP aji amarillo
  • 1 TBSP minced garlic
  • ~ 1/3 C jalapeño, minced

 

Note about ingredients: Aji Amarillo is a deep yellow dried pepper that adds a floral note and gorgeous color to the ceviche. It is native to Peru I think, and it is more widely available than it used to be. Try a market with a good "international" section or drive to your nearest bodega. You will most likely find it in dried, powdered form but sometimes in a paste. I first learned of it through Peruvian food.

Here is a photo of some dried Aji Amarillo pods and also the Aji Amarillo powder. Last year, the New York Times called it a "new staple" ingredient. We couldn't agree more.

Although "amarillo" means yellow, the pepper itself is more red-orange in its natural state, turning this sort of caramel color when dried. It does lend a golden color to food it's cooked with, so perhaps that is where the name came from. The pepper is piquant more than it is hot. Definite fruity and floral notes with a gentle not overpowering heat. Try mixing some into your mayo the next time you're making potato salad. Magic!

 

Directions for assembling your Ceviche:

 

  1. Prepare your vegetables, mincing or slicing, as directed. You can vary the amount of heat by reducing the amount of jalapeño if you like but you can also eat around them. If you prefer less heat, leave the jalapeño in larger slices, rather than mince. Slice the kumquats across. This does two things, gives you pretty slices and enables you to remove seeds.
  2. Squeeze your juices. You positively, absolutely do not want to substitute bottled juices here. Remember as a rule of thumb the fewer the ingredients the more important the quality. (Also the acid level is not as critical as in Canning when you actually do want use bottled lemon juice which has a consistent acidity.)
  3. Prepare your scallops and squid. Rinse, pat dry, slice, then blanch by pouring boiling water over the seafood for just a few seconds, drain immediately. Pat dry.
  4. Mix it all together in a large glass or non-reactive bowl.
  5. Cover and refrigerate for four hours. Stir once to ensure all the seafood is evenly submerged. If you leave it in the marinade longer, the seafood will continue to firm up. This is neither good nor bad, just is. I would not be able to tell you what happens after overnight, because we never have it around that long.
The beautiful golden color is imparted by the Aji Amarillo. Sunny, refreshing, healthy, delicious. What could be better?