Friday Fun: Chilean-style Ceviche Recipe

ETC2010

A bit of backstory about this particular recipe: I learned it thanks to the power of marketing years ago. Well, sort of. Once upon a time I worked for a student loan company. That company had sent me to a trade show called the Educational Travel Conference, or ETC, to present about international student health insurance. But times changed between the time I applied to speak and I actually got to the conference, and by that point I was working for a different company. Nonetheless, I carried on and presented about email marketing instead.

At the conference, the trade show floor could only be described as culinary magnificence. Many of the exhibitors were educational departments of embassies, and few things demonstrate a country’s cultural riches like native food. At the event, I grabbed what looked like a shot glass filled with… something… and I took a bite of the contents. It was magnificent – citrus, sour, salt, fresh herbs, and fish. I had no idea what it was so I asked the sous chef of the Chilean embassy who told me in halting English that it was called ceviche, a seafood dish popular in many South American countries. He said what made Chilean ceviche different was that only the Chileans used grapefruit juice, while other countries stuck to lemon or lime, and only Chilean ceviche used cilantro. I’ve no idea whether there’s any culinary truth to that particular origin story, but I don’t care, either: it’s delicious.

The recipe I found that day called for Chilean sea bass, a nice name for the Patagonian Toothfish (which is a marketing coup in its own right), but I find that tilapia makes for a better taste and texture. It’s entirely up to you which kind of white fish you use as long as it’s relatively mild in flavor. If you’re concerned about freshness and food safety, I recommend buying frozen tilapia filets. Here’s how you make it.

Hotel Ceviche

Finely dice/chop the following:

  • 2 pounds tilapia – aim for 1 cm cubes
  • 1 onion
  • 1 cucumber
  • 1 yellow bell pepper
  • 1/2 cup cilantro

Put the following in a blender and blend on high until no visible solids remain:

  • 2 cups white grapefruit juice
  • 1/4 cup lime juice
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon honey
  • 1 jalapeƱo (add more if you like spicy)
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • Put the diced ingredients in a non-reactive container like a glass pitcher or high-sided bowl. Pour the blended juices over top until the fish is completely submerged. Refrigerate from 4 to 12 hours. During this time, the acid in the juices will “cook” the fish without hardening it, making it wonderfully tender to each. Serve in a glass, bowl, cup, or other non-reactive dish.

    This is a wonderful dish any time of year, but it’s especially refreshing during the hot summer months when you want something that isn’t going to make you feel any warmer.


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    Weekend Foodblogging: Non-Toxic Waffles

    If you do a bunch of Googling, something as simple as waffles makes you scratch your head. Remember Eggo waffles, the brand behind the ad slogan “Leggo my eggo!”? Dig into the ingredients list:

    Ingredients: Enriched flour (wheat flour, niacin, reduced iron, vitamin B1 [thiamin mononitrate], vitamin B2 [riboflavin], folic acid), water, vegetable oil (soybean, palm, and/or canola oil), eggs, leavening (baking soda, sodium aluminum phosphate, monocalcium phosphate), contains 2% or less of sugar, salt, whey, soy lecithin, yellow 5, yellow 6.
    Source: Kellogg’s website

    Looks pretty reasonable, doesn’t it, except for the aluminum? I was curious about the last two, yellow 5 and yellow 6. One is a food coloring banned in some countries in the EU (tartrazine, yellow 5) and the other is derived from petroleum (disodium 6-hydroxy-5-[(4-sulfophenyl)azo]-2-naphthalenesulfonate, yellow 6). On June 30, 2010, the Center for Science in the Public Interest called for the FDA to ban Yellow 5. Executive Director Michael Jacobson said, “These synthetic chemicals do absolutely nothing to improve the nutritional quality or safety of foods, but trigger behavior problems in children and, possibly, cancer in anybody.”

    Yummy. Who wants some petroleum distillates and aluminum in their waffles? I’ve leggo the Eggo.

