There is something about cooking when you don't do it with heat. In this case, it is Ceviche.
Technically, fish is prepared in a manner that denatures the proteins. When the proteins are denatured, they change their consistency and become easier to digest (for the body to break down) and absorb.
Denaturing proteins is a matter of chemistry: it can be done with heat, salt, acid, alcohol, or base (alkaline). All of those are methods of “cooking” fish, and all produce their own variability in taste and texture. Other methods of altering chemical bonds, such as the use of heavy metals, turn a meal into a deadly catch and are not used. In the distant future home irradiation units will be used in precise manners to bring a new level of cooking.
Citric acid causes a denaturation with fish—unraveling the proteins to free up some water molecules and change the texture of the product. Ceviche originated from the Incas, who seasoned their fish with salt and chili peppers before adding the juice of local citrus (banana passionfruit). Any citric acid will do, and often lemon is used, but lime and grapefruit work.
In a few minutes of soaking in citrus, the fish develops a firmer texture. The exterior of the fish becomes opaque, while the center of the fish remains raw. The longer the fish is exposed to the citric acid, the drier the fish becomes, and it will taste like overcooked fish. The secret is to have the fish cut into smaller pieces in order to promote even distribution of the “cooking” area and a uniform taste. Thicker fish, like tuna, take longer than white fish or scallops.
The joy of living in Phoenix is not having to go to the market to get citrus, we just go into the back yard.
Lemons or Limes are a great choice for Ceviche
My favorite, Alaskan Halibut - but Tilapia has the advantage of being sustainable and grown everywhere from the lakes it is native to in Africa to the contained units in the desert of Arizona.
1 pound of halibut
1 cup of lemon (or lime) juice - squeeze them til you have it. For lemons it takes about four
Ingredients for the salad:
1/2 medium white onion diced
1 jalapeno pepper (remove inside seeds and pulp)
1/2 cucumber - peeled and seeded - diced
The skins from 3 medium tomatoes - diced
Cilantro (if you are not opposed to the flavor ) a handful - chopped
Cooking and prepping the fish:
The fish is chopped into small pieces that will easily be covered by the citrus juice. Place the fish into a flat container (not metal) and poor the juice over the fish. Once the liquid is over the fish, place in a refrigerator for at least 20 minutes but not longer than six hours.
Having slightly cooler fish makes it easy to cut the fish into smaller slices. Cut them into small cubes about 1/4 inch but no more than 1/2 inch.
When cutting the fish if there is any "blood line" do not use that for the Ceviche.
Place the single layer of the fish into a pyrex, glass or non-metal pan.
Pour the citrus juice over the fish so that it is all covered. Place in a refrigerator for 20 minutes but not longer than six hours.
Making the Salad:
Combine all of the ingredients in a bowel.
Making a simple, tasty salad brings both more flavor and crunch to the dish.
After the fish has "cooked" place the fish into a strainer and allow the citrus juices to flow out into the sink. No need to rinse.
Combine the fish and the salad and you are ready to eat in any number of ways. My favorite is to have a fish taco, or use chips. They make a great basis for a taco- adding a bit of guacamole and perhaps some cheese.
Adding a tortilla and guacamole makes a great taco