My present career began with ceviche.
After years as an academic, with two degrees and many policy research papers under my belt, with a husband, two kids and one on the way, I resigned from a prestigious think tank to walk a completely uncharted path.
I had been professionally frustrated for over a year and just continued to get involved in more projects in the office thinking I just had to work harder.
What triggered my career change was this: I had been asked to write a research paper comparing the democratic transitions of Mexico and Peru. Yet something was really off with me. Instead of doing my research on the political processes and crisis resolution tactics, I felt myself pulled to research the differences between Mexican and Peruvian ceviche.
Both countries boast to have the best ceviches, and both countries insist that they came up with the dish. I wondered about the true origins of ceviche in both countries. It has been recorded that the people of both countries had been eating raw fish since pre-Hispanic times…
But who got citrus first? How did their people come to use citrus to “cook” the fish, since citrus is native to neither country? What about chiles? Why is the spelling “ceviche” in one country and “cebiche” in the other, and what is the meaning and origin of the word? Why do Mexicans marinate their fish for a while, whereas Peruvians serve the citrus-dressed fish right away?
All I wanted to do was research, write about, and cook Mexican food – the food I missed so much. I knew it was time to pursue my passion in a more serious way.
My dad was perplexed about this change of direction. “After so many years of study, Pati, you are going into a kitchen to rinse pots and pans?”
Now I give him a hard time and respond, “…and to make the best ever ceviches.”
I have made many a ceviche over the course of the more than a decade since I switched careers. And I’ve liked each and every one.
But this one is truly special. And it is my very favorite one.
- 1 pound red snapper filet (or another mild flavored fish like grouper, trout, flounder, sole or rock fish), cut in small (about 1/2 inch) dice
- 3/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
- 3/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1 jalapeno chile stemmed and coarsely chopped, or to taste, seeding optional
- 1/2 cup celery sliced
- 1/2 cup red onion halved and thinly sliced
- 1/2 cup cilantro leaves and upper part of stems, chopped
- 1 cup (about 1 large) ripe mango diced
- 1 cup (about 1 large) ripe avocado diced
- 1/3 cup (about 2) tomatillos husked and scrubbed, and diced
- 2 tablespoons cacao nibs (optional)
- 1 teaspoon kosher or coarse salt or to taste
- Tortilla chips or tostadas
- Combine the lime juice, orange juice, olive oil, jalapeño, celery, 1/4 cup of the sliced red onion, 1/4 cup of the chopped cilantro, and the salt in a blender and puree until completely smooth.
- Place the fish in a bowl, add the pureed mixture, and toss well. Cover and let marinate for 20 to 25 minutes outside the refrigerator before serving, stirring from time to time. If marinating for more than 25 minutes, cover and refrigerate.
- When ready to serve, add the rest of the onion and cilantro, the mango, avocado, tomatillo and cacao nibs if using. Toss well, taste for salt and add more as needed. Serve with tortilla chips (totopos) or tostadas.