Thursday, July 20, 2006

Vello's Ceviche

Vello, who was born in Estonia, is Mrs. Yi's Dad. He probably caught most of the fish in the days when he and Mrs. Yi's Mom Katy were hanging out on Big Coppitt Key with Linda and Arno, an Estonian couple, who'd recently retired as co-captains of their own shrimp boat. "That's not my Dad's recipe, it's my Mom's recipe," Mrs. Yi is fond of saying, and she's right. The truth is that Katy, who originally hailed from Northern Maine, obtained the recipe from Linda and Arno and brought it back to Oak Hill, Florida. Still, it was Vello who caught the fish, usually grunt, pinfish, and mangrove snapper. Then he filleted them, skin off, even off the tiny pinfish, for Katy to fix the ceviche. Here in Baltimore, we usually use rockfish (striped bass), which is almost always available extremely fresh. That's what's pictured above. Black Willy seabass is another great choice, just so long as fresh caught.

I've have two entire cookbooks devoted to ceviche by such masters as Guillermo Pernot of Pasion in Philadelphia, as well as his mentor, Douglas Rodriguez, who is responsible for Chicama, Pipa, and Ola in New York. While they have taken the ceviche phenom to new levels in the United States, I question the existence of a grass roots ceviche recipe appropriate for labeling as indigenous to the US in the sense as Peruvian ceviche, Ecuadorian ceviche, or Mexican ceviche. Having known, loved, and understood ceviche for over 40 years, however, this recipe would get my vote, especially since in Estonia, they pickle their raw fish in wine or vinegar. With ceviche, it's all about citrus. Here goes:


1 pound bite sized fish pieces
5 green onions in their entirety, chopped
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
1 large tomato, peeled, seeded, chopped
1 green pepper, seeded and chopped
1 teaspoon hot sauce
1/2 bunch cilantro leaves, chopped
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
5 limes, just their juice
2 teaspoons soy sauce
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil

Marinate everything except the soy sauce and olive oil in lime juice to cover at least 1/2 hour, preferably longer. Then add olive oil and soy sauce. Do not add soy sauce until well marinated as the salt in it stops the action of the lime juice and toughens the fish.