On one of my first trips to Mexico, I sampled a wonderful ceviche dish made from fresh largemouth bass marinated in lime juice, chilies and various spices. At first, I was hesitant to try it. When you’re visiting a country south of the border, you have to be leery about eating anything uncooked. My host assured me, however, that the fish had actually been cooked in the citrus juice and was safe to eat. So I gave it a try.
I was surprised how deliciously spicy this exotic new dish was. It quickly became one of my favorite foreign repasts. In the years since, I’ve tried variations of the basic ceviche recipe in Brazil, Venezuela and, more recently, several U.S. restaurants.
Sometimes spelled seviche or cebiche, this uniquely American fish dish is enormously popular in the western countries of South America, as well as Mexico, the Caribbean and other parts of Latin America. It has many variations but is basically a simple blending of fish and citrus juice, with the addition of vegetables and spices.
The chemical process that occurs when the citric acid comes in contact with the fish is similar to what happens when the fish is cooked and the flesh becomes opaque and firm. The fish is not actually cooked, but the resulting dish is tasty indeed. South American cooks often use the juice of their lemons, which are not as sweet as those in this country. Further north, limes are the fruit of choice, although many people use a mixture of lemon and lime, and sometimes orange or grapefruit juice as well.
Ceviche often is served as an appetizer or light entrée. Almost any fish or shellfish can be incorporated as long as it is absolutely fresh. You can include onions, chilies, tomatoes, peppers, cilantro and a wide variety of other ingredients. I like to experiment with my own additions, and using the following recipes as a guide, you can, too.
Bass Ceviche Recipe
- 1 pound black bass fillets, diced in 1/8-inch cubes
- 1 cup orange juice
- 1 cup lemon juice
- 1 cup lime juice
- ½ cup cilantro leaves
- 2 tomatoes, quartered, seeded, cut in small strips
- 1 Bermuda onion
- 1 jalapeño pepper, finely diced
- 4 each orange, lime and lemon segments for garnish
Mix the orange, lemon and lime juices in a large bowl. Reserve half for the final preparation. Combine the remaining half with the diced black bass. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
The next day, combine the cilantro, tomato, onion and jalapeño pepper in a mixing bowl. Remove the black bass from the refrigerator and strain it, discarding all the marinating juices.
In a separate bowl, combine the black bass with the cilantro, tomato, onion, jalapeño pepper mixture. Add the remaining 1 ½ cups of juices.
Arrange the ceviche in four equal portions on salad plates. Garnish each with one section of a lemon, a lime and an orange.
Catfish Ceviche with Fresh Vegetable Salsa Recipe
- 1 ½ pounds catfish fillets
- 1 red onion, cut into fine strips
- 1 white onion, cut into fine strips
- 2 fresh lemons, halved
- 2 fresh limes, halved
- Salt, pepper
- 1 ounce olive oil
- 2 ounces sweet cream butter
- 1 red pepper, cut into fine strips
- 1 green pepper, cut into fine strips
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
Cut catfish fillets into bite-sized pieces. Mix in a bowl with red onion and white onion. Squeeze the lemons and limes into the bowl, getting all the juice you can. Add salt and pepper to taste, cover, and allow to marinate at least 24 hours in the refrigerator, stirring occasionally.
Heat olive oil and butter in a sauté pan. Place pieces of catfish in pan and brown on all sides. Add red and green pepper, garlic and contents of marinade and sauté an additional 30 seconds, or just until warm. Serve immediately
Crappie and Scallop Ceviche Recipe
- 1 pound crappie fillets
- ½ pound bay scallops
- ½ cup fresh lemon juice
- ½ cup fresh lime juice
- ½ cup chopped fresh mint (or 2 tablespoons dried)
- ¼ teaspoon hot pepper sauce
- ¾ cup chopped tomatoes
- ½ cup chopped red onion
- Lettuce leaves
- 1 ripe avocado
- mint sprigs
Slice the crappie fillets and scallops lengthwise. Then slice crosswise into ¼-inch-thick slices. Combine crappie, scallops, lemon juice, lime juice, mint and hot pepper sauce in a shallow non-metallic container. Cover tightly and refrigerate 8-24 hours. When ready to serve, drain crappie and scallops. Add tomatoes and red onion; toss well. Peel and slice avocado. Arrange ceviche on plates lined with lettuce. Garnish with avocado slices and mint sprigs.
Quick and Easy Ceviche Recipe
- 1 pound of fillets from your favorite fish
- Chopped jalapenos, to taste
- ½ onion, chopped
- Lemon juice
- Lime juice
Dice raw fish. Add jalapenos and onion, and combine. Place this mixture in a glass bowl. Completely cover with juices, using a proportion of 1 lemon to 4 limes. Cover the bowl, place in the refrigerator and marinate for 8 to 24 hours. Serve with crackers or tortillas.