Scallop Ceviche with Pummelo and Fennel

by ACP on March 3, 2010

scallop_cevicheSICK OF WINTER? So am I. Earlier this week, the sun shone in a blue sky. The temperature climbed about ten degrees, and spring seemed almost within reach. Of course today we’re back to gray skies and chilly rain. At least the snow’s been washed away. But that brief hint of warmer days was enough to send me down a lighter track, away from the heavy foods of winter and toward something brighter.

It’s ceviche time.

I love to say the word ceviche. When I say it, I imagine I am sitting at a sun-soaked table overlooking the sea. A breeze comes off the water, and the morning’s catch is served up for my lunch. I might be in Peru, a place I’ve never visited but would love to see someday. There’s a bit of controversy over the exact origins of ceviche, but you hear Peru a lot. I don’t want to take sides, though, so let’s just say for certain that as I sit at my fantasy table by the sea, I hear the musicality of spoken Spanish all around.

I was going to save this post for later, but a few things convinced me to put it up now. I’ve already explained my impatience with winter; this recipe is a good cure. I first made it in January, and it really did the trick, lifted me right out of the doldrums. Next is the fact that I keep walking along Third Avenue, where I frequently pass Wild Edibles, a combination fish market and seafood cafe. In there, I’ve found the freshest, most seductive, cut-like-soft-butter sea scallops I’ve ever had.

Another reason is my guilt over what little effort (if any) I’ve made to observe Greek Orthodox customs for Lent this year. I had told myself that this would be the year I’d try to follow the fasting schedule, at least in some minimalist way. But it’s not happening. So the ceviche—despite its hailing from another part of the globe—is a nod to my Greek heritage, family, and friends at this austere time. For those who are unfamiliar with the customs, I’ll just explain that during the days leading up to Easter, the Orthodox Church encourages fasting, which takes the form of abstinence from meat, fish (but shellfish are allowed), and dairy. On Wednesdays and Fridays, viewed as particularly holy days during any week, there is also a ban on oil. With all these restrictions, ceviche is a lovely indulgence, and can be enjoyed guilt-free, so long as you serve it on a day when oil is allowed.

Finally, there’s the fact that I am starting to see the word “verrine” crop up on some mainstream menus around town (at Le Pain Quotidien for example). I’ll post more about verrines later, but for the moment will share that my husband brought me a cookbook from France not long ago, a small volume focusing exclusively on this style of food presentation: savory and sweet dishes served in individual glasses (verre is the French word for “glass”). Perfect for parties, you can prepare many verrines in advance, and their form allows for great experimentation with color and flavor. I’ve been meaning to delve into the book for some time, and this recipe is my first adaptation from its pages.

A last but very important word about ceviche: It is imperative that you get only the freshest seafood from a trusted supplier. Many people mistakenly think that you are eating raw seafood when you eat ceviche. In fact, the seafood is “cooked” by the acids of the citrus juice in which it marinates (another reason why, actually, winter is not a bad time to eat ceviche: we have so many wonderful citrus fruits available). Still, you don’t want to take chances with food safety. For a successful ceviche, use the best quality ingredients, marinate until the flesh of the seafood is firm and opaque, be sure to keep it chilled, and consume immediately.

scallop_ceviche

Scallop Ceviche with Pummelo and Fennel

Adapted from “Tartare de Saint-Jacques” from the book Verrines: 30 recettes façiles, by Johanna Lucchini

Yield: Serves 4 as a light appetizer

Ingredients:

1/2 pound large, very fresh sea scallops, cut into pieces

3 Tablespoons olive oil

Juice of 2 lemons, plus juice of 1/2 pummelo, to equal 1/2 cup or more citrus juice

1 teaspoon kosher salt

freshly ground black pepper

1/2 pummelo, segmented (discard all white pith, membrane, and seeds)

1 fennel bulb, washed, trimmed, and diced very fine

1 yellow bell pepper, washed, seeded, deribbed, and diced very fine

Chives for garnish

Method:

In a glass bowl, combine the scallops, olive oil, citrus juice, salt, and pepper. Toss to combine very well. The scallops should be submerged in the liquid. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

When the scallops are ready (they should look opaque now that they are “cooked”), add the pummelo segments and mix gently.

In each of four individual serving glasses, place a layer of diced fennel. Top with a layer of diced yellow pepper. On top of that, spoon the scallop mixture with some of the marinating liquid. You may wish to add another teaspoon of liquid if the vegetable layers at the bottom of the glass still look too dry.

Wash and carefully wipe dry the chives. Use snipped chives (I cut small lengths of chive with a pair of scissors) to garnish each individual serving glass, then add a couple of longer chives for the final flourish.

Serve and consume immediately.

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

nakedbeet March 4, 2010 at 4:20 am

Pummelo? I’m intrigued. If we scream Ceviche from the top of our lungs Saturday morning, do you think NY will turn into a gloriously warm city for the rest of this month? Looking forward to your verrine post, too.

Reply

ACP March 4, 2010 at 11:33 pm

I scream, you scream, we all scream for… ceviche! I hope it will work.

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Zett Aguado March 5, 2010 at 1:33 pm

I’m going to incorporate your idea for fennel in my ceviche today, which is not of scallops but of catfish. I have recently altered my ceviche recipe to accomodate a pregnant friend’s diet and lightly poached the fish before marinating it, which I don’t think can be done for scallops but at any rate, this recipe looks amazing and I can’t wait to try it out! (At least with a few variations…)

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ACP March 5, 2010 at 1:59 pm

Thank you so much. When I hear of someone trying my recipe, or incorporating elements of it into their own, that just makes my day! I am intrigued by the idea of lightly poaching fish first before marinating it, for those with health concerns like your pregnant friend, or just for those folks for whom no amount of persuasion will do to get them to eat “raw” fish. Thanks again for stopping by the blog and for trying out one of my ideas.

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watersidemom March 7, 2010 at 11:52 pm

My mouth is watering! I adore scallops and I see that I’m not the only one who can’t wait to try this. Thanks, Allison!

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