The process of ‘cooking’ fish or shrimp in a citrus marinade is ancient and still common in Central and South American coastal communities. Lime, lemon, grapefruit and bitter orange juices are employed to denature the proteins in fresh halibut, mahi mahi, sea bass, flounder, shrimp, octopus, squid, tuna and mackerel.
Traditional flavorings vary by region and can include salt, onion, chiles, avocado, coriander, parsley, cilantro, hot and sweet peppers.
This citrus pickling of fresh seafood can take from a few minutes to several hours, depending on the fish chosen and the thickness of the cut. More delicate fish like flounder or other white fish may be served after a brief period of marinating, while octopus and squid may take as long as 3-8 hours, depending on how they are cut and prepared.
I decided to make ceviche while I was out running around to the banks and the post office. Summer is a perfect time to have a cool entrée. And summer in Vermont, which can furnish us with cool evenings, makes a wonderful setting for a contrasts. I ran by the grocery and developed the meal as I went.
6 fresh limes
1 lb. of fresh 26/30 count Shrimp
1 sweet Red Pepper
A spray of vine-ripened Tomatoes
1 medium sized Fennel root
2 ripe Avocados
Crisp Fried Zucchini/Potato Pancakes:
1 large Zucchini
3-4 Russet potatoes
Pan Roasted Broccoli and Vidalia Onion:
3-4 Broccoli crowns
1 large Vidalia onion
The key to making Zucchini/Potato Pancakes is getting the moisture out of the ingredients, so the first thing I did was to grate the zucchini and the potatoes into a heavy colander, toss them with salt and set them to drain over a bowl deep enough so the colander would never be sitting in the juice.
Pressing the pulp down firmly, I extracted nearly three cups of liquid from the pulp and pouring it out found a 1/4″ layer of white potato starch in the bottom of the bowl, which I might have used to thicken something, but didn’t. Note to self. I covered the pulp in the colander with plastic wrap and continued to return to it the press it down now and then over the course of the afternoon.
I shelled, de-veined and cut the shrimp in half lengthwise to shorten their curing time. I zested two of the limes after washing them carefully and then juiced all six, combining the prepared shrimp, juice and zest in a covered container with about 1-1/5 tablespoons of kosher salt. I set this in the refrigerator and gave is a shake once or twice over the next six or seven hours. It is best if the juice actually covers the seafood you choose.
I then trimmed and split the broccoli florets into one bowl, seeded and de-veined the red pepper, trimmed and skinned the Vidalia onion, washed and cleaned the fennel, and washed two of the ripest of the tomatoes, set them aside covered with plastic wrap and went back to my guitar.
I drained the shrimp, which were beautifully opaque, reserving the lime juice. Dicing the red pepper, taking thin shavings off the fennel root to julienne, cutting the tomatoes cross-wise and seeding them prior to a dice to match the red peppers, I put this all in the lime juice reserved from the shrimp.
My wife halved and cut the avocados into slices and then crosswise into shrimp-sized pieces and these also went into the lime juice briefly. Then all were strained out and let to dry for a few minutes.
The shrimp were patted dry and all these elements were combined in a large bowl and set under wrap in the refrigerator.
Broccoli & Vidali Onion & Zucchini/Potato Pancakes:
I heated up my favorite wok, cut the onion into chunks and tossed them in a little browned butter over medium-high heat, then turned down to medium low.
I heated up my biggest cast iron frying pan and put about 1/4″ of canola oil in it.
I tossed the broccoli florets in on top of the onion in the wok and covered it, turning the heat down as low as possible. And preheated the oven to 400 degrees, putting a sided baking sheet with a cake rack in it to receive the pancakes as they were done.
I combined two beaten eggs and some fresh ground black pepper with the well-drained and squeezed zucchini and potato pulp and tossed it around. Adding about 3/4 cup of this mixture to the hot oil in the frying pan I flattened it out with the edge of the spatula into a pancake 5-7″ across and let it brown well on one side.
I tossed the broccoli and onion mixture in the wok and uncovered it.
I turned the pancake using a second spatula for the top to keep it from splashing in the oil and browned the other side well. As these were done, I removed them in turn to the pre-heated cake rack/baking sheet rig in the oven until they were all cooked.
We laid out fresh bib lettuce from the garden on the plates, put a crisp zucchini/potato pancake on that, eased a spoonful of the broccoli and Vidalia onion up against it and put a couple of heaping spoonfuls of the shrimp ceviche with red pepper, tomato, avocado, fennel shavings and lime zest on top of the pancake, opened a couple of beers and headed for the table.
Guest: Keith Murphy
Our neighbor here in what we affectionately call Brattleboro’s music ghetto, Keith Murphy, joined us for dinner and conversation on the side porch. The air was cool and relatively dry. Traffic on Washington Street was blessedly slow and infrequent. Our conversation meandered through music and politics, local personalities and the music business. Then we walked across the street to admire his new wooden fence.