I remember 15 years ago when hardly anyone knew what ceviche was. Unless you were well versed in Latin American cuisine or were following the pioneers of Nuevo Latino cuisine in the US then it was not a word or a dish that you came across. Nowadays, the dish is everywhere and on the verge of being passe. Just look at the last few episodes of “Top Chef.” There have been numerous ceviches offered up. It’s too bad that the dish is in danger of becoming a cliche because it is a wonderful, light dish, full of vibrant, fresh flavors.

At its heart ceviche is seafood that is marinated in an acid, most usually some form of citrus juice, lime juice being the most popular. The seafood is diced into small pieces and allowed to marinate in the citrus juice (acid) which denatures the protein in the flesh, “cooking” it. While this is typical, it is not the case across the board. Most shellfish ceviches start with cooked shellfish, though not always and ceviches that include octopus usually use cook the octopus first. The preferred method for cooking the shellfish is usually poaching though grilling can bring new layers of flavor to the dish.

Additions to the ceviche are numerous and regional variations are endless. Some countries like to use coconut water or cream of coconut in their ceviches, others wouldn’t dream of making it without American style ketchup. Chile peppers range from jalapenos, in Mexico, to Aji peppers of Peru and the Andes mountains, to fiery habaneros, across the region. Some ceviches are white, some red, and others a cacophony of colors and can include the addition of avocados, tropical fruits, onions, garlic, etc. The list is virtually endless.

Grilled Shrimp Ceviche

6 oz. Shrimp, peeled, deveined, tail off
1 each Lime, juiced
1/2 each Orange, juiced
2 Tbsp. Red Onion,
1/2 each Tomato, ripe
1/2 each Avocado
1/2 each Mango
2 each Jalapeno, seeded

Skewer the shrimp on bamboo skewers that have been soaked in water for 1 hour (you don’t have to do this but it makes grilling the shrimp much easier). Place on a preheated grill and grill just until barely cooked through, about 3-5 minutes depending on the size of your shrimp. Remove from skewers and chop into 1/2 inch pieces. Place in a bowl and toss with the lime and orange juice. Place in the fridge and allow to marinate at least 1 hour and not more than 3 hours. Just before serving dice the onion, tomato, avocado and mango into 1/4 inch pieces. Finely mince the jalapeno. Toss these with the marinating shrimp and season with salt and pepper. Taste and add a little more lime juice if necessary. Serve alone, with tortilla chips or as they do in South America, accompanied by popcorn. This makes enough ceviche to serve 2 as a first course or about 8 people as part of a spread of hors d’oeuvres.