    So with that in mind, I asked myself, how hard could frozen waffles be? Make a bunch all at once, stick ‘em in the freezer, right? Turns out it was ridiculously simple. Anyone with a bowl and a spoon can make waffles that are significantly healthier than prepackaged food.

    DSC_0030

    Here’s the recipe, in case you want to make your own and stop spending big bucks getting a load of crap in your waffles.

    Non-Toxic Waffles

    Makes 3 large waffles, or 12 small ones.

    • 2 eggs
    • 2 cups of milk
    • 2 cups of flour
    • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
    • 2 teaspoons of sugar, maple syrup, or honey
    • 4 teaspoons aluminum-free baking POWDER (not baking soda)
    • 1 teaspoon salt
    • 1 teaspoon vanilla or almond extract

    Directions:

    • Mix everything in a bowl until smooth. To make life easier and less painful, use a mixer of some kind.
    • Pour into waffle iron.
    • Cook until done. (golden brown and delicious, no artificial coloring required)
    • Bonus: put them in zip-top bags and stuff them in your freezer.

    Here’s what I’m finding, the more I Google my food (and the ingredients of prepackaged versions): a fair number of foods are actually stupid easy to make. Not only that, they’re also less costly, you control the ingredients that go into them, and they taste better.

    Take some of your favorite prepared foods and Google for how to make them at home. I think you’ll be surprised at the number of them that require little to no cooking skill and can save your money and your health.


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    Why I use a manual coffee grinder

    photo

    Justin Levy asked me a while back why I use a manual coffee grinder when there are far better options available. The answer is: because it takes a long time to grind coffee this way.

    That seems like a strange answer, doesn’t it? After all, why would you willingly choose the least efficient way to grind coffee? Believe it or not, that’s a good thing.

    If you’ve never used a manual coffee grinder, it’s nothing more than a set of grindstones with a hand-turned crank. Making enough coffee for a pot typically requires about 10 minutes of steady turning. When you’re done, you have coffee that looks like every other coffee you’ve ever prepared in advance of sticking it in the pot.

    Here’s why this is important, at least to me. It’s an enforced creative break. It’s 10 minutes of mandatory downtime where there’s no convenient way to check messages (your hands are busy holding and turning the grinder) or take calls (too noisy). It’s required boredom, and that’s a healthy thing, because in those 10 minutes, you can give your mind time to process problems and step back from work.

    The very real problem we face today – part of the reason we feel stressed and burned out so often – is that everything is too convenient and too fast. When you can plop a plastic cup in your insta-brew coffee machine and have coffee 15 seconds later, you don’t get a real mental break from work. When everything is available right now, right now gets really crowded and overwhelming. One look around at the rest of the animal kingdom indicates that “right now all the time” isn’t a sustainable way to live. The lion that requires incredible speed to catch its dinner doesn’t sustain that speed for very long.

    Power question: how can you introduce more mandatory breaks in your day?

    The other thing that using a manual grinder does very well is it gives you time to consider what it is you’re about to consume. If you’re not a coffee fanatic, coffee is actually an exceptionally storied, labor intensive process. Farmers in distant lands, from Hawaii to Ethiopia to Indonesia, manage farms made of coffee trees. These trees grow coffee cherries (yes, the coffee bean is the pit of a cherry-like fruit) which are then harvested by hand, then dried or pulped to extract the pits. The pits are bagged up and sold on various commodity exchanges or to stores that either sell them raw or roast them, which is a polite way of saying burn them. Once they’re lightly burned, they’re sealed up and sold, either as is or processed further. Those insta-cup coffee machines are at the very tail end of a very long chain.

    By hand-grinding your coffee, you’re participating in a very small way in the tremendous chain of human effort to create a cup of coffee. It gives you time to mentally honor the many people who have put effort into creating your morning coffee. All of that tends to fall by the wayside when coffee is no less or more effort than clicking a mouse or starting a smartphone app.

    Enjoy the coffee.


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