This was a very fun one! This week's country for My Kitchen My World was chosen by Shelby of The Life and Loves of Grumpy's Honeybunch. She chose to take us to Ecuador. My husband Jeff served a mission for our church in New York, working with the Spanish-speaking people there for two years. In that time, he met several Ecuadorean families. He says that the Ecuadoreans are known for two foods in particular - ceviche (fish "cooked" in lime juice) and cuy (roast guinea pig). Guess which one I chose to make. And it's not the guinea pig. When I looked up Ecuadorean cuisine online, I also came across something called tronquito. Look it up to see why I decided against this particular dish as well.
So Jeff and I decided to make ceviche. I've heard about it, but never really thought I would make it. Here's a brief description from Wikipedia: "Ceviche is marinated in a citrus-based mixture, with lemons and limes being the most commonly used. In addition to adding flavor, the citric acid causes the proteins in the seafood to become denatured, which pickles or 'cooks' the fish without heat. Traditional style ceviche was marinated up to 3 hours. Modern style ceviche usually has a very short marinating period. With the appropriate fish, it can marinate for as long as it takes to mix the ingredients, serve and carry to the table." The recipe we decided on calls for 4 hours of marinating - I felt more comfortable with a nice long marinating time, to make absolutely sure the fish was done denaturing!
Together Jeff and I decided on a recipe to use, then we headed to Wal-Mart to find the cheapest fish we could (yet still good quality - that's important in ceviche). I don't know if our recipe is truly an authentic Ecuadorean ceviche - each Central and South American region seems to have their own take on this dish. But Jeff gave it his authoritative seal of approval, so we forged onward.
Here is the recipe with our frugal substitutions in red:
1/4 teaspoon white sugar
2 1/2 tablespoons*(see note) sea salt (regular)
1/2 teaspoon chili paste or sauce (purchased on major clearance a couple months ago)
1/4 cup fresh lime juice (no substitute here - bottled isn't acidic enough to properly denature the proteins)
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground pepper (ours wasn't freshly ground)
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil (Canola)
1 clove garlic, minced (bottled)
1/4 cup minced red onion (yellow onion)
1 ripe tomato, finely diced
2 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro (1 tbsp. dried parsley)
1 pound very fresh salmon fillets (sushi-grade preferred), thinly sliced (tilapia - it was the cheapest - but whatever fish you choose, be sure that it is very fresh)
1 avocado, sliced
In a large glass or plastic bowl, dissolve the sugar, salt, and chili paste in the lime juice. Season with pepper and cumin. Stir in the olive oil, garlic, onion, tomato, and cilantro. Gently mix in the salmon, then cover, and refrigerate for 4 hours.
To serve, drain the excess liquid from the salmon, then gently stir in the avocado slices, and allow to rest at room temperature for 15 minutes.
*Note: This amount of salt really seems like too much. Jeff says that ceviche needs to be really salty to keep from allowing bacteria growth. But even he agreed that this tasted too salty. Maybe try just 1 1/2 tbsp. of salt instead of 2 1/2.
Food safety note: Since we're working with uncooked fish, finish eating it all on the first day - try not to leave any leftovers. It could go bad very quickly. In Ecuador (and New York, and anywhere else where they eat ceviche) this is a big deal. They will invite friends, family, and neighbors over for dinner when they prepare ceviche, specifically so that it all gets eaten right away. So don't leave leftovers!
Okay, now that all that recipe and food safety stuff is out of the way - how did it taste? It was great! Like I pointed out, it was quite salty, but despite the saltiness the flavor was amazing. I've never had ceviche, so I have nothing to compare it with, but Jeff said it tasted pretty authentic to him. The texture of the fish was tender, a bit different from fish that has been actually cooked, but definitely nice. My favorite part was the avocado - I love avocado in just about anything!
We chose to serve this with some very simple accompaniments. The Ecuadorean people serve their foods with thick tortillas and, like most Hispanic cultures, rice and beans. So we used our trusty Maseca (masa harina) to make nice thick tortillas:
And we cooked up some simple beans and rice. Seriously simple. We didn't even season them.
All in all, this was a delicious meal! Check out what the other My Kitchen My World-ers made this week!
I'm also submitting this to Frugal Fridays (1 meal for four, under $10) - though I know I'm cutting it close because it's Saturday morning. Here's the price breakdown:
Tilapia - $4.10
Limes - $0.50
Avocado - $0.58
Tomato - $0.50
Beans - $0.40
Rice - $0.60
Maseca - $0.40
Everything else - too cheap to list
Total Price: $7.08 :-)