My Mother’s Ceviche

This is my mother’s ceviche.

The instructions I am going to share with you are the same ones my mother gave me the first time I made this dish. While I am sure there are a million ways to prep ceviche, this is the only way I ever make it. This is the ceviche my own daughter now loves, and the recipe I will share with her someday.

Some people use scallops, shrimp, halibut, sea bass or red snapper. We use tilapia. We love tilapia. When I forget to make dinner and I suddenly realize that my family will soon be asking for their nourishment, I ALWAYS turn to tilapia to save the day. In minutes I have a fish and veggie dinner that they love all set on the table. That is THAT tilapia dinner. THIS is ceviche, and it will take considerably more than the fifteen minutes my grilled tilapia takes to prep.

The Data:

You will need one hour to do all the prep work for ceviche (there is A LOT of chopping). I timed myself. It took an hour. I guess if you’re really good with the kitchen knives it might take less.

After the prep work, you will place your raw ceviche into your refrigerator. This next part is where a professional chef might laugh at me. My whole childhood, I remember my mother saying that ceviche went into the refrigerator for 2-3 hours. And so, my whole adulthood, I have prepped my ceviche and faithfully left it in the refrigerator for 2-3 hours. My rule of thumb is that 2 hours is probably enough but if I can hold out for 3 it is extra security. A few weeks ago my dad and I got into a heated discussion about this (because we are very passionate about being right and we love to argue). He claimed that 30 minutes would be enough. And so, for the first time in my life, I looked up the recipe online. Sure enough, almost all the recipes called for much less than 2 hours. Of course, I blindly continue to cook my ceviche in the refrigerator for 2-3 hours. Because that’s the way my mommy told me and I’ll be darned to change now. That being said, you can probably leave it in the fridge for 30 minutes and as long as you can see that the fish has all turned white it is cooked and ready to eat. But don’t say I didn’t share the way my mother always told me to do it!

The Ingredients:

As I mentioned before, there are many, many ways to make ceviche. MY ingredients are as follows:

-Tilapia filets. Yes, fresh is great. And have fun cutting those fresh suckers up. I HIGHLY recommend you either buy frozen tilapia or buy fresh tilapia and freeze it the night before. You will thank me for this tip when you are chopping away. I usually make two filets per person.

– Purple onion. I love onion and have been known to use a whole one when making this dish for four people. You can use less if you wish. When my sister is in town I use a lot less onion because it upsets her stomach.

– Two small tomatoes. I actually don’t like tomatoes but you can’t make ceviche without them (says my mother’s voice in my head).

– Cilantro. Get a bushel. Once you separate the leaves you will need about 3/4 of a cup. I love cilantro. If you are not crazy about cilantro you could probably just chop 1/2 of a cup. Wash your cilantro really well. I usually end up washing it three times. And it will be wet when you chop it and then it WILL stick to your fingers and hand. It’s ok, that’s just part of the ceviche making process. The benefit to this is that it will leave your hands smelling amazing… If you love cilantro of course.

– salt and pepper.

– fresh limes. Lots of wonderful limes that will do the cooking for you. I love limes and may overdo it. I typically use 2 limes per fish. I actually like the lime juice to almost cover up the whole chopped up tilapia and so I’ve been known to add more. But you don’t have to. You will be mixing your tilapia in your lime juice pretty often and so it is definitely not a necessity. I must add that this part my mother didn’t teach me. This part is all my own obsessiveness talking. She would probably use 1 1/2 limes per fish.

That’s it! How simple is that? Some people add cucumbers and hot sauce or clamato juice. I’m not those people. I like to keep this as simple as possible. And I LOVE this ceviche.

Because I am a visual person I have taken pictures of each step of this process. I will go through individual instructions in each picture. So follow the pictures and their instructions and get ready to make your own ceviche!

I hope the ease of this recipe will inspire you to make some at home tonight. Please feel free to come back and share your own pictures. I’d love to see your own ceviche creation.

By the way, in my experience, depending on where in the world you live, you can make this dish for $7-20 USD. And that’s for four people to each have 2-3 servings.

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These are your basic ingredients: tilapia, cilantro, purple onion, and limes. You will also need salt and pepper.

As I mentioned earlier, it is much easier to cut the tilapia when it is frozen. I like to take it out about 10 minutes before I am ready to start chopping it to let it thaw out just a bit.

As my fish is thawing (for a max of 10 minutes) I start chopping away. First we have the purple onion.

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Then you seed (take off the seeds) the tomatoes and chop them up too.

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Now your tilapia is ready. Still frozen but thawed enough that you are not fighting to chop it up.

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Because the tilapia is still hard this is actually a pretty easy step (and much easier than if you try to do this with totally fresh fish)

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That’s my tilapia all chopped up (well, one filet. Plenty more to repeat the process with). I usually make a batch of ceviche with 12 tilapia filets.

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Then I cut my limes in halves

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And use this handy dandy little tool to squeeze out the juice (you can also just use your hand but I’m a weakling)

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So here are all of the ingredients: chopped onion, chopped tomato, chopped tilapia, and squeezed lime juice. I then add some salt and pepper. And I like to pick a large container because I will be mixing this several times and like to have the room without spilling anything.

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Here is it all mixed up. Yummy!

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In my haste I forgot to take a picture of the cilantro step (sorry). But… Just take your cilantro batch and separate the cilantro leaves from the stem. I love cilantro so I fill up 3/4 of a cup (if you are a moderate cilantro user maybe use just 1/2 of a cup). Once they are separated in your cup, wash, wash, wash. I like to wash and rinse three times. Then you chop the cilantro and add it to your mix. It WILL stick to your fingers. That’s ok, it’s all for a great cause! Mix everything up really well and place it, covered, in your refrigerator for 2-3 hours (or, if you are not following my mother’s recipe, for 30 minutes, until you can see that all the fish has turned white. All the fish has to be white in order for you to safely consume this dish). Try to go into the refrigerator every 20 minutes and mix up the ceviche. This way you make sure that the lime juice is really getting into your fish.
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The hard work (all that chopping) is done.

Most people consume ceviche with tostadas. I have included a picture of tostadas for you. If you can’t find them in your neck of the woods you can always substitute for tostitos-like tortilla chips.

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My kiddo likes to cut up the tostadas, scoop up some ceviche, and just eat it in individual bites.
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I like to top my plain tostada with some ceviche and take big, messy, yummy bites out of it. Some people drain the lime juice once the cevich is cooked. I have no clue why- I usually put some juice on my tostada. Delicious!

Some people, like my mom and dad, like to put mayonnaise on the tostada and then add the ceviche. Sometimes people also add slices of avocado to the top of the tostada.

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And that’s it! Enjoy… I am going to go make up another batch now! I usually try to make enough to have leftovers because it is something that everyone always seems to want the next day too. It’s a great little snack you know!

